After years of debate, the Mission Viejo City Council is slated to finally adopt a district map at their meeting Tuesday night.
But it’s not the map many residents want.
Although many Mission Viejo residents who participated in the public hearing process voiced support of Map E, created by resident Aramis Vela, the council is going with a revised version of Map A, which was created by a city-hired demographer instead.
Some residents are critical of the proposed map, claiming it was purposely created to place each existing council member in a separate district so they can all run for reelection unopposed.
“As I studied Map A made public on Dec. 14, I plugged in the addresses of the council members who were elected to run for office in 2022 and found that each of them was in a separate district. How convenient,” Mission Viejo resident Walt Lawson said at the Jan. 11 council meeting. “Who provided input to the demographer from the city? Could that have been the city council or maybe city staff?”
City officials have repeatedly stated that the city-hired demographer did not know any council members’ addresses when creating the draft map.
Most public commenters supported Vela’s map because it has the highest proportion of eligible Latino voters when compared to the five other options.
Vela’s map featured a district where Latinos made up 21.6% voters — more than any other district in any other proposed map — while the city’s map had a district with 18% Latino voters.
Residents speaking during public comment at the Feb. 22 council meeting were split, with slightly more people supporting Vela’s map to create a district with a higher proportion of Latino voters.
Other residents said they supported the city’s map because it has district lines that keep school districts together.
“I have studied every one of these maps, I think I see them in my sleep. I’ve gone over them and over them, and I keep going back to Map A,” council member Trish Kelley said at the Feb. 22 council meeting. “Map A is the one that makes the most sense. The boundaries are drawn along our major arterials, it’s easy to read, it’s clean (and) it keeps school districts fairly intact.”
Meanwhile, a resident has been asking the California Attorney General to examine how council members Wendy Bucknum, Greg Raths and Ed Sachs extended their term limits in 2020.
Mission Viejo resident Michael Schlesinger filed a complaint to the California Attorney General Rob Bonta, alleging council members illegally extended their term limits, according to a 2018 stipulated judgment from OC Superior Court Judge Walter Schwarm that limited their terms to two years.
That stipulation stemmed from the city’s failed attempt to switch to cumulative voting.
At the same time, two other council members won’t have to defend their seats this year.
Under the new district maps, council members Kelley and Brian Goodell wouldn’t be up for reelection until 2024, despite signing a legal agreement in July 2020 that all five council members would be up for reelection in 2022.
Regardless, the council is moving forward with implementing the city’s district map, and the final vote to adopt the map and a new ordinance is slated for tomorrow at 6:00 p.m.
This map will allow all of council members to run unopposed by sitting council members in separate districts besides Raths and Sachs.
However, Raths has already filed to run in the newly created 40th Congressional District, leaving it unclear whether or not Sachs will face a challenge from him in November.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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