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Anaheim City Council votes down district election proposal

August 8, 2012 |  9:46 pm

The Anaheim City Council voted down a district election proposal
The Anaheim City Council on Wednesday night voted down what would have been a historic ballot proposal to create voting districts to help increase Latino representation in a community that has been riven by two recent fatal police shootings.

The proposal, which was supported by Disneyland Resort and many of the hundreds of people who packed the special council meeting, was killed in a 3-2 vote after several hours of emotional testimony.

Council members voted instead to establish a citizen advisory committee on elections and community involvement. The move angered dozens in the audience, who began chanting, “We'll be back.… We’ll be back,” as they left the auditorium at Anaheim High School.

PHOTOS: Residents pack Anaheim council meeting

The council vote came after a series of heated protests over the deadly police shootings last month of two Latino men. The demonstrations rocked the city and laid bare the wide gulf between Anaheim’s pockets of glitz and affluence and its less prosperous Latino neighborhoods, where residents have voiced outrage about police conduct.

The effort to switch to district-by-district voting received an influential boost earlier Wednesday from the city’s largest employer: Disneyland Resort.

In a letter to Anaheim’s top officials, resort President George Kalogridis said that district elections would result in a City Council that more closely mirrors the community.

“We believe that city leadership should reflect the diversity of its entire population,” Kalogridis said in his letter to the mayor 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 is the largest city in California that has at-large voting. The mayor and four council members are elected by residents across the city. The ballot proposal would also have expanded the size of the council so that the mayor was elected citywide and six council members were elected from separate districts

Critics say the current voting 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 few have ever won council seats.

Genevieve Huizar, the mother of Manuel Angel Diaz, who was killed by officers on July 21, told council members that “it’s time to make a change in Anaheim.”

“I want young children to have hope, have peace, for all of us to have justice,” said Huizar as tears rolled down her cheeks.

She was interrupted as a man stood in the front row. “You're a horrible mother,” he said, along with a string of expletives.

Others in the audience stood and shouted at the man as he stormed out of the auditorium. People rushed to comfort Huizar as she walked out, many asking if she was OK.

Anaheim resident Al Jabbar told council members that district elections were the only way to ensure full representation.

“When we have districts, each and every corner of Anaheim is going to be represented,”  Jabbar said. “Let's have the districts and move on.”

Kandee Beas grew frustrated as she listened to one speaker after another criticize the city she chose to retire in three years ago.

"If you listen to these people, it sounds like it's all bad. That's not the truth,” said Beas, 56, as she knitted a pink dish cloth. “I feel sad for my city.”


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Photo: Genevieve Huizar, mother of Manuel Diaz, who was killed by Anaheim Police July 21, is criticized by a man at right, who said "you're a horrible mother" during a City Council meeting. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times