The Los Angeles Times recently editorialized that the City of Anaheim must “trace the source of the anger among local Latinos. Although the police chief has a Community Advisory Board that meets monthly to discuss residents’ issues, the protests suggest that the department hasn’t done enough to win their trust. That distrust may also extend to the City Council, whose four members are all elected on citywide votes — an approach that dilutes Latino citizens’ voting power. Considering that Latinos account for more than half of Anaheim’s 341,000 residents, city officials need to find a way to address their concerns before they take them to the streets.”
ERIC ALTMAN, ealtman at occord.org, www.occord.org
MARTIN LOPEZ, email@example.com
Altman is executive director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development and Lopez is Anaheim Neighborhood Leader and Recording Secretary of UNITE HERE Local 11. They said today: “With an at-large election system, Anaheim’s city government isn’t set up to truly represent all of the neighborhoods in this diverse city. Significant communities, including those affected by the recent officer-involved shootings, do not have the representation they need to ensure that their interests are voiced at City Hall.
“Central and South Anaheim, where the recent shootings took place, have 45 percent of the population and only one council representative. West Anaheim is home to 39 percent of the city’s population and has no council representative. With just 16 percent of the population, Anaheim Hills has three council representatives — 15 times the per capita representation on city council — and also benefits from more parks, libraries, fire stations, and other city resources.
“Latinos make up more than half of Anaheim residents and a third of registered voters, yet there are no Latino voices on the city council.
“Despite being a major city in the region and state, Anaheim has a municipal election system suited to a small, homogeneous town. Anaheim is the largest city in California to elect its council at-large. By contrast, more than 83 percent of large U.S. cities (populations over 200,000) use district elections.
“With just four council members, Anaheim has fewer per resident than any California city under half a million in population. There are 84,066 residents per councilmember in Anaheim, while similarly-sized cities average 50,465. Anaheim would need to add at least three council seats to give residents the same level of representation and accountability enjoyed in similar cities.
“Moreover, the current election system in Anaheim leaves government decisions open to undue influence from special interests. From 2004 to 2010, 71 percent of all individual and corporate political contributions to incumbents and successful candidates in Anaheim municipal elections came from outside city boundaries.
“Anaheim is a leader in so many areas, but in terms of representative democracy, it has fallen behind other cities. It is time to create an election system that reflects this diverse, dynamic city. Expanding the council while creating districts would improve representation, responsiveness, and accountability for communities across Anaheim.” Sources: U.S. Census (2010); National League of Cities; Anaheim.net and other municipal websites; Consolidated Campaign Disclosure Forms (Form 460). City regions are by ZIP code: West (92801, 92804), Central (92802, 92805, 92806), and Anaheim Hills (92807, 92808).
MICHELLE CHEN, [currently in NYC] meeshellchen at gmail.com, culturestrike.net
Chen is editor of CultureStrike.net, a “national project that brings together artists, writers, and activists to push for immigration justice.” She recently wrote the piece Terror in Anaheim.