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School Board Member Maria Leon-Vazquez Applies for Husband's Council Seat


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January 17, 2019 -- School Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez on Thursday submitted an application to fill the seat on the Santa Monica City Council vacated by her husband Tony Vazquez this month.

Leon-Vazquez was one of 11 candidates whose applications were posted on the final day, joining a record 54 candidates whose applications were posted before the noon deadline.

Other applications are still being processed, according to the City Clerk's office (for list of applicants click here).

Among Thursday's applicants were Shari Davis, a former City Council candidate who heads the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), and Rent Control Board member Caroline M. Torosis.

Vazquez could fulfill what some privy to several Council members say is a preference to fill Vazquez's seat with another Latino, ideally a woman from the Pico Neighborhood.

While the couple lives in Sunset Park, the appointment of a Latina could help the City's case in a voting rights lawsuit filed by Latino activists who claim Santa Monica's at-large election system has restricted the number of Hispanics sitting on the Council.

The City has said it would appeal the Superior Court judge's preliminary decision if it becomes final ordering a special Council election for all seven Council seats using a district map submitted by the plaintiffs.

In her application, Vazquez refers to her displacement from her home by the building of the 10-Freeway, which decimated Santa Monica's black and Latino neighborhoods.

"My goals in serving on the Santa Monica City Council are premised in my history as a resident of the city in 1959 and losing my home as a result of the I-10 freeway," she wrote in her application. "My home was located on Euclid Avenue and now part of the freeway.

"As renters, my family was not afforded any relocation funds and we had to move. My parents had to act quickly and borrowed money from family and friends."

Vazquez also stressed the importance of adding diversity to the Council.

"The council has to be representative of all of its diverse constituents," wrote Vazquez, who is a project manager for Santa Monica College (SMC).

"My presence as a member of the council would guarantee a voice to protect any further gentrification of our affordable units in the city, especially in the Pico Neighborhood."

Leon-Vazquez was the subject of an internal conflict-of-interest investigation by the School District last year ("District Probe of Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Member Shies Away from Judgment," January 19, 2018).

The District found that Leon-Vazquez had voted for contracts with consulting firms that had hired her husband, Council member Vazquez, on at least nine occasions.

The investigation did not determine whether Leon-Vazquez had violated State conflict-of interest laws, but the Los Angeles District Attorney's public integrity unit opened a review.

The Council -- which will vote to appoint an applicant at its meeting Tuesday -- has 30 days as of January 8 to fill the seat vacated after Vazquez was elected to the State Board of Equalization.

If no candidate wins the four votes necessary, the Council could re-open the application process and vote again on January 29 and, if need be, on February 5.

If the six members on the Council fail to make an appointment, voters will choose a new Councilmember in a special election November 5 to serve until November 2020.

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