Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Whittier Latinos may use CA Voting Rights Act to seek district elections

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says "there are a number of cities, some of them not even known to us, where there are serious issues of racially-polarized voting and exclusion of Latino candidates."
Sharon McNary/KPCC

KPCC has launched a series called "Project Citizen."  Our stories look at the responsibilities, traditions and privileges that citizenship entails.  Voting is one of them.  But some voters say fair representation remains elusive. As KPCC's Sharon McNary reports, California's Voting Rights Act is being used with greater frequency to change how voters elect their local officials.

As Miguel Garcia strolls Greenleaf Avenue — the quaint shopping street in Uptown Whittier — he points out the many Latino-owned businesses.
"You have a restaurant that is called La Pescadora," he says. "There's the shop that imports furniture from Guadalajara,  the ice cream store, Steve's Barbeque and a couple of upscale restaurants." Garcia estimates about one-third of the city's businesses are Latino-owned.
Garcia has been a resident since 1987, and he loves the place — except for this one thing:
"We've been trying to elect a Latino to the City Council at least for ten years and we haven't been able to do so.
About two-thirds of Whittier's population and more than half the people of voting age there are Latino. Like more than 4o0 other California cities, Whittier uses at-large elections. In such cases, voters from throughout the city select all the council members.
Under the at-large system, just one Latino has won a council seat in Whittier's 115-year history. He was Victor Lopez, a popular local high school football coach.
Garcia and a group called the Whittier Latino Coalition are demanding the council switch to district elections and move them from the low-turnout month of April to November.
If the council refuses, the Coalition says it will sue under the California Voting Rights Act. The 2001 law is a powerful legal tool designed to force local governments to switch from at-large to district elections.


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Garcetti pledges different approach to City Hall diversity

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says he wants to think about City Hall diversity "more robustly."
Frank Stoltze

Earlier this week, Eric Garcetti summoned reporters to his third-floor office inside Los Angeles City Hall to tout a reorganization.

He said he is requiring city managers to reapply for their jobs and detail goals for improving their departments. Then, almost off-handedly, he mentioned diversity.

“We have diversity programs that date back to the 1970s,” he said.

"The model back then, " he added, "was to get one person of each color at each thing,” Garcetti explained. “I want to get past that kind of tokenism towards a broader diversity.”

In an interview later, Garcetti said people still think in terms of four broad categories: black, white, Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander. He said that doesn't begin to touch on the city's diversity.

“There are Mexican-Americans who speak Spanish as their second language, after an indigenous language,” he said. Many Guatemalans in Los Angeles speak Quiche. How can he improve their access to City Hall? Garcetti asked.


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No House GOP consensus on comprehensive immigration

As House GOP members met in the Capitol basement Wednesday to discuss immigration, activists marched outside with a message: the future of the Republican party could ride on their votes.

House Republicans met for more than two hours at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to discuss immigration. There was no consensus on anything but border security, but one things seems clear: a path to citizenship looks to be a tough sell.

House leaders told their colleagues that Republicans will be in a "much weaker position" if they fail to act on immigration. Afterwards, House Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was upbeat.

"We had very good discussions, very productive, a lot of participation," McCarthy said.

The man who counts votes says there will be a majority of GOP members who can agree on something. When asked whether that includes a path to citizenship or legal status, McCarthy quickly slipped away behind his office door without answering.

Central Valley Congressman Devin Nunes said he believes two-thirds of his House GOP colleagues support legal status for the undocumented. But he doesn't understand what he termed "infatuation" with a path to citizenship among Democrats and immigration advocates.


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How should California make up for power loss from San Onofre?

L.A. Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla (seen in file photo), who chairs the Senate Utilities Committee, said Wednesday at a hearing on San Onofre: “I don’t think keeping the lights on and reducing emissions are contradictory.”

A State Senate committee pondered Wednesday how to make up for the power loss from the permanent closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).  

Replacing the energy the plant produced isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Not when California is gunning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable fuels. 

The San Onofre plant provided 2,200 megawatts of electricity to South Orange County and San Diego. The creation of that power — from a regulatory perspective —emitted no greenhouse gases.

Speaking before the state Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee, executives from the two utility companies that relied on San Onofre said they have been able to purchase other types of energy — including natural gas — from other companies to make up the difference.  


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Maven's Morning Coffee: Eric Garcetti rethinks diversity, a former Malibu mayor runs for Board of Supes, Fire Commission doesn't like Dodger deal

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is half Mexican and half Jewish, wants City Hall to rethink how it looks at diversity.
John Rabe

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 Wednesday, July 10, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to change the way City Hall thinks about diversity, reports KPCC. "I just know that we’re going to be looking at more than just, ‘Oh, make sure there’s one of every color on every commission and the box is checked'," Garcetti says.

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talks to the Los Angeles Times about his plans for the future -- think tank, speaking tour, possible run for governor. "I'm not going to put my head in the sand and disappear," he says.


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