Voters cast their ballots at City Hall during an election. (File photo)

Dear Editor:

I enthusiastically support the City of Santa Monica in appealing a judgment in the CA voting rights lawsuit, Loya v. City of Santa Monica, that divides the City and our community into voting districts.  Such an appeal is essential to protecting all voters’ rights in Santa Monica—including those of a Latina, like me.

I was born in Santa Monica, as were all of my nine siblings, and have lived here for 37 years.  My parents had settled in Santa Monica by 1946 following my dad’s World War II service flying a P-47 Thunderbolt.  I have been an educator and a peace, justice and environmental activist for decades. I take very seriously what it means to protect our freedoms in the United States and uphold the rights and responsibilities of being free embodied by “We, the People.”  I take very seriously what it means to serve the public, common good.

Loya v. City of Santa Monica is sadly and dangerously misguided; the tentative ruling against the City is in error.  Should that ruling prevail leading to a judgment, it must be appealed. Unchallenged, a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs would be devastating and divisive, undermining our civic vitality, our communal good will and our resiliency in Santa Monica.   

Why would anyone want to decrease and diminish a resident’s voting power by 86%?   District voting, in effect, would disenfranchise voters. Instead of my having a chance to vote for seven candidates over four years for council office, I would be constrained to vote for only one!  

Why would anyone seek to break up and divide our community by advocating that each city council member need only be answerable or accountable to a fraction of voters?  Ours is a modest-sized electorate that can only be strong and sustainable as it is unified. Each vote both expresses one’s voice and enacts a singular way of personally relating voter-to-representative in our self-government.  Our local self-government is the most personal, up-close expression of our representation that is defined by our republic and democracy.

Why would anyone desire to segregate and marginalize voters from any ethnic or racial background?  Little districts would lock voters into segmented enclaves. Council members would be expected and encouraged to have blinders on when considering decisions.   

Why would anyone claim to represent or be standing up for a “protected class,” such as Latinos, just because one lives in a certain neighborhood with numerous Latinos, ignoring the majority of whom, like me, who live in other Santa Monica neighborhoods?  Yes, the Pico neighborhood wonderfully is home to a large number of Latinos, but that number amounts to about 1/3 of all Latinos residing in Santa Monica. That means that my protected class, impressively, lives throughout Santa Monica. Approximately 2/3 of us live outside the Pico neighborhood.

The CA Voting Rights Act aims to safeguard Latino rights as a “protected class.”  The lawsuit and a judgment against the City would not.

It is time to communicate with the City Council and to support the appeal of a judgment in Loya v. City of Santa Monica that would carve up our community in voting districts, severely weakening us.  The community needs to have confidence that the Council will stand up for all of us, including Latinos. The appeal is a priceless commitment to helping ensure the health and power of our local multicultural, diverse democracy.

With respect,

Christine “Cris” Gutierrez

Santa Monica Resident


Editor:

I was delighted to see that the City has lost its case regarding district voting. That victory will enable Santa Monica to broaden its choice of candidates for our City Council. We have been burdened too long with “career” council members who have spent too long in their jobs and who no longer speak for all of us.

Interested parties would do well to make sure that the Council does not attempt to delay implementation and to have a say on districts.  The Council members only want to preserve their power and hope to adjust the districts so as to help them stay in office. If we leave the districts to the Council, I could easily imagine some very creative “gerrymandering” of the districts so as to make sure that the current Council members all end up in different voting districts.

“Public input” is also just another of the Council’s ploys to avoid their fate. The output of public focus groups here in Santa Monica typically means producing results that fit what the Council wants.

Those who have been in public focus groups will know what I mean. Some years ago, I participated in a City focus group. Appalling. From the beginning of the session, it was clear that the moderator was responding positively to some inputs and negatively to others. He seemed to know what was needed and was determined to provide it. He wasn’t just gathering information and recording it.

Those who went to the focus group session on the future use of the Civic Auditorium will no doubt agree. Some of the participants told me that the outcome seemed pre-determined and that they were only going through the motions. People who went to the public session at Lincoln Middle School a few years ago on the Land Use document reported a similar situation. They had given a variety of negative inputs and constructive criticism on certain parts of the document in public focus groups and were assured that those inputs would be incorporated into the final document. When the final document was produced just before the Lincoln School event, they found that their inputs had been ignored. Public input in Santa Monica is a sham. Have you ever been to a City Council meeting? They hear but do not listen.

But…if we are forced into focus groups on district, the City Council should NOT manage them, nor should the Planning Department manage them, nor should any supposedly “neutral” group hired by the City manage them. The very fact of being paid by the City could pre-dispose even a “neutral” company to produce an outcome favorable to the City.

Rather, let the judge and the plaintiffs decide on the districts (they won, after all). If public input is desired, let them work together with the various neighborhood associations (North of Montana, Ocean Park, etc.), but keep the Council out of it entirely.

Reynold Dacon

Santa Monica

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