The Fullerton City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to postpone their selection of a district map for November’s ballot until June 7 after getting an earful from proponents of competing maps who packed the council chambers.
The crowd was essentially divided between residents and downtown business owners, with residents touting a community-approved map drawn by a young Latina, and business owners advocating for a map drawn by a downtown business owner.
The community map, dubbed “Map 2B,” creates an Asian majority district (51 percent) in the northwest corner of the city, and a district that gives Latinos a plurality, with 45 percent of the population, but not a majority in the city’s southeast section.
The business owners’ map, dubbed “Map 8,” has no minority-majority districts, but does have Asian and Latino plurality districts. It also gives all five districts a piece of downtown, which is why it garnered the support of business owners.
The move towards district-based voting is the result of a settlement reached last July after the American Civil Liberties Union and Asian Americans Advancing Justice sued the city on behalf of residents Jonathon Paik and Kitty Jaramillo, alleging that the current at-large electoral system disenfranchises minority voters.
The city is 22.8 percent Asian and 34.4 percent Latino, according to the 2010 Census.
David Ely of Compass Demographics recommended the council adopt 2B and said the business owners map could be found in violation of the settlement.
“I believe that map 2B is the best reflection of the full public process we had,” Ely told the council during his presentation.
However, the business community didn’t think that map 2B best represented their interests.
“My business is in downtown. Not only my business, but the heart of Fullerton’s business community is in downtown,” said Jeremy Popoff, who drew the business owners’ favored map. He said his fellow business owners didn’t know about the districting or the community meetings on the issue.
“Our downtown business community was not represented in those meetings,” Popoff said. “The entire community needs to be invested in downtown.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jaramillo and Paik — both in support of map 2B — told the council that Fullerton is not only about the downtown area.
“We’re not only the downtown. We have lots of miles of residents that live here, that are raising children, families” Jaramillo told the council. “In the 62 years I have been here, I have seen one Latino on the council who lives on the south side of the railroad tracks.”
Paik acknowledged the support for map 8, but said that it was not the product of months of public input from the rounds of community meetings.
“I want to reemphasize that this process [of drawing up 2B] lingered over 8 months,” Paik said. He said the Latino community compromised by giving up a majority CVAP in a district when they moved forward with map 2B that “all came together together during a community-driven process.”
Joe Florentine, another downtown business owner, criticized 2B’s supporters’ understanding of downtown business.
“I respectfully challenge those that are the proponents of map 2B, only because I don’t think they understand the dynamics of downtown like you folks [the council] do,” Florentine said. “Downtown Fullerton is our hub. It’s where everybody goes for socializing.”
Business owners weren’t the only ones in support of map 8. Charles Han, speaking on behalf of 5,000 members of Grace Ministries International in Fullerton, said he supports giving all five districts a stake in downtown.
“As a former planning commissioner myself, I worked through many decisions on the dais working with business owners in the downtown area. We don’t believe that the downtown area should be monopolized by one member,” Han said.
Resident Joe Imbriano said the council has always kowtowed to the city’s business establishment.
“The downtown businesses, those places are a drain on our revenue. Any more power to them is a big mistake,” Imbriano concluded.
During council deliberations, Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald echoed the business community’s input and said it’s important for everyone to have a stake in downtown.
“I believe that our downtown business owners have a very legitimate place here at the table in this decision process,” Fitzgerald said.
The Popoff-owned Slidebar in downtown gave $1,000 to Fitzgerald’s campaign last year. Florentine’s Bar and Grill, owned by Florentine, gave Fitzgerald’s 2016 campaign $250, according to her most recent campaign statements.
Councilman Greg Sebourn made the motion to continue the map selection until June 7, so that the south end of map 8 could be reworked to include a Latino majority district.
“There is no perfect map, there never will be a perfect map,” Sebourn said.
He also said the third district’s stretch from east to west on map 2B doesn’t reflect that portion of the city well and that the areas “have nothing to do with one another other … completely night and day opposite.”
Councilman Bruce Whitaker said that compromise was needed between the popular maps and that he thought it interesting that the meeting boiled down to two maps.
“I think that there may indeed be a compromise, where we borrow some of the best attributes of some of these more popular plans and come up with something that makes sense,” Whitaker said.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.