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Disney backs district voting in Anaheim, cites city's 'diversity'

August 8, 2012 | 12:25 pm

Disneyland backs district voting

Anaheim’s largest employer has waded into the debate over how to elect council members in Orange County's largest city, calling in a letter for a ballot measure that would carve the city into council districts.

George Kalogridis, president of the Disneyland Resort, sent the letter as council members are contemplating a measure for the Nov. 6 election that would convert it from a citywide voting system to one where council members are chosen by residents in separate districts.

The ACLU of Southern California has sued to force Anaheim to switch to district-by-district voting, saying the at-large system leaves Latinos with inadequate representation. Kalogridis signaled that his company also favors the system, noting that “as communities evolve, so should their policies and structures.”

“We believe that city leadership should reflect the diversity of its entire population,” wrote Kalogridis, in a letter to Mayor Tom Tait and council members.

“We support a City Council elected from districts and encourage the city of Anaheim to move from at-large elections to district voting. This shift will allow each valued neighborhood to be represented by a local council member of their choosing.”

Anaheim currently has a mayor and four council members, all of whom are elected by voters across the city. The ballot proposal, which comes up for a vote before the council Wednesday night, would also expand the size of the council so that the mayor is elected citywide and six council members are elected from separate districts.

With an estimated 340,000 residents, Anaheim is the largest city in California that has at-large voting. Backers of district voting say that system tips the scale in favor of the wealthier hillside neighborhoods, where there is a strong white majority. About 52% of the city's 336,000 residents are Latino, but only a handful of Latinos have ever won council seats

Anaheim has been rocked by a series of street protests over the last three weeks, after the fatal police shootings of two Latino men. Critics of city leaders have complained of police misconduct and of a wide gulf between the condition of the wealthier neighborhoods and those in working-class Latino areas.

The ballot proposal drew mixed feelings from Mitch Caldwell, chairman of the Anaheim Neighborhood Assn. Caldwell said he favors the push to increase the size of the council but opposes the plan for district-by-district voting.

“Right now there are five people on the council and all five seek my vote," he said. "If we go to districts, I’m going to vote for the candidate from my district and probably get to vote for the mayor. I’ll only have direct voting rights to 40% of the council.”

Caldwell also said the bigger problem for Anaheim politically is economic segregation -- with too many low-income residents living in substandard housing -- not racial segregation.

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Photo: Police in riot gear during recent street protests in Anaheim. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles Times

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