Our city is fighting a lawsuit from Maria Loya, who has twice lost elections to the council, so now she wants to change the way we elect our city council. Her lawsuit would strip each of us of our right to vote for all of the city council seats by creating seven separate council districts limiting us to having one solitary city council representative while the rest of the city elects the other six council members.

The lie behind the lawsuit is that this will somehow increase Latino representation. The truth is this is about money and power and if successful, it will actually reduce representation and democracy for everyone, including our Latino neighbors.

Right now everyone gets to vote for or against every single council member every four years. Ms. Loya claims she wants to increase Latino representation by creating a gerrymandered Pico district where conveniently she and her husband happen to live.

Currently Latinos make up one seventh of our city’s total population, if our voting were only based solely on race, we would expect that there would be only one Latino elected among the seven city council seats. Yet, in the last four years, we have elected two Latinos to our city council. It is hard to see how Latinos are under-represented in the current system when we have elected twice as many Latino representatives as you would expect based on the city’s demographics. The problem for Ms. Loya is that she and her husband were not among the two that got elected.

Another inconvenient fact regarding this lawsuit is that Latinos live through out our city and even if the City created Ms. Loya’s custom, gerrymandered district, as she demands, Latinos will be a minority in her very own district. She has also conveniently drawn her district in a way that places every other sitting city councilperson outside of her district to increase the chance that she or her husband can run unopposed by any incumbent.

The fact is that Ms. Loya’s lawyers do not care about minority voters. One of her lawyers is a Trump supporter who has personally been sued for violating federal civil rights laws. Google the phrase – “Rex Parris and his war on section eight tenants” for a list of his offensive public comments about black and Latino citizens in his home town. The other lawyer is celebrated on right-wing Breitbart news for the amount of tax dollars that he has been awarded by bullying cities into changing their election’s process.

Tragically, if our city does not appeal, this lawsuit will actually reduce Latino voting representation. When these same lawyers filed an identical lawsuit against Palmdale, that city could not afford to appeal, so they capitulated. Fifty-four percent of Palmdale’s population is Latino while the white population makes up only twenty-three percent. After their lawsuit forced Palmdale to switch from citywide districts to gerrymandered districts, Palmdale elected one solitary Latino city councilman while the rest of the city elected four white men. And Ms. Loya’s lawyers walked away with four and half million in legal fees from the taxpayers.

We may not like the politics of or some of our individual council members but right now we have the right to vote for, or against, every single councilperson. If gerrymandered districts are imposed on our city and if we were to call a councilperson outside of our district, they certainly are not going to engage with us any more than if we called a Senator from Utah. Limiting our own ability to vote for or against a city council member is not enhancing anyone’s voting rights or representation.

Another troubling aspect of this lawsuit is that we have all voted on this issue before. Twice the decision to create gerrymandered council districts has been on the ballot and both times we voters rejected it. While the plaintiff may not agree with those election results, suing the city to change those election results is certainly not democratic. Nor is suing to create a custom made, gerrymandered district to try and get yourself elected to city council.

Obviously, the plaintiff’s lawyers are in it for the money and if we don’t appeal this lawsuit, we, like Palmdale, will be cutting them a check for millions. Sadly, it appears that the plaintiffs are in it for political power.

The evidence is clear; no minority group is underrepresented since we voters routinely elect competent Latinos and other minority candidates to our city council and Boards regardless of their ethnicity. And the appellate court will see that evidence too. You do not enhance anyone’s voting rights by taking away the right to vote.

Joel Koury

Santa Monica


Rock and a hard spot


City of SM is between a rock and a hard spot over district elections, damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

By choosing to appeal the courts’ decision, the council faces the wrath of tax paying citizens disgusted by the tens of millions of dollars willingly spent in legal fees fighting a losing cause and a certain recall effort against the current council members in support of defending their jobs. On the other-hand, if they decide to throw in the towel realizing it’s been a good run after 40 years dominating all departments of city hall with the help of at-large elections, then, at that point of true reckoning, they will know it’s the end of “the machine” and it’s agenda.

It will be a new beginning for politics in SM. The city may attempt a last minute PR campaign to convince the ‘lemmings’ to jump over the cliff with them in support of an appeal to save at-large elections , hard to predict what desperate politicos are capable of. Let’s hope wisdom prevails.

Stephen Lancaster

Santa Monica

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1 Comment

  1. As a long-time resident of this city, I share Mr. Koury’s sentiments completely and thank him for airing them in public.

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