One month ago, as small businesses near Anaheim High School's Cook Auditorium needlessly boarded themselves up, concerned residents endured hours of a special meeting of the city council to arrive at two entirely predictable 3-2 votes, one of which struck down a proposed charter amendment to put six council districts before the November election.
A resolution was passed, instead, calling for the establishment of an Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections and Community Involvement which will study and make recommendations on, among other things, the potential scrapping of the city's at-large voting system in favor of district elections.
“My first reaction was that this was just another tactic of the city council majority to delay the process,” says Martin Lopez, an Anaheim resident and Recording Secretary of UNITE HERE Local 11. “There's no secret that this issue is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act,” he adds, referring to a lawsuit filed earlier this summer alleging Mexi voter disenfranchisement in the city and calling for district elections to remedy it. “From what I know, there has been no response whatsoever to the plaintiffs, or to the community concerns. I'm not happy with the way things came up.”
Even so, Lopez threw his hat in the ring by applying to be on the committee well before the 5 p.m. September 11 deadline that's creeping up right around the corner. “I'm trying to get involved and my interest is to at least see what's going to happen to have an opportunity to have a seat at the table and see if I can be that voice for the community.” Lopez hadn't heard anything back, not even a confirmation that his application was received despite detailing all his contact information, until he proactively called the City Clerk two days ago.
Whether or not he will be among the committee's ten voting members remains to be seen. Once all bids for membership are collected online or at the City Clerk's Office, as the resolution lays out, each member of the city council will appoint two persons each, meaning the current council majority of Harry Sidhu, Gail Eastman and Kris Murray will be able to create a six-member majority
even with the voting authorities of the City Manager or his appointee factored in. Pretty convenient, eh?
Of course, fealty is paid to selected applicants needing to be comprised of “dispersed geographic areas of the city” reflecting also the “plurality of the ethnic diversity in Anaheim.” What that will exactly end up looking like after September 11, who knows? Rest assured, we'll be on vendido watch!
Resulting proposals for change to the city's governance structure will be put before the June 2014 ballot so as to be effective by the following November election that year. Not even civil unrest and discontent this summer could sway the council majority to deliver a rather mainstream political reform expeditiously!
Even though the committee is definitely not what the community coalition had called for, Lopez is ready to roll. “I have some experience in trying to get involved with voter registration especially in the Latino community,” he says of his civic engagement credentials.
“There are many areas that have felt neglected and disenfranchised. I think it's important for them to know what's going on and be included in this process.”