The Anaheim City Council was told by people at a special meeting that the city needs to create council districts. After three hours of public comment, the City Council voted against placing a measure on the November ballot to change the at-large voting system and create six districts.
Instead, they voted to create a citizens advisory committee to study the elections issue.
About 250 people turned out for the meeting Wednesday at Anaheim High School, with roughly 70 people offering their opinions about recent police shootings and the city's at-large voting system.
It was a lively but mostly peaceful meeting with some occasional catcalls and shouting. At least three mothers of men shot and killed by Anaheim police also spoke to the Council.
Most cities Anaheim’s size elect council members by district. But not Anaheim.
The city is being sued over its at-large system by the ACLU and other groups. They say it doesn’t provide fair representation to people, including the Latino majority.
Isabel Barrera, who works at Disneyland, wants the city divided into eight council districts.
“So that my neighborhood has a voice and a vote," Barrera said in Spanish, which was translated by Martin Lopez of Anaheim. “We need eight districts, because the current system is violating the rights of voters.”
Lopez said the City Council is not listening and seems intent on preserving the status quo.
“So we’re demanding eight council districts," Lopez said. "And we also want to be given the opportunity, the plaintiffs, the community, and not just the City Council — or a commission that they want to appoint to draw those lines — to be included in those conversations.”
But before any district lines can be drawn, the city first has to move to a district voting system. That's not happening fast enough for many in the community.
Lopez said creating an advisory committee, with members appointed by the Council, is not what people are demanding.
Mothers of sons shot by police speak out
Along with urging the creation of voting districts, people spoke about the recent police shootings. Family members of four men shot and killed by Anaheim police spoke to the Council, including three mothers.
Genevieve Huizar, the mother of Manuel Diaz, told the Council she wants peaceful protests to continue in honor of her son.
While she was speaking, a man shouted out: “You’re a horrible mother!”
The crowd shouted him down and he was escorted out of the Anaheim High School auditorium.
Huizar said “That’s OK,” finished talking and thanked everyone for coming to the meeting. The crowd applauded in unison.
Theresa Smith suggested the city have "one day of love and nonviolence." Her son was shot and killed by Anaheim police nearly three years ago.
Other speakers called for a citizens police review board and a few spoke in support of police and the at-large voting system.
But most people said that system isn’t working for Anaheim. Many said they’ve been asking for election changes for decades and creating a committee is another delay.
Some people now say the lawsuit against the city by the ACLU and Los Amigos of Orange County may now be the agent for that change.
"We're back to square one — the lawsuit," said a disappointed Martin Lopez after the Council voted to study the the district versus at-large voting system.