District Elections- This Could Change Torrance Forever

elections_image.pngTorrance may be changing from at-large to district elections. Currently, our elections are held at-large, which means that all six Councilmembers and the Mayor are elected to their posts by every voter in Torrance. If changed, Torrance would move to district elections where the City is split into geographic areas and there is one Councilmember elected by only the people of that area to represent that section of the City. The Mayor would still be elected at-large.

This potential change comes as the result of the City of Torrance receiving a letter from an attorney well known for profiting by suing cities for alleged violations of the California Voting Rights Act. This act is meant to ensure equitable representation of protected classes for elected bodies.

It is my belief that because we are a diverse and well integrated City, it’s not possible to create a district map that guarantees improved diversity on the Council. Therefore, the alleged lack of diversity issue would not be solved by moving to district elections.

Unfortunately, many cities in CA have faced the same lawsuits and precedent is such that whether the allegations of under-representation are true or not, the City will most likely lose. This has been borne out in numerous cities, even those who have spent millions of dollars fighting back. It’s simply infuriating to think that even if the City proves the basis of the lawsuit to be invalid and moving to district elections will not remedy the situation, that the lawsuit would still likely be lost.

Last night, the Council discussed how to handle this and all seven of us found the potential outcomes distasteful; spend millions fighting a likely to lose lawsuit or transition to district elections. While the outcome is not yet set in stone, the Council unanimously decided to move forward with a series of public hearings to transition to by-district elections.

As we explore our options, we need your feedback. Please plan to attend one of the public hearings below to learn more and voice your opinion. All meeting are held during the regular Council meeting at 7pm, with the exception of April 16th, which will be at 5pm. Whether you can attend in person or not, I’d like to hear from you- please leave your comments and questions below. Please also share via social media so we can have as many people involved in this decision as possible.

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Showing 14 reactions

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  • Ed Beverly
    commented 2018-09-05 21:19:41 -0700
    Oh the day of Ward Politics!!! You want corruption? It’s guaranteed when we establish little fiefdoms in our city. Shall we then change our name to: “The City of West Chicago”!
    This concept was a bad idea in the days of Boss Tweed and Richard Dailey, and is definitely a bad idea for the unbroken City of Torrance. I say, ‘unbroken’, to emphasize we don’t need fixin’.
  • Tim Goodrich
    commented 2018-05-16 23:31:42 -0700
    Tim, it’s hard to say since all this is new and its our first experience with this. However, the current rules are that a Torrance Councilmember has to live within Torrance. I suspect the same would apply vis-a-vis districts if we were to move to district based elections. So, if someone moved out of their district, I believe they would have to resign and there would either be an appointment by the remainder of the Council or a special election.
  • Tim Lee
    commented 2018-05-16 22:03:10 -0700
    If a council member moves down the street but that new home is in another district, does he or she need to resign for their position? Does that mean we have to another election just to fill in that spot? Does that mean the Mayor gets to appoint someone to fill in that position until the next election?

    Isn’t Torrance just a city (an awesome one of course)?
  • Lee Myers
    commented 2018-04-08 08:35:34 -0700
    I can’t comment on demographics beyond saying I that doubt Torrance is segregated geographically, and that geographic distribution of populations in Torrance accurately reflects political interests. Having said that, it does not take much imagination to realize that a 51% political majority spread evenly under the current system would hope to elect about half the representatives, while under the new system they could hope to elect 100%. This is not just a bad idea, it is one that could completely disenfranchise, for example, those opposed to the Torrance refinery’s use of MHF. In other words, it will produce a result opposite that of the stated intention. We should first determine if there is any disenfranchisement of minority populations. If not, fight it. There is way more at stake here than disgust over a lawyer going after soft targets.
  • Tim Goodrich
    commented 2018-04-07 21:51:33 -0700
    Thanks for your thoughts Margaret. You’re right, one silver lining is that it lowers the barriers to entry and could allow for more young people to run for office.
  • Margaret T
    commented 2018-04-05 22:07:16 -0700
    Hi Tim, I’m for this change but I do understand the frustration of the lawsuit & being forced into a situation.

    Districts will allow for more diversity. I am referring to diversity of thought & perspective. I think Torrance City Council could benefit by have new members. A young person who wanted to run for council today is economically disadvantaged in comparison to older candidates who have more capital to invest in a campaign. Smaller districts mean campaigns are more affordable to those who could normally not afford a city wide campaign.

    $1.382 million in federal CDBG funds will be invested into West Torrance sidewalks (https://www.torranceca.gov/our‐city/public‐works/sidewalk‐repair‐for‐handicap‐access‐i‐135‐2016‐17 )

    All city residents pay federal taxes and deserve CDBG‐funded infrastructure improvements as well. If we had districts we would see an equitable distribution of resources. CDBG funded ADA sidewalk improvements should have been funded citywide, not just for our neighbors in West Torrance.

    Addtionally, Council districts facilitate more community engagement and higher political participation of residents. I have worked in a City that had council districts and residents are much more involved in local politics than at large cities. Torrance would benefit from more involved citizens.

    I look forward to this change. Torrance will adapt.

    Thank you for your newsletter, public hearing dates and keep us updated on the latest. We appreciate you keeping us informed!
  • Tim Goodrich
    commented 2018-04-04 22:20:28 -0700
    This is the law firm that is filing these suits across the state shenkmanhughes.com (I’m not hyperlinking because I don’t want to increase his search rankings).For those interested in more details, please refer to agenda item 9d here http://torrance.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=8&clip_id=13405
    Steven- yes, this is very analogous to the numerous ADA lawsuits.
    Rosie- we’re considering this because of the lawsuit. My understanding is that every city who fought it lost and then had to pay the plantiff’s attorney fees. I believe the candidates would have to live in the district they are running to represent.
  • Rosalie Wider
    commented 2018-04-04 21:28:35 -0700
    My impression is that currently it is challenging to recruit candidates for city council and to get Torrance residents informed/interested in the elections. If there are district elections, does that require that the candidates for that district reside in the area? What happens if a district has no candidates? Is the council considering this out of concern for a lawsuit, or because a current law is not being followed?
  • Tim Baumgartner
    commented 2018-04-04 19:27:43 -0700
    Has anyone who actually lives in Torrance complained about this issue? Does this lawyer have any legal standing to be threatening a lawsuit against Torrance?
  • Karen Veldheer
    commented 2018-04-04 18:46:45 -0700
    I don’t like the idea of segmenting the City of Torrance into City districts. Can you please provide the election law that is presumably being violated? I see dividing the City into seperate districts leading to less representation for citizens — where as citizens will have the ear of only one council member and the mayor — instead of the whole council and mayor.
  • Karen Veldheer
    followed this page 2018-04-04 18:46:30 -0700
  • Steven Wojtak
    commented 2018-04-04 16:10:29 -0700
    Another reason why people hate lawyers. Is this the same law firm that sends disabled people into small businesses to find ADA violations and then threatens to sue the owner knowing full well the owner can’t afford it, so they have to pay the extortion? In addition, in Government, what the people think matters not! If it saves the poor taxpayer big money then let’s go for the districting.
  • Tim Goodrich
    commented 2018-04-04 15:03:42 -0700
    I completely agree with you Philip. Unfortunately, state laws and legal precedent can trump reality, which is why we are exploring options on this.
  • Philip Tom
    commented 2018-04-04 15:01:01 -0700
    This districting scheme makes no sense for Torrance. This is a compact municipal area with a population that is well-integrated in a socio-economic sense. A checkerboard with different ethnicities and occupational statuses living side by side. There are no overt dividing lines that I can see that would justify a change such as being considered. Knuckling under to dodge a lawsuit which has no basis in reality or rationality is not a desirable course of action. Our city government has bigger fish to fry.

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