(Tuesday) night, our City Council voted 4-1 to settle the lawsuit against the city of Santa Clarita for violating the California Voting Rights Act of 2002. This means they conceded, albeit reluctantly, kicking and screaming all the way. Our city will now transition from at-large voting to district-based voting effective November 2024 when two seats will be up for re-election and the remaining seats up for re-election in 2026.
What is unfortunate about their concession is their reasoning. Don’t get me wrong, this is a win for people of color in Santa Clarita who can now feel more confident that in their district, a candidate of their choosing can be identified, supported and possibly elected. They will no longer be resigned to the fact that someone who lives on the other side of town, that has never talked to them or inquired of their needs or concerns, will make uninformed life-altering decisions on their behalf and then confidently state they have “fairly and equally represented, all the constituents of the city.” But their only reason for making the concession to obey the law and give people of color the chance for equal representation in government was because it would be too costly to fight the lawsuit.
Not a single member of the five-person City Council (Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs, Bill Miranda, Marsha McLean, Cameron Smyth) agreed with the nation’s courts that at-large voting practices are often discriminatory and dilute the voting power of people of color.
And not only did they not agree, but this mostly white City Council, which has been sitting in the same seats of power since as early as 1998, and rotating as mayor for a combined 15 years, had the audacity to attack the intentions, fairness and motive behind the California Voting Rights Act, implying it was motivated by political and monetary gain.
According to this City Council, it was the “toughest day this city has ever seen,” and “it will not make this city any better,” and there was “nothing good about this forced decision.” This is a group of individuals who have never faced roadblocks when it comes to voting, have never felt unrepresented, and have never had their voting rights restricted or taken away. (The National Urban League and CNN.com “The State of Black America,” April 4, “49 states have introduced legislation to reduce access to the ballot box.”) A group of city leaders who want, more than anything else, to keep Santa Clarita the way it was in 1987. A group that doesn’t realize that it is already too late for that.
Representation matters and we will have representation! It is now time for us to step up and be the change we want to see. Register to vote. Vote. Get in the race, represent your district.
President, Santa Clarita Valley NAACP