As discussed in the past, I don’t support the idea of district elections in a community the size of Lompoc. I honestly don’t think they will help the process of electing City Council members. But, if we must do it, then do it without self-preservation as the primary decision factor.
Four of the proposed district maps would have directly impacted incumbent council members Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega in the future elections, if they chose to run. So, it’s no surprise that during the public hearing on Nov. 21, these same councilmen supported the removal of four maps that would have broken up the trio.
The Record reported that “all contained districts in which two current council members presently reside. Moving forward with those maps would effectively prevent a current council member from seeking re-election, which led Councilman Jim Mosby to suggest that all four should be removed, since he felt they went against the will of the voting public.”
Mosby said he talked to “some of his Latino friends” and they said, “they wanted to know why they wouldn’t be able to vote for me anymore, and why they couldn’t be represented in that way. They were very offended by the fact that it was being drawn up (this way) and they wouldn’t be allowed to have that opportunity.”
So, this new policy will be all about protecting Mosby, Starbuck and Vega’s seats.
Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne objected to eliminating the most popular map, saying, “I think it’s unfair to eliminate 101 this round because of the number of individuals that have shown up in support of that.”
Five of the six speakers, including the two individuals who initiated the complaint that caused creation of the districts, supported map 101 as best representing the Latino vote.
The Record report went on to say she stated that, “the moves might not meet the federal definition of gerrymandering” but said that eliminating all the maps that could potentially break up the current council were rejected out-of-hand, and that “feels a bit like localized gerrymandering and protecting our seats, and that’s not what I’m here for.”
The Cornell Law School defines gerrymandering as being “when political or electoral districts are drawn with the purpose of giving one political group an advantage over another, a practice which often results in districts with bizarre or strange shapes.”
It is frequently referred to as "political gerrymandering" or "jurisdictional gerrymandering.”
I applaud Osborne for her position, as she said, “I really need to hear from the public, because I fear gerrymandering to protect our seats.” That seems to be what the trio of councilmen are doing to keep the destructive voting bloc in power.
Among friends I predicted the three would do everything they could to preserve their seats at the decision-making table. That was a no-brainer.
But the real question is, what will help improve Latino voting rights? With only 23 percent of registered Latino voters casting ballots, as opposed to 68 percent of white voters in the 2014 election, the answer is not legislative. It is to convince Latinos to make a commitment to run for office, and a higher percentage to cast votes in each election.
The bottom line here is that three councilmen, when given a choice, opted to protect their seats, as opposed to representing the interests of the public who provided comments during the hearings.
Once again, the people of Lompoc will scratch their heads and wonder why they even bother to show up to council meetings.