Members of the Lompoc City Council and community at-large got their first look Tuesday night at the maps that are up for consideration as the city continues its transition to district-based elections.
The third public hearing on the district-based election process took place during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lompoc City Council. The hearing was the first to include examination and discussion of maps, seven of which were revealed by a representative of National Demographics Inc., the firm contracted by the city to help it navigate the process. Of those seven maps, five were submitted by members of the public and two were generated by National Demographics.
The hearing was discussion-only, so the council did not take any action. The maps, all of which are available for public viewing at www.drawlompoc.org, are expected to be discussed further at the next public hearing, scheduled to take place during the Nov. 21 City Council meeting. A final map could be selected, along with an ordinance formally outlining the transition to district-based elections, as soon as the fifth public hearing, which is planned for the Dec. 5 City Council meeting, according to a timeline presented by National Demographics.
While the members of the council did not go into much detail regarding their own thoughts on the maps, there was a clear-cut favorite among the members of the public who participated in the hearing.
Six people offered comment, including a representative of the prospective plaintiffs — Erica Cortez Anguiano and Sarah Salcedo — who threatened the litigation that got the whole process started on Sept. 5. Of those six, five advocated for Draft Map 101, which was the only map that featured two districts with majority Latino populations.
“The purpose of district elections is to have equal representation on council, which means you want to have a map that’s balanced that creates not one but two majority minority districts,” said Jacqueline Inda, a member of Santa Barbara County’s district election committee, who opened her comments by stating that she was speaking on behalf of Anguiano and Salcedo.
“The one that’s closest to that is (Map 101),” she continued. “This isn’t about the current council members and it isn’t about what councilman will be running next. This is strictly about identifying the population that you have, and having folks on council that live and breathe in their districts so that every neighborhood is properly represented on council.”
In Draft Map 101, District 2, in the central-western portion of the city, has a total population that is 65-percent Hispanic. District 3, in the central-eastern portion, has a population that is 62-percent Hispanic. The voting-age Hispanic population is 47 percent in District 2 and 51 percent in District 3.
Creating districts that give a stronger voice to minority communities, particularly Latinos, is among the reasons stated for the switch away from the current at-large election system.
In the letter that was sent to the city on behalf of Anguiano and Salcedo in July, it was alleged that the current at-large elections illegally abridge the voting rights of Latino voters in the city. The letter noted that only two of four Latino candidates who have run for Lompoc City Council in the past 25 years have been elected, despite Latinos making up about 54 percent of the city’s population in 2015, according to the U.S. Census.
All of the demographic data is available with each map at www.drawlompoc.org.
Vega, the lone Latino on the council, said he thought it was “interesting” that Lingl pointed to those maps in particular among the ones that interested him. Vega didn’t outright say why he found that interesting, but both of those maps contain three of four districts with Hispanic voter-age populations at 37 percent or lower.
“I wanted to just note that, so people that are in favor (of) the California Voting Rights Act can note exactly which way some people are leaning on some of these maps,” Vega said.
Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne recommended that National Demographics and city staff print the maps on large poster boards ahead of the next hearing on Nov. 21 and make them available at least 30 minutes before the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start time for that night’s council meeting.
She said this could increase participation among people who may not have Internet access, and also potentially expedite the process of having people choose their favorite maps during public hearings.
If the city moves to adopt district-based elections, they would likely be used for the first time in the November 2018 election. Before then, the council will also need to decide how to sequence the elections, given that multiple incumbent council members could potentially live within the same district.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to move ahead with adoption of a cannabis ordinance that it initially approved at its Oct. 17 meeting.