Let’s say a member of a school district board of education was the lead plaintiff in litigation against the city in which his district was located, alleging the at-large council election system disenfranchised the city’s Latino majority and asking the court to force a change to electing councilmembers from single-member districts.
Let’s also say this same school board member was himself elected at-large to a five-member board of education that had only two Latino members – despite a student population and voting base that are even more overwhelmingly Latino than the city in which the district is located.
Let us further posit that the board of education on which the plaintiff served could switch from at-large elections to single-member district elections at any time, by its own action, without even having to put it to a vote of the people. All that would be required would be action by the board and a waiver from the state Board of Education – which has granted such waivers to other school districts.
Let us further suppose that despite months of heavy coverage of this plaintiff’s lawsuit, no media outlet (save one) ever raised the question of why that plaintiff had never sought to enact within his own school district what he was trying to impose on the city in question via litigation? It is, after all, a reasonable and screamingly obvious question — and the failure to pose it raises its own set of questions.
Why Hasn’t Moreno’s Anaheim City School District Abandoned At-Large Elections?
Of course, this isn’t a hypothetical but a reality: it is true that Anaheim City School District Board of Education member Jose Moreno is the lead plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit seeking to impose single-member council districts in the City of Anaheim.
It is true that despite the residents and student population of the ACSD being even more heavily Latino than Anaheim as a whole, only two of the five members of ACSD Board of Education are Latinos (and the only “Spanish-speaking, Spanish-dominant, Latino-surnamed” one, as Moreno would remind us).
It is also true that under AB 684, the ACSD Board of Education could switch from at-large to single-member trustee areas simply by passing a resolution to that effect and asking the state Board of Education for a waiver (which the BOE has been granting).
Amazingly, no one ever seems to ask Moreno why he is suing the city to do something which his own school board, on which he has served for nearly seven years, has failed to do — despite the fact that the barriers to action are much lower: switching to single-member district districts would require a voter-approved amendment to the Anaheim City Charter, as opposed to a simple resolution and routine application for a waiver.
The California Voting Rights Act – which the Moreno/ACLU lawsuit alleges Anahem is violating — was enacted in 2002. Moreno was elected to the ACSD Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. It is now 2013 and more than a year since he filed suit against Anaheim — and ACSD still elects its board of education at-large. If Moreno has been fighting to get his colleagues to switch to single-member districts, he’s doing it very, very quietly. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that OCCORD and UNITE-HERE haven’t been packing the ACSD board chambers and haranguing them with demands for “real districts” and an “equal voice for all neighborhoods. Apparently, their “It’s time Anaheim” rallying cry only applies to elected bodies with Republican majorities.
Why Not Tonight?
As it happens, the ACSD Board of Education meets tonight and the topic of amending district regulations as they pertain to governing board elections is on the agenda.
The ACSD Board is being presented with some potential amendments to its bylaws, such as inserting this new language regarding the election of the board of education:
Electing Board Members
Board members may reside anywhere within the district’s boundaries and shall be elected by all voters in the district.
To ensure ongoing compliance with the California and federal Voting Rights Acts, the Board may review the district’s Board election method to determine whether any modification is necessary due to changes in the district’s population or any of its racial, color, or language minority group composition. The review shall be based on the Superintendent or designee’s report to the Board after the release of each decennial federal census.
If the Board determines that a change is necessary, it shall adopt a resolution at an open meeting specifying the change(s) and shall, in accordance with Education Code 5019 or other applicable provisions of law, obtain approval from the county committee on school district organization having jurisdiction over the district.
“May review the Board’s election method…”? Given Moreno’s rhetoric and statements about Anaheim city council elections, there shouldn’t be any shilly-shallying about “may review.” It should be full speed ahead to single-member districts, with a motion to that effect from Moreno tonight!
Not only is this an excellent opportunity for Moreno to make up for lost time, but also for UNITE-HERE and OCCORD to rectify their silence and inaction when it comes to ensuring an “equal voice for every neighborhood” in the ACSD. They shouldn’t have too much trouble mustering a dozen or so bodies to harangue the ACSD Board of Education that “It’s time Anaheim!”