Kevin Shenkman could very well be one of the most controversial figures regarding the Santa Clarita Valley. He is an attorney from Malibu who has been one of the leaders in the fight against governments and other elected bodies to enforce the California Voting Rights Act or CVRA.
The CVRA of 2001 expands on the federal voting rights act of 1965, making it easier for minority groups in California to prove that their votes are being diluted in “at-large” elections which until recently was the majority type of elections taking in the SCV.
Shenkman, along with his plaintiffs have had a major influence on what is happening now with elections. He was involved with the Palmdale lawsuit which forced the city to go to district elections and cost them millions of dollars in legal fees.
A similar suit was filed by Shenkman with his plaintiffs Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser alleging the at-large election system for city council violates the CVRA. The suit was eventually settled with Santa Clarita moving its City Council elections to November and accepting cumulative voting. It should be noted though that cumulative voting was not done due to a ruling by the Superior Court Judge who handled the lawsuit. The city also paid legal fees just north of 1.2 million dollars due to this suit.
Since then, the governing board of College of the Canyons, Newhall, Saugus, Sulphur Springs and Hart school districts have all gone to district voting with mixed results. Some based on a suit which Shenkman and his plaintiff’s filed. Others based on the potential threat of a lawsuit.
Some have argued that the city should never have settled and others have said that it’s time for the city to go to districts. No matter where you stand on the issue, one thing is undeniable. No entity had been able to successfully fight a CVRA lawsuit in court ever.
Full disclosure to my listeners. In 2014 I ran for Santa Clarita City Council and I openly (and still do) support districting in this city. As a result, Jim Soliz, one of the plaintiffs in the suit was a supporter of mine and I still call him a friend so even though I hadn’t met him at the time, Kevin chose to make a donation to my campaign which I accepted.
Even though I still support districting in Santa Clarita, my views on the CVRA itself have evolved quite a bit since 2014 and quite frankly its because of a lot of conversations which I have had on this podcast.
So in case you don’t already know, I believe that it’s a bad law with good intentions.
I met with Kevin on Friday the 13th of January. I had never met Kevin in person until that day and I had only spoken with him on the phone a few times briefly before. He had never heard the podcast before and to my knowledge entered believing I was in full support of the CVRA.
As controversial as he may be in this valley. I found him to be extremely friendly and likeable. However, once I got him talking he was extremely forthcoming in his thoughts on the CVRA, local politicians and in particular the Santa Clarita city council. Some of the things that he talks about might be concerning to anyone who cares about the city and where your tax dollars are going.
I believe you will find this podcast interesting and possibly even somewhat controversial.