At the most recent City Council meeting on January 13, 2020, the City Council responded to a California Voting Rights Demand letter from Attorney Milton C. Grimes. During the hearing, the Council received an in person threat from local attorney Kevin Shenkman about the dire consequences of not caving to their demands immediately. This transition is supposed to improve the chances of a member of the Latino community being elected to the City Council.
The Council voted 4-1 with Skylar Peak dissenting, to go through the process of beginning the due diligence towards adopting “By District“voting. When the maps are created the Council intends to put the question to the voters in next November’s election. The City attorneys office cautioned that we would be the first community to put it to a vote and that we may have stepped out of the “Safe Harbor” rule boundary which limits Grimes and Shenkman’s legal fees to a maximum of $30,000. Grimes and Shenkman may be able to sue the City if the Council doesn’t vote to change the voting rules themselves or the Electorate rejects the change in November.
In any event, the first step is to hire a Demographer to have two Citywide hearings and come up with a proposed outline of the new voting districts. Once the districts are designed they will be part of the item on the ballot in November of 2020 moving to “By District” voting.
In the Census of 2010 Malibu’s Latino population was 6.1 percent of the electorate. Grimes and Shenkman are estimating that this has increased to 8.7% of the electorate. I have no idea if this year’s census will confirm the shift in the electorate. My personal observation is that our neighborhoods seem very homogeneous as far as racial makeup goes. I will be surprised if the Demographer finds any ethnic concentrations that can be exploited by having them vote together.
Attorney Grimes’ letter cites the fact that none of the current Council identifies as Latino as proof that we have a problem. If we elect a Latino candidate to the Council in the “At Large” election in 2020 will Grimes and Shenkman withdraw their demand? Unlikely is my guess.
How soon could this shift to “By District” elections take place? The current plan is to submit the change to the electorate in November simultaneous with an election for the seats of Jefferson Wagner, Skyler Peak and Rick Mullin. The first two are termed out but most believe Mullin will run for a second 4 year term. This would seem to argue for the first by district election taking place in 2022.
How would the transition work for sitting Councilpersons who were elected “at large”? Mayor Karen Farrer and Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson will likely be running for reelection in 2022. Does that mean that they will need to get elected by whatever districts encompass Point Dume and Malibu West respectively? Does that mean that those who want to run in 2024 will need to be sure they have a residence in one of the other 3 districts? If those who are elected in 2020 in the “at large” election happen to reside in the same district as one of those who are elected in 2022 on a “by district” basis, will they need to make other plans for the election of 2024 because their district is already occupied by someone with a term to serve out?
Will the Real Estate market get another boost every 2 years as those with political ambitions shop for a residence in a less contested district?
I can’t wait to learn how this all works but I do sense an opportunity for anyone who can claim a reasonable percentage of Latino heritage coupled with a desire to serve on the Malibu City Council.