Stanton City Council moved one step closer to adopting new district election boundaries on Tuesday, November 14th, agreeing their preferred map on a 5-0 vote and setting a schedule for elections. The council will formally adopt the new plan at their next meeting on November 28th. Elections will begin November 2018.
The plan was not without controversy though as the council rejected proposals for all five members to be district elected, choosing instead a four-district plan that includes the at-large election of a mayor – a plan that will effectively ensure the current power holders remain control of the city for at least the next decade.
If confirmed, Stanton hopes its decision will nullify the complaint filed earlier this year by attorney Kevin Schenkman, of Malibu based firm Schenkman & Hughes.
The complaint, filed under the California Voting Rights Act, requires elected bodies to remedy the complaint within 135 days of receipt or face stiff penalties. Schenkman’s complaint did not sit well with the council :
“Why don’t we just ignore it ?” suggested Mayor Pro Tem David Shawver, a call quickly countered by City Attorney Matthew Richardson, concurrently serving as attorney for Lake Forest who are also responding to a CVRA complaint by navigating the change to districts.
Shawver, first elected in 1988, is one of a trio of council members who’ve been in post for at least 20 years - Brian Donahue being first elected in 1994 and Al Ethans in 1996.
Such longevity led Stanton voters to impose term-limits on their council at the November 2016 election. The district map the city has chosen would allow current long-standing members to retain 3-2 control for the foreseeable future – a fact pointed out by speakers amongst the otherwise sparse audience.
It remains to be seen whether this move, along with the decision to split the historic Crow Farm neighborhood into two separate districts, will satisfy the complaint’s parameters. Calls to the office of Schenkman & Hughes have not at this time been returned.
The council will reconvene on November 28th to formally adopt their proposal.
John R. Harris is a longtime OC resident, a community advocate, and a Stanton resident since 2003.
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