Anaheim Council Expected To Settling ACLU’s Single-Member Council Districts Lawsuit

What’s been buzzing around Anaheim for a few weeks is bleeding into the media (OC Register and VOC): during tonight’s closed session, the Anaheim City Council is expected to settle the ACLU’s lawsuit (for which the lead plaintiff is Anaheim City School District Trustee Jose F. Moreno) to replace the city’s at-large council elections with a system of single-member council districts.

As part of the settlement, it is expected the City Council will agree to carve the city into four single-member districts and then put it to the voters. The judge can’t impose single-member districts by judicial fiat since Anaheim is a charter city; it requires amending the city charter, which can only be done by a vote of the people.

There’s no reason single-member districts couldn’t be placed on the June ballot in hopes of obtaining a”yes” vote that would put single-member districts in place for the November council elections. My guess is the ACLU, the plaintiffs and the rest of the single-member district Coalition of the Left prefer a November election on the grounds its higher (and more Democratic) turnout increase the odds of voter approval.

As readers know, in 2013 the council voted to create four at-large council districts (which doesn’t require amending the charter), and to place on the June ballot measures asking voters to a) incorporate at-large council districts into the city charter and b) whether they want to increase the council to six members. City staff was subsequently instructed to create districts for both a four- and six-seat council, for the city council’s consideration and adoption.

My assumption is the expected settlement would include removal of at least the at-large districts question from the June ballot.

If the settlement tracks with what is being reported and discussed, there will be no impact on the November election, which could prove to be the last time Anaheim citizens will be able to vote for or against any and all council candidates – and not have their choices limited only to those who happen to live in their districts.

What If Anaheim Voters Reject Single-Member Council Districts?
What if, come November, Anaheim voters reject single-member council districts? That is an interesting question. Can a charter city be forced to adopt a different electoral system against the wishes of its citizens, as expressed in an election?

I have serious doubts whether Anaheim voters would adopt single-member districts. For one thing, there is no grass roots groundswell for them, no organized effort by proponents to place the question on the ballot other than badgering the city council to do it for them. The push for single-member districts has come from a generally left-wing coalition of activists and organizations (such as OCCORD, UNITE-HERE and the Democratic Party of Orange County). It’s the same people and groups who also push for retention policies, inclusionary housing mandates, “living wage” requirements, a gate tax and other liberal policies. With the exception of Mayor Tom Tait, the single-member district drive isn’t supported by Republicans leaders or organizations.

To the extent this Coalition of the Left has generated support from ordinary folks, it’s by telling them single-member districts will lead to more parks, better schools, cleaner neighborhoods — more of whatever it is someone wants.

Proponents claim single-member districts are necessary in order for Latinos to have representation on the Anaheim City Council. That notion — that a citizen can only be truly be represented by someone of the same ethnicity or race — goes against the belief in color-blind government. As a practical matter, the election of more Latino council candidates is a demographic inevitability. Left alone, demographics would assert themselves (sooner rather than later) in council elections, just as they have in Santa Ana, Westminster and Garden Grove. It doesn’t require liberal social engineers tinkering with election systems in an attempt to produce a city council with the desired complexion.

It will be interesting to learn the details of the settlement and what they portend for the city’s electoral future.

12 comments

  1. Stand For Anaheim

    Interesting! So they will not address expanding the council. I hope the council does not because expansion of the council is not mandated by the CVRA.

  2. Settlement = No one goes to deposition under oath and testify in the lawsuit. This should bring relief to Pringle and Co.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Oh for crying out loud, Allen. Take the tin foil off your head.

      • Matthew: No need to get nasty and cute!
        I don’t wear a tin foil on my head, Thank you very much!
        You fully know well the settlement brings a sigh of relief that no one goes to deposition….now that is a reality and get with it my friend!

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Allen: can you point out any sane human being who WANTS to go through a deposition? Not wanting to be deposed is evidence of nothing other than an aversion to an unpleasant experience.

          What you’re original comment says is you believe this is somehow all about Curt Pringle (which, of course, is wrong). After 20-plus years in Orange County politics, I have learned that some people prefer to explain events through the prism of a preferred conspiracy theory, regardless of reality. If you prefer conspiracy theories to reality, then knock yourself out.

          • Matthew: Spin all you want.
            Rest assured no one wants to go to deposition, which is why the city settled…it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out!
            I have been in politics as long as you have sir and I wasn’t born yesterday to know that politics is a cesspool.
            People are waking up about the cesspool and ready to clean it out with CommonSense people who doesn’t expect a handout for themselves and their friends.

            • Matthew Cunningham

              Wow, Allen — we’re you in the closed session council meetings where settling the lawsuit was discussed? You are presenting yourself as knowing exactly why the city settled – so you presumably know something the rest of us don’t.

              This push in Anaheim and statewide for single-member council districts is part of a liberal/Democratic effort to structurally tilt political landscape even more heavily in favor of the election of more liberal candidates and the preservation of statist policies. I’m sure they are glad to know they can count on GOP activists like you to cheer them on. You’re not stupid, Allen. I’m confident that at some point, you will wake up to that reality.

    • Depositions under oath are an inevitability. Specifically, to explain the behavior of your police department behind the backs of the people of Anaheim since at least the 90’s. But for that, it’s possible that latinos in your city would not feel the need to accelerate the natural process of representation or feel the need to think that they will be represented more fairly by latino politicians

  3. “The judge can’t impose single-member districts by judicial fiat since Anaheim is a charter city; it requires amending the city charter, which can only be done by a vote of the people.”

    I’m sorry, what? That’s completely untrue.

    Of course the court can modify, or completely dispose of, the charter to protect the rights of citizens. A city cannot use its charter to diminish the rights of its citizens as determined by the state. Who’s claiming that the charter is some magical legal fortress that can stonewall the court?!

    Here’s an example of the court chucking a provision of the Long Beach City Charter in 1955 because it violated the rights of its citizens, which are protected by the state: http://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/allen-v-city-long-beach-26585

    Here’s another one (on pensions, shocking . . . I know) from last year in LA: http://www.lacaa.org/docs/13-09-13-order-granting-writ.pdf

    The question isn’t “can” a court do it. Of course it can. The proper question is “should” a court do it? Are the rights of individual voters who oppose districting greater or less valuable than the rights enumerated to those protected classes outlined in the CVRA?

    Better question: What’s the total bill to the Anaheim taxpayer? Is it worth it? At what price is it not?

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Ryan, I guess I goofed on that one. I based that assertion on a conversation with a very knowledgeable person – whom (in retrospect) I must have misunderstood because even then it struck me as counter to what I thought to be the case.

  4. This is a good day for Anaheim. I say no to districts, always have always will. Look at the LA City Council…they are a joke.

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