Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead

Citizen About Town

Citizen About Town

By Nancy C. Arcuri, Editor and Publisher

Email: nancyarcuri@thecitizensvoice.net

The hot button issue discussed at the Monterey Park City Council meeting on November 7th was titled Adopt a Resolution to Pursuant to Election Codes.

Southwest Voter Registration Education Project from Texas has decided that the Latino voters in the United States have not be given an even playing field serving in our local governments.

Shenkman & Hughes, their attorneys, are suing general law cities and demanding that each city votes by district to prevent their protected class of minorities from losing their bid to serve in the city government.

On October 18th Vince Chang, our City Clerk, received a letter from Shenkman & Hughes warning our city that we had to comply with their demands based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

If Monterey Park is not divided into voting districts then they will sue us because Hispanics or Latinos, a protected class, are not elected to serve on our City Council.

Their letter said in our 2017 and 2009 elections that Randall Avila; Anthony Felix, Jr.; Joe Ray Avila ran and they were not elected by the voters.  Their letter also states that in 2009 Sharon Martinez and Luis Estrada ran for Council and they were not elected because of a voting bloc of a non-Latino majority.

If you recall that during the Meet the Candidates Forums held by members of the League of Women Voters before our City Council Elections Luis Estrada, a City Commissioner; Randall Avila, a City Commissioner; Anthony Felix, Jr., a former resident and a new renter and Joe Ray Avila  (The Handyman) all were given several chances to express their abilities and plans to serve our city. They were not able to answer several of the questions on the important issues facing our hometown.

The Monterey Park voters of all ethnic heritages decided that these candidates were not the best people to run our city government so they were not elected.

If you recall Sharon Martinez already served as a Councilmember. She and former Councilmember Frank Venti got into nasty fights in City Hall and the city.  She was able not to retain her Council seat.

Now we have Southwest Voter Registration Education Project from Texas calling us racists because we voted for the best people for the job. We are racists because we did not vote for a candidate of Hispanic heritage.

Our punishment is dividing our city into five voting districts or being sued by Shenkman & Hughes based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

California voters don’t matter.  Only this flawed law matters to our elected officials in Sacramento.

Again we have elected officials separating us by our ethnic heritages, our religions beliefs, our sex, our sexual preferences, our financial situations and our political beliefs.

The City Council announced that we hired Robert McIntire, a consultant, to help us figure on how-to divide our hometown by voting districts to be sure that Hispanic candidates have a better chance to serve on our City Council.

I spoke out against this law that will further divide our city.  Monterey Park was incorporated as general law city 102 years ago. Early city residents decided that being a general law city would allow their voting residents to vote in the best candidates for our city government. We have been voting at large since 1916.

Monterey Park has very large immigrant population; many are not U S citizens and cannot vote in our elections. We also have a very large population of renters, who don’t always get involved in the city’s government.

Monterey Park has largest ethnic group of Asians, Hispanic or Latino are the second largest ethnic group, the European ethnic group is smaller and the African-Americans are the smallest ethnic group. I don’t know if we have any Native Americans living in our city.

I called the California Voting Rights Act of 2001a government sanctioned voter discrimination against residents who want to vote for the best people for the job and not for a person’s ethnic heritage.

The Civil Rights Acts were supposed to move us forward as a country. Not to punish us for our past history

Grace Chu, along time resident and retired attorney, said our country is already divided and we don’t want our city divided up. We don’t fight at City Hall anymore. Our Council works together. Some of our old Councilmembers have moved away. This law is not for our city. They want to divide the American people by color.

Dave Barron, another long time resident and former City Clerk, said we have to follow the state law. We are already a divided city by Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, Mexicans and Cubans people. We need to know we don’t want one mayor and four districts. We should limit election spending by districts. Mark Hensley stated that the city could not limit election spending later in the meeting in response to one of the Councilmembers asking the same question.

Kathy Wills, another longtime residents, said we don’t vote by ethnic groups. She has lived in Monterey Park for the last 40 years. When she and her husband, an African-American moved into town.  There was only one other African-American family in town. We don’t need to be divided. We want to vote at large.

Delario Robinson, another longtime resident and commissioner, said he is an African-American. Monterey Park is a great community to raise his family. Monterey Park is not a prejudice city. Your intelligence and abilities are what we need. He is the Planning Commission Chair. Districts will delete our ability to have good people run. Districts would divide our city.

Mark Hensley, our City Attorney, stated that our city needs to adopt this resolution to set up districts. We will have public hearings before any maps are drawn. If we don’t go into voting districts. We can be sued.

Mayor Peter Chan said we have to let the residents know we could be sued. We are not making any decisions on dividing the city by districts tonight. We need to have several meetings and have public input. We need to solve the issue.

Councilmember Stephen Lam said this is a challenge from attorneys to vote by district. He does not like to vote by districts. We may lose this case.  We will discuss it at town hall meetings. He is an immigrant from Hong Kong. His American dream has come true.

Councilmember Teresa Real Sebastian said she brought this issue up because she belongings to San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. They have discussed the California Voters Rights Act. We need to vote by districts or get sued. Palmdale paid $4million in legal fees because they fought the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project’s demand to vote by districts. This is the law. She is voting to adopt this resolution and wants public input.

Councilmember Mitch Ing these attorneys threatened to sue our city. They threatened to sue South Pasadena. Some cities fought it and lost. We need to inform the residents.

Mr. McIntire said these attorneys have sent out over 100 letters. He said we need to have two public hearings before the maps can be drawn up.

Councilmember Ing asked do we have an option?

Mr. McIntire said we need public hearings before the maps can be drawn up. We need the community and Council to agree. The people don’t get to vote on it.

Councilmember Ing said if we have to do it we would need the public input.

Mayor Pro Tem Hans Liang said this is an important issue to change our voting from at large to five districts. The candidates must live in the district and voters can only vote for Councilmembers in their district. He is not in favor of this issue. He spoke about gangs who commit crimes against other gangs. He does not want to divide up the city. He spoke about the letter. It is a warning letter. It is not a lawsuit against us. We are already looking at this process. Not all laws are good laws. We must watch out for our money. We need our money to provide for our services to the residents.

Mayor Pro Tem Liang said we need to pass this resolution. It will divide our city by Latinos, African-Americans and Native Americans.

Mr.McIntire said the districts must be redrawn every ten years based on the census count of ethnic heritage.

Councilmember Liang said he and Peter Chan are termed out. He is concerned about drawing the lines. Let the residents decide.

Councilmembers agreed they want all of the voters to have input on the maps since they can’t vote on it.

Mr. Hensley said we could be sued if we don’t do it in 90 days. Latino voting groups will divide the maps.

Mayor Chan said this issue has been discussed. We have to take our time to really talk about it. We have 62,000 residents in Monterey Park. We are a small city. Five districts will have 12,000 residents in each district. Will all the Councilmembers serve the entire city?  Will they compete for our limited resources? He doesn’t like districts. It will be how the maps are drawn. We need to discuss it.

Mayor Chan said the lawsuit could cause us issues. We have to comply with the law.

Councilmember Ing asked how would the city be divided up?

Mr. McIntire said he would do it by natural borders and community interests.

Councilmember Ing stated we need to give the community information for them to decide.

Mr. Hensley advised the Council to adopt the resolution to start the process.

The Council had additional discussions on the matter before they voted to adopt this resolution.

For more information on this issue please call City Hall to attend the public hearings and provide your input.

Please call your California representatives and ask them why the California Voters Rights Act promotes racism in our city and state?

Regardless of the strange laws in our city, our county, our state and our country I am thankful and blessed to live in the United States of America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

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