Fullerton residents had the opportunity at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to review and comment on a number of maps that could end up being the basis for district boundaries as the city prepares for a possible change to a council-districts electoral system.
The council has until May 17 to select the map that will be on the ballot in November when Fullerton voters will decide whether to switch to an electoral system in which council members are elected by voters in the district where they reside.
The ballot question is the result of a settlement reached last July after the American Civil Liberties Union and Asian Americans Advancing Justice sued the city, alleging that the current at-large electoral system disenfranchises Asian Americans and other minorities. The settlement mandates that the city put the ballot measure for voter consideration, the council agenda letter shows.
The city is 22.8 percent Asian and 34.4 percent Latino and 54 percent White, according to the 2010 Census.
Jeanette Vazquez, a city resident and grade school teacher, drew up the map garnering the most support from residents at the meeting. David Ely of Compass Demographics, the consultant hired by the city to oversee the process, said that map, called “2B”, also was the most popular when he conducted community hearings on the process.
“It’s certainly the most viable option to move forward with,” Ely told the council, adding that it is similar to the Fullerton School District’s map.
(Click here to see map 2B).
Most of the public speakers Tuesday night were in support of map 2B.
Resident Yung Chen, through a translator, told the council that regardless of race, district elections would be the best option because the candidates would be from the neighborhoods, and know the community needs.
Vazquez told the council that public involvement was key during the map drawing process as citizens input helped identify communities throughout the city. After working closely with Ely, she said that 2B “keeps neighborhoods whole and intact.”
However, council members weren’t as optimistic about district elections as the public was.
“This has been forced on us through a lawsuit and we have to go forward with it,” Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory said. “My concerns with this whole process has to do with the fact that the voters have not been really engaged in the process.”
Although she thought public engagement had been lacking, Flory acknowledged the support for 2B Tuesday night.
“I hear loud and clear that residents support map 2B,” Flory said.
Councilman Doug Chaffee wanted to know if an at-large elected mayor was possible. If so, there would have to be additional districts drawn up. He said without an at-large mayor, a council-districts system could produce elected officials with narrow interests.
Without anyone who is responsible for the whole city, “it becomes, ‘what can I do for my district.’ not, ‘what can I do for my city,’” Chaffee said.
Chaffee also asked the consultants if the council could put two maps on the November ballot. The answers to Chaffee’s questions are expected at the May 17 meeting.
Councilman Greg Sebourn disagreed with adding more districts. “I’m equally disturbed by any number of (districts),” Sebourn said. “The reality is that it’s here, we have to make a choice.”
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.