Anaheim City School District Trustee Dr. Jose Moreno wants the Anaheim City Council elected from single-member council districts. Not ten years from now, or in the near future – but right now. He’s even the lead plaintiff of an ACLU  lawsuit seeking to force the city to switch from at-large election to single-member council districts. Moreno alleges the city is violating the California Voting Rights Act since the city if more than 50% Latino and yet there are no Latinos on the council.

“It’s time, Anaheim!” is a pro-single-member district slogan one often sees on the Facebook page of Moreno and districting supporters.

Judging by his actions rather than his rhetoric, the time ISN’T now when it comes to electing his own Anaheim City School District Board of Education from single-member districts.

The conditions Moreno cites for necessitating council elections by single-member districts are also present in the ACSD – even more so in key respects. The ACSD student body is 86.3% Latino — from which one can surmise that the population withing ACSD boundaries is even more heavily Latino than the city itself.  Furthermore, Moreno is the “only Spanish-speaking, Spanish dominant, Latino-surnamed” member of the ACSD Board of Education. Yet, while he has relentlessly hammered the City of Anaheim to move to single-member councl districts, he has said and done nothing to bring the same system to ACSD.

As I pointed out in a previous post, the ACSD Board of Education can switch to single-member district elections by a simple legislative action and then obtaining a waiver from the state Board of Education – no vote of the people necessary. The ACSD could easily have a single-member district system in place by March of next year – in time for Moreno and other incumbents to run for re-election from single-member districts.

Morenmo had a perfect opportunity at the ACSD Board of Education’s August 26th meeting. The Board took up adding language to the board bylaws regarding ensuring board of education elections were compliant with the state and federal Voting Rights Acts (as well as language stating the board is elected by “all voters in the district.”).

Did Moreno take the opportunity to act on his rhetoric and call for an immediate switch to single-member districts?

Not even close. Here’s a transcript of his exchange on the topic with Superintendent Linda Wagner:

WAGNER: Dr. Moreno, do you have a question?

MORENO: I do, and that’s on the process of electing Board members. So we’re in the process of looking at that now, and so I’d just like to make one word change so that the public nor the law has to be petitioned to the board or to a governing bodies. So that second paragraph that begins under electing board members to ensure ongoing compliance with the California and federal Voting rights Acts, the board…I’m getting blocked by an automatic update…the board may review the district’s board election method – I’d like to change that to the board “will” review the district’s board election method to determine whether any modification is necessary due to changes in the district’s population; so basically, every decennial we should review whether our voting process is in compliance with not just law, but what’s just right and fair, so, my interest in looking at it in this iteration, from what the high school district found, are we in fact in compliance; two, is there any group that is systematically disenfranchised within our voting boundaries. So, I’d like to make sure future boards, when the state changed the policy, automatically review it at each decennial, which is when boundaries for state assembly and congressional boundaries are always reviewed, after each census, so I’d like to make sure that our future boards do that, too.

WAGNER: So, I guess…I’m a little bit confused…not confused, but conflicted about that change of language because I’m reviewing…the board’s reviewing… that can be the board having a conversation that can also be the board doing a $30,000 investigation on voter rights issues. So, when we say “shall review” we..when we say “shall,” do we mean a deep, serious voter rights investigation? Or do we mean we talk?  And should we clarify that? Because that can be a very, very expensive item. Which is cool…I’m just wondering.

MORENO: Yeah, well, I would say that we look at it in the same way that we look at any other law. We makes sure that we are in compliance with every other law, be it financial, be it the Williams, be it grants, so, same thing. There’s a measure, there’s measures to look at whether one is in compliance with California and federal voting rights acts, and we look at those and we figure out what is the most efficient way for the district to make sure that it is in compliance. I think a deep review, it would be predicated…would be based…would be necessary if a preliminary review suggested something, but certainly I don’t think it takes a deep review like we do with everything else.

WAGNER: So maybe if we could again, jigger this language a little bit, bring it back in alignment with what you just said, and see how the board feels about it at a second reading?

Would that be OK?

At this point, another trustee poses an unrelated question before the dialogue between Moreno and Wagner resumes.

MORENO: Let me just reiterate because you mentioned trying to figure out language. I’m just suggesting changing one word, which is that we “will” review, and what that review looks like could be determined as we move forward, but in terms of policy, I want to make sure that it’s automatic, that there will be a review…now what that review looks like and what not…I would expect within the next decennial that we’ll have better technologies to be able to map out Voting Rights compliances because, again this is the first decennial that the California Voting Rights Act has actually been at play. it was passed in 2001, 2002. So, for me it’s just one word.

WAGNER: To me, I get it, I think another group of people could construe that decision to again, to be expensive. So what I had in mind to add was some sort of language to add around “the board will take a look or examine or oversee the issue and if it is determined do a steeper study”…I don’t know…something about “this may lead to a deeper study;” in other words, it’;s not our intention that this means we’re doing a $30,000 study.

But, on the other hand, if the board is comfortable with “shall”…”will,” we can change it.

MORENO: Well that’s…what…we’ll…so if we just read it by changing the one word “Will review the district’s board election method to determine…will 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. By the way, I’m not sure what “color” means there. The review shall be based on the superintendent or designee’s report to the board. So, it’s the superintendent who will determine that, so, but if you feel you need more specifics.

WAGNER: Actually, the fact that it says “will review to determine whether” is pretty cagey language. I think we’re OK, if you’re all OK with saying “will,” we’ll just do that.

This exchange is noteworthy more for what wasn’t said.

No call from Moreno to switch to single-member trustee districts so that “neighbors can elect neighbors” and put more Latinos on the Board of Education so it will look more like the community it serves.

Instead of “It’s time, Anaheim!”, Moreno talks about how “future boards” of the ACSD “will” rather than “may” look into CVRA compliance on a “decennial” basis — in other words, around the year 2021.

Despite the superintendent’s prompting, Moreno takes a pass on having his district conduct a “deep study” into whether the ACSD board elections system is CVRA-compliant.

“I’m just suggesting changing one word.” That’s as far as Moreno goes.

The bylaw amendment is back on tonight’s ACSD board agenda, with the language slightly tweaked per Moreno (revised language in red):

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 will review the district’s Board election method at least every 10 years 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.

Why should the Anaheim City School District wait until the next census is released in 2011? If Moreno believes so strongly in single-member districts that he would sue the city of Anaheim in order to impose them on the voters, why not put them in place for the Anaheim City School District Board of Education’s 2014 elections and seek re-election ion that basis?

Dr. Moreno has another bite at the apple tonight when the ACDS Board of Education takes up the second reading of the bylaw change. There’s nothing to stop him from making a motion that the ACSD moved to replace its at-large board election system with single member districts in time for the 2014 election.

Will he do it? Will OCCORD, UNITE-HERE, Cynthia Ward, Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, Brian Chuchua and Vivian Pham be there during public comments to tell him and this colleagues that “It’s time, Anaheim!”?