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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktiePolitics makes strange bedfellows. For instance, there is the little matter of Tony Strickland getting an endorsement from R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster AND the guy who has sued to force Santa Clarita and various school districts around the valley to change their election systems.

So now we are told to vote for someone who says he is fiscally responsible but is getting support from someone who wants us in the SCV to spend a lot of money to defend our election methods.

I think the California Voting Rights Act is causing more problems than it is solving. Santa Clarita has capitulated to the capricious lawsuits. I really wonder why they didn’t put the question to a vote of the people.

Do you want the City Council to use “cumulative voting” where everybody can vote up to three times for the same person? Or how about school districts being carved into even smaller districts for elections, instead of the at-large elections now being used?

Let’s let the people decide and not some lawyer or judge.

All over our fair and formerly great state, cities, counties and school districts have had to comply in some way with the law. In the 12 years since the California Voting Rights Act became law, all kinds of actions have taken place to ensure that the law is followed in some way.

The city of Highland is under a threat of a lawsuit just like Santa Clarita. But unlike Santa Clarita and our school districts, Highland has decided to let the people decide on the voting method this next election.

Same thing for Anaheim and Compton. They are letting the people decide.

Palmdale didn’t put it to a vote of the people. Palmdale fought the lawsuit and lost. They have spent more than $16 million on the court case so far, and it appears that they will have to comply the hard way.

It isn’t easy for a council or school board to provide for district or ward elections. Since three of our Santa Clarita City Council members are from Canyon Country, would one or two of them will have to step down? How would we be divided? That isn’t an easy task.

In the Southern states following the passage of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, it wasn’t easy for some to let go of the power they had to conform to the new law. Minorities finally got a voice in elections. Just so you remember, it was Democrats from the South who nearly killed the bill. Had it not been for the Republicans working with the Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, we would still be mired in the Jim Crow era in the former Confederate states.

So how did California get in a position that we needed a law to make sure representation was equal in all of our political bodies? And once the problem was recognized, why do we, the citizens, have to pay so much to the lawyers who are suing those same political bodies?

R. Rex Parris is a good example. He’ll cost cities and school districts millions with lawsuits like these, and the taxpayers get to foot the bill because the law says so. Thank you, Mayor Parris, for helping to raise the legal costs of many cities and school districts.

Maybe my blinders are too firmly affixed to my head and I can’t see the problem. I hear all kinds of folks telling us that Canyon Country or Saugus or Newhall or Valencia isn’t properly represented in some way and we need districts. But I can’t see it right now. I guess if we had four of our five council members from Canyon Country or some other area, we might have a problem.

The other thing is that throughout the SCV we’re pretty well mixed up already. There are not the ethnic pockets we had in the past. Remember that at one time, if you were black, you lived in Val Verde, and Latinos were concentrated in neighborhoods here and there. Our Native American populations were also clustered. But that was then and now is now. Just how would we be divided? And how is that decided?

The William S. Hart Union High School District is an example of an agency that’s questioning the boundaries for elections by wards or districts. Maybe one method would be to have a board member for each high school area. That isn’t so hard. But how will COC and the Sulphur Springs School District conform?

This is something that really needs to be put to a vote of the people. It can be done simply and effectively. It can also prevent some lawyer-mayor from pushing us around. Letting the people decide how to end the fight is always best.

Got to love our system of laws here in California. This one must have been written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers to make money. Lots of money. Our money.

Can we create a voting district just for lawyers? Put all of them in that district and see if they even bother to vote. If they don’t vote, I’m sure a lawsuit would come out of it, asking for redress of some sort since they forgot to vote. It would always be our fault.

I’m not taking the blame on this one, folks. I’ll be really glad to pass the blame to lawyers and legislators. They deserve the blame. Let them have it.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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7 Comments

  1. John Mlynar says:

    With all due respect, Mr. Manzer, Palmdale did in fact put the issue of districts before its voters—twice. They said they want at-large elections – twice in recent history. First in 2001, when they chose this method at the ballot box. More recently in 2009, when they voted to become a Charter City with at-large elections. Our residents may ultimately decide to change to an alternate form of elections, but it should be the community—not an individual who may or may not have the community’s interest in mind—who makes that decision.

  2. Melissa says:

    Strange isn’t it, how King Rex makes demands through legal channels which he has set up, that cities and school districts have a particular type of ‘zoned’ representation?

    Strange because in his fiefdom of Lancaster, the councilmembers are elected in the old way.

    The mayor of Palmdale tried to draw the line in the sand, but the judicial bench determined via lawsuits that ‘at large’ elections deprived the minority population of due representation, finding in favor of Rex and his henchmen.

    The city council persons in Lancaster do not reflect the minority population numbers in that city either, since they are elected on an at large basis.

    Makes a person wonder if it is so important and beneficial for other cities, why doesn’t he initiate the same policy in Lancaster?

  3. Ed Galindo says:

    The demographics in the aforementioned article and comments has drastically changed in the last two decades. The At Large voting structure was sufficient for the times. We are no longer one horse towns. To grow we must allow equal representation. District must prevail. The California Voting Rights Act simply
    prevents minorities from being disenfranchised. It is not an attack on the Establishment.

  4. jim soliz says:

    Mr. Galindo is quite correct. The city has grown and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future and so must the vision of the City Council. Not to respond to the Voting rights of minorities is both exclusionary and undemocratic.
    As for the notions raised in this article, they fall into the category recycled, and stale arguments. But then again, to be expected by supporters of an out of touch, stale City Council.

  5. Gee, pointed arguments without any detailed support? There is no argument regarding who is the voting public that can be supported by existing rules. I choose to vote against rulings that will damage my own interests. What about the rest of you?

  6. R Rex Parris says:

    I can understand why many people don’t like district voting. There are many laws we don’t like, and everyone knows, we still have to follow them.

  7. Eric says:

    A little fact checking might be nice. The statement, “Palmdale spent more than $16 million on the court case so far” is just not true. I believe the figure is more like $2-3 million that Palmdale has spent on its own attorneys. On top of that, the court has awarded Plaintiff’s attorneys $3.65 million. It is time for Palmdale taxpayers to ask why they are fighting a losing battle

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