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Protesters Urge City Not to Appeal Voting Rights Ruling
By Jorge Casuso
November 28, 2018 -- Spend taxpayer money on policing parks not paying expensive lawyers, and don't underestimate the ire of voters who oppose the City's plans to appeal the ruling in a voting rights case.
That was the message delivered Tuesday evening by more than 100 demonstrators who rallied on the steps of City Hall before marching into the Council chambers to confront their elected representatives.View video of rally
At the rally and at the podium, they argued that the City should abide by Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos' tentative ruling that Santa Monica had violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
She also ruled it had deliberately discriminated against minority voters by refusing to implement district elections ("Plaintiffs Win Voting Rights Suit Against the City of Santa Monica," November 13, 2018).
The protesters pointed out that no California city has successfully fought a voting rights lawsuit. They tried to persuade the Council to better spend the attorneys fees some estimate have reached $10 million. And they threatened to take the issue to the polls.
"Public funds are being utilized to protect your positions," Maria Loya, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the Council. "We think that it's time for you all to do the right thing."
If the City persists in appealing, Loya said, it "will be siding with conservative groups to roll back voting rights. That will be your legacy."
Another speaker chided the liberal council members for opposing voting rights, comparing their stance to former Alabama Governor George Wallace's opposition to civil rights.
The protesters cheered the speakers' comments despite repeated warnings from Mayor Ted Winterer and aired their anger and frustration at the podium.
"All of the ire, it matters and it's growing and it's not healthy," said Ann Maggio Thanawalla. "And it's not going to change. It's going to significantly worsen."
They are angry, they said, at the development they see overtaking the city and at the priority given to developers and tourists. And they brought their children, who told the Council they were afraid to play in the parks.Armen Melkonians, the founder of Residocracy, said the group, which has some 3,200 members, will launch a campaign to recall six of the seven council members if the City appeals.
"For decades," he said, "the at-large system has led to a unified voice for the city."
There were boos before the mayor continued.
He touted the City's achievements creating housing opportunities, launching cutting-edge sustainability initiatives, being fiscally responsible, supporting education and preserving neighborhoods.
As he spoke the protesters began walking out.
"While the future of how Santa Monica is represented in this chambers may be uncertain, our resolve for a fair and equitable democracy is not.
"We fear the switch to district elections would position neighborhood against neighborhood in a bid for resources, divide renters and homeowners, the rich and the poor."Before the mayor had finished reading his statement, the protesters had all filed out.
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