Montebello council accepts district election – Whittier Daily News
On Wednesday, May 26, reluctant members of Montebello city council voted to start the process of electing council members by district and avoid facing a costly trial.
The council voted 4-0, with Mayor Kimberly Cobos-Cawthorne abstaining from proceeding to district elections from the existing general system where voters elect all five members.
Cobos-Cawthorne said council needed to hear more from residents than the six who spoke on Wednesday and called for a public meeting before a decision is made.
But Councilor Salvador Melendez warned that there is a low threshold required for lawsuits under California’s voting rights law and that no city or school district has ever won a case.
The law prohibits general elections when they prevent a protected class of voters, such as Latinos or Asians in this case, from electing a candidate of their choice.
“There would be a huge financial cost to defending his action,” Melendez said. “We’re all here to say let’s fight this, but are we willing to lose $ 3 million to make a point.” I can’t do this to residents.
In addition to the cost of defending the lawsuit, if the city lost it would have to pay the other party’s attorney fees, like the towns of Palmdale who paid $ 4.5 million, Modesta: $ 3 million , Anaheim, $ 1.1 million and Whittier, $ 750,000. , he said.
Santa Monica has already spent $ 10 million of its own money on a case that is now before the state’s Supreme Court, Melendez said.
Lawyer Scott Rafferty has threatened to sue on behalf of an anonymous client because of the lack of Asian-Americans on city council.
Rafferty told the council there was a lack of political participation among Asians in Montebello. Going to district elections will help, he said.
Before voting, some council members feared taking action before speaking to their constituents.
“” It will be a massive change in the identity of our city, “said Councilor David Torres.
“Can we wait until August to have in-person public hearings so that the elderly and those without internet access can participate?” Torres asked. “Will (Rafferty’s client) will allow residents to understand the problem before council makes a decision.”
The answer was no, Rafferty told the city in an email sent to the meeting, city attorney Arnold Alvarez said, Glasman said.
The deadline was Thursday, May 27 for council to approve plans to go to districts where it would sue, he said.
The next step is for the council to put in place a district mapping process that will include five public hearings, the hiring of a demographer, and possibly the creation of a citizens’ watchdog.
The final card must be created by August 24 under 90-day state law allowing the process to avoid prosecution.