PALMDALE –The City of Palmdale will file an appeal Monday morning (Nov. 3) after the Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles today granted a request by plaintiff’s attorneys R. Rex Parris and Kevin Shenkman to require a hearing on Nov. 21 to show cause regarding contempt by the Palmdale City Council in the ongoing California Voting Rights Case.
“The actions of the court today are unprecedented, contrary to the law, and effectively deny the City its right to appeal what we feel is an erroneous trial court ruling,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. “The City will immediately seek appellate review.”
The City of Palmdale has already appealed the December 23 Final Order by Judge Mark V. Mooney, which permanently enjoined at-large elections, prematurely terminated the terms of the existing councilmembers, and ordered a district-based election on June 3, 2014.
“Our appeal put all that on hold until the Court of Appeals can rule on it, which meant there was no Palmdale election in June and the current Council would continue until the appeal was heard,” Ditzhazy explained.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit, which was filed in 2013, argued that minority candidates were being kept off the Palmdale City Council because of an at large voting system. In Nov. 2013, Fred Thompson, a retired community college dean who formerly served on the Palmdale Planning Commission and Palmdale School District board, became the first African-American to win a City Council seat.
“I firmly believe that the at-large system of voting in Palmdale is simply a better system,” said Thompson. “It provides better accountability to the voter. Everyone gets a voice in selecting each of the council members that represent them, not just one. An at-large system doesn’t pit one part of the city against another, but encourages us all to work together. And, if my election proves anything, it doesn’t discriminate against minorities.”
“Personally, I find the lawsuit disingenuous,” Thompson said. “Latinos make up 60 percent of Palmdale and African-Americans make up 15%. In other words, ‘minorities’ currently make up three quarters of this city. During my days as an educator, I learned to call that a majority. To claim that having an at-large system is biased against ‘minorities,’ who are the majority, seems a bit strange to me. Under the at-large system, all four seats are Latino-majority seats. I’m not sure what problem they are hoping to solve.”
Thompson was not the first minority candidate in Palmdale to win Citywide election. Antonio Soza was elected to the Council in 1978, was appointed Vice Mayor and served until 1982. Richard Loa was elected to the Palmdale City Council in 2001 and served until 2005 when he was appointed by the Governor to serve on the California Board of Prison Terms.
“It find it curiously strange that our sister city of Lancaster has virtually identical demographics as Palmdale, yet it has at large elections,” Ledford added. “If Parris thinks so highly of districted voting, one must ask why he hasn’t implemented it in his own City before involving himself in the cities of Palmdale, Santa Clarita and more recently Highland. If this isn’t a classic example of ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ I don’t know what is.”
[Information via press release from the City of Palmdale.]
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