Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Latinos pressure Whittier city council to hold public vote on district elections in June 2014

Plaintiffs in Whittier voting lawsuit

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Whittier College student Jafet Diego, homemaker Lisa Lopez and attorney Miguel Garcia are the three Whittier residents who sued the city under the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit calls on the city to create city council voting districts, which they expect would give Latino candidates a better chance to win elections. Only one Latino has won election to the Whittier City Council since 1989, and one was appointed.

Whittier City Council members said they didn't want to cut the city into council election districts, but decided Tuesday to place the decision in voters' hands to avoid a costly legal battle.

Three Whittier residents had sued the city to overturn its at-large elections, in which voters throughout the city select all council members.

They said the at-large system diluted Latino voting power and prevented them from electing candidates of their choice. The lawsuit claims the at-large system violated the California Voting Rights Act, a 2002 law which requires local governments to create voting districts if at-large voting results in racially polarized voting patterns.

After four hours of public comment and discussion, the Whittier City Council unanimously decided to put a district plan before voters on the June 2014 ballot.  

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Garcetti names USC dean to head Office of Immigrant Affairs

Linda Lopez Office of Immigrant Affairs

Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

Linda Lopez says she wants to integrate immigrants into the social life of Los Angeles as the mayor's new chief of the Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Linda Lopez, Associate Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives at USC’s Dornslife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, is L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pick to head the city's newly-revived Office of Immigrant Affairs.

"Linda Lopez will focus on building a dual-purpose office to help people access services and drive policy to integrate immigrants into the social, political, cultural, and economic fabric of the city,” Garcetti said in a statement. "The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs will play a critical role given L.A.'s large immigrant population, and the national spotlight on immigration legislation."

In the past, the Democratic mayor has said he supports providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Lopez, 43, is a political scientist. She was born in Lawndale, raised in Upland, and attended USC. Lopez previously worked at the National Science Foundation in the Directorate for Social, Behavior and Economic Sciences.

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Los Angeles' mural moratorium could be overturned

Boyle Heights

Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

This work in Boyle Heights by East Los Streetscapers (David Botello, Wayne Healy, George Yepes) helped establish L.A.'s reputation as a capital of mural art.

A decade-long moratorium on public murals could be overturned Wednesday when the Los Angeles City Council votes on an ordinance regulating public art.

Los Angeles was once known as one of the world's mural capitals, with public displays of art stretching from East L.A. to the freeways to Venice. But that changed 10 years ago when city officials tried to regulate commercial billboards. According to Councilman Jose Huizar, art got tangled up with advertisements.

"The idea was that the city first wanted to better get a handle on what all the sign litigation was about, [to] resolve that before we move back into murals," Huizar said. "So there was a sort of moratorium on murals and now that we've gotten a better handle on the litigation, we're moving forward to allow murals to flourish once again."

The Los Angeles City Council is on the cusp of approving an ordinance that would allow artists to once again paint murals in the city. The artworks would be allowed as long as permits are sought and issued, the murals meet size and space restrictions, and are non-commercial in nature. Vintage art murals would be grandfathered in.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: President Obama heads back to LA, Mayor Garcetti declares state of emergency, DWP considers settlement

 President Barack Obama on college affordability

Getty Images

According to The Hollywood Reporter, President Obama will be back in Los Angeles next month to meet with big time Democratic donors.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Tuesday, Aug. 27, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:

Headlines

President Obama will be back in Los Angeles on Sept. 9, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The president will hold an "'off the cuff' roundtable discussion with a small group of deep-pocketed Democratic donors," per the magazine.

According to Variety, Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a state of emergency as television and film production leaves Los Angeles. "Garcetti has pledged to leverage his new position to be an ardent lobbyist for rescuing Hollywood production despite all the hurdles. He and his constituents must now convince Sacramento that the threat is real," per the piece.

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Whittier City Council to weigh plan for district elections

Patricia Lopez

Sharon McNary/KPCC

The Whittier City Council recently heard public testimony about changing at-large elections to a district election format.

The Whittier City Council will consider two plans Tuesday night for changing how council members are elected. The possible action is in response to Latino residents who sued Whittier alleging its at-large elections dilute their voting power.

Either plan would shift city elections away from its at-large system, in which all voters cast ballots in all council races, to a system in which candidates who reside in a council district are elected by  district residents.

Attorney Miguel Garcia, one of the plaintiffs, said Monday: "It's a hopeful sign that the City Council is moving forward toward a resolution."

He said he would be satisfied with either of the two options the council is proposing, because both would result in residents electing candidates from their own part of the city.

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