Community members gathered to weigh in on the proposed four district maps at the recent City Council Meeting. The final two maps were released for public viewing September 21 after the city council encouraged the community to attend a forum September 16th and the council meeting on the 20th to bring their ideas and opinions to bear. The city’s demographer was on hand for both to take questions and discuss modifications to the proposed maps.
City Clerk Anthony Mejia opened the public comments on September 20 by stating all that has led to this decision to adopt district based elections, noting that this was the third public hearing on the matter and reminding citizens that the council finds the contents of the legal action threatened by Kevin Shenkman to be unfounded, specifically that the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. Based on reasoning that the cost of litigation would be large and the risk of losing is almost inevitable, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 7524, declaring its intention to transition to district-based elections.
Concerns were raised about breaking up neighborhoods in a way that doesn’t seem to make sense. Lynn Tavarozzi observed that she felt she, like many in the community really didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision on the maps and stated “I think it’s a well intended law that’s being taken advantage of and that’s sad. I think our town being a one mile square block can unite and figure things out together.” She went on to say that based on some maps, just on her small street, there are three districts in a block and a half, which she thinks seems crazy. “My point is, how do we not divide ourselves? How do we make sure that I or anybody else who disagrees with me can make a case to more than one of you and that we can combine together in the same way we always have?”
Sheila Rossi, who lives on Fairview Avenue, said she felt that a council member should have an understanding of the area they represent. She was particularly concerned about traffic vis a vis pedestrians. Rossi said, “I deeply respect this council but I think we have to think about the future and not just in terms of this particular term but what happens in five, ten years.”
Bianca Richards thanked the City for the workshops saying it was very well attended and productive and stated that they were assured all the comment made there would be presented to the Council. Richards lives near the library and proposed that the district there go further east and west rather than further north and south.
Mejia stated that all the community feedback from the hearings, workshops and online comments were to be taken into consideration by the council and the demographer to try to accommodate those concerns into the proposed maps. On October 4th, two final maps, the green and modified green, will be voted on to determine which is to be the final districting map. After weighing the public comments, the council concluded that these two maps met the majority of the criteria set forth. They went with the green map and the modified green map. They are similar in most ways with the key difference being that the modified green map takes into account a desire to keep what some consider to be the central South Pasadena all in one district. The main goal was to keep each district equally populated with a mix of residential and commercial.
Mejia recently stated that the City Council’s ordinance is going to include language that says this City Council’s intent is that if the CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) is amended, it will revert back. In fact, many citizens have vowed to fight this at the state level, putting pressure on state elected officials to amend the law to accommodate smaller cities like South Pasadena and make it more difficult for lawyers like Shenkman to bring these lawsuits where they are unfounded. Mejia cautioned that the language will not be binding to whatever council is in place at that time because you can’t bind a future city council’s actions based on a council that is in office today.
Mejia tells us, “I’d like to thank the community for coming out to all the community workshops and public hearings, making sure that this was a public process and providing that input ensuring that these maps will at least be representative of the community as best it can being that we are being forced into leaving our at large election process.”
For more information, contact the City Clerk’s office at (626) 403-7230.