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Anaheim residents vow to keep fighting for district elections

August 9, 2012 |  8:38 am


Angered by the Anaheim City Council's rejection of a ballot proposal that would have created voting districts to help increase Latino representation in local government, dozens at Wednesday's special council meeting had one message for officials: "We'll be back."

The proposal was killed on a 3-2 vote after several hours of emotional testimony at a packed Anaheim High School auditorium. Council members opted instead to establish a citizens advisory committee on elections and community involvement.

The move angered dozens in the audience, who chanted, "We'll be back. We'll be back," as they left the auditorium.

PHOTOS: Residents pack Anaheim council meeting

"When we have districts, each and every corner of Anaheim is going to be represented," said Al Jabbar, 34, who lives in the west end of the city. "Let's have the districts and move on."

The council vote came in the wake of 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.

Even Disneyland got involved in the political fray, a rarity for the entertainment giant.

In a letter to Anaheim's top officials, park President George Kalogridis said that replacing at-large elections with district voting would better "reflect the diversity" of the city and "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, where the mayor and four council members are elected by residents across the city. Critics say the 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.

Mayor Tom Tait and Councilwoman Lorri Galloway cast the two votes supporting the measure. "There is no reason to waste time," Galloway said. "Let the people vote."

Council members Kris Murray, Gail Eastman and Harry Sidhu made up the majority. "I strongly believe we should take the time and do it right," Murray said to boos from the audience.

Resident 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 dishcloth. "I feel sad for my city."


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Photo: Hundreds of people packed the Anaheim High School auditorium for a special City Council meeting Wednesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times