Santa Paula Times

City Council: Public comment takes on issue of DOJ lawsuit

May 05, 2000
Santa Paula City Council
The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against the city to force district voting to ensure Latino representation is bringing out citizens who are taking to the microphone for public comment during City Council meetings. At the April 17th council meeting, Julie Tovias said “life for many [in Santa Paula] is not as equitable as it should be. . .poor people do not have the means to campaign. Does this mean their voice is unimportant?”Changing to district voting - as the Department of Justice has demanded - would give “Latinos that voice. . .”The council last month voted to allocate an additional $100,000 to fight the allegations and lawsuit, money Tovias said disregards the fiscally strapped “community purse.”Although Tovias said she believes that “at-large is the best method for electing local government” she asked that council members consider rescinding their vote to fight the lawsuit in court and try instead to reach an agreement, including district voting, if necessary.At the May 1st meeting of the City Council, Bill Mensing took advantage of public comment to say district voting would represent a violation of his rights.
Of the DOJ lawsuit, Mensing noted, “It appears to me that it’s going to deny me the right to vote for any or all candidates,” running for local office.In addition, if districts were established in any way that would seem to be favoring one group of people over another, “that is called gerrymandering. . .and my being denied the right to vote for any and all candidates is a violation of my rights as a citizen,” added Mensing.