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Monday, May 08, 2017

Murrieta and Temecula Must Stop Shenkman's Districting Absurdity

By Douglas V. Gibbs
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A year ago the City of Banning faced a difficult decision. Malibu, California-based attorney, and hardcore liberal leftist, Kevin Shenkman, sent a letter to the city much like the ones he'd sent a large number of other cities in California.  In the letter Shenkman alleged that the city’s at-large mode of voting for members of their city council violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) of 2001.  The other cities faced with the decision of a legal fight that comes with the expenses that go with it, or giving in so as to not risk the taxpayer's money, gave in without even a whimper.  After all, in the modern political climate, all cities are starving for cash for their growing budgets and can't afford to give funds away in a lawsuit that they calculate is very possible to lose.

City after city in the more conservative corners of California, and a few liberal ones, have received Shenkman's letter, and have given in.  And after the districting, where the voters vote only for a candidate to represent their district, and not for all of the city council members who will represent them, calamity sets in because it becomes easier for corruption to creep in, and for the insertion of leftist politics the majority of citizens had been refusing to vote into office before.

What Shenkman is doing is he is creating racial division where it does not exist, and he's making a ton of money in the process.

Shenkman's latest victory was in Oceanside where the City Council was split, voting 3-2 to approve a proposal to move from an at-large system, where every council member is elected by the voters as a whole, to a district system, where voters are only represented directly by one member, from a particular geographic area (which is supposed to be packed with the minority population in question as demanded by Shenkman).

Shenkman claims that at large systems prevent minority groups from winning elections.  If not moved to a district system, in his letters he threatens to sue the cities who refuse to comply.

Oceanside has a history of having several Latino council members, including one who has served on the council for the last 16 years. It also recently had an African-American mayor.  But, since Linda Gonzales lost last year, Shenkman says it was due to racism, and that Oceanside’s 65.2% white majority engaged in “bloc voting” to exclude Latinos.

Gonzales opposed Shenkman’s effort, and told Breitbart News that she believes lost her election fairly. She added that Shenkman never asked her permission to use her name.

Oceanside, nonetheless, gave in.  Their city attorney advised them that no city or school board had ever successfully defended an at large election system from a challenge in court.  Palmdale fought back, and the subsequent court fight set the template for other confrontations between Shenkman and his targets. At first, the city was defiant, fighting Shenkman in court and holding elections that a judge later declared were illegal. In the end, however, after being worn down by years of litigation and appeals, Palmdale agreed to a settlement that required it to pay $4.5 million.  Therefore, to try to fight Shenkman is considered a losing battle.  Shenkman uses the Palmdale case to push other cities into immediate compliance.

And then it's off to the next city for Shenkman & Hughes.

Shenkman and his supporters argue that districts increase the chance that minority candidates will win elections, presuming people vote as racial blocs.

Isn't that a racist statement on its face?

In an at large system all members of the city council are accountable to all of the voters.  As for the concept of bloc voting, how can that be proven?

Besides, the real problem is that cities are not being given a choice to be at large, or split up in districts.  The cities targeted by Shenkman are being compelled to break up into districts through legal threats and accusations of racism.  In a sense, Shenkman is putting a judicial gun to the heads of the cities, forcing them to abandon their at large system of voting.

Shenkman has admitted that what he is doing is “extorting” local governments, in an interview with Voice of OC.  “That’s all true … taking advantage of easy targets — yeah. There are a lot of easy targets, but they should change. If they change their election system, I wouldn’t need or have the opportunity to sue them.”

Since the Palmdale case, Shenkman has overturned at large election systems throughout Southern California, most of which had been in place for many decades, without complaint.

Shenkman’s hometown of Malibu, by the way, still has an at-large election system, and an all-white city council.  While he has sent them a letter, too, Shenkman held off on Malibu for a very long time.

If you look at the results of Shenkman’s legal attacks over the last five years, we find that the new district systems are little better at electing minorities to office than the old at-large systems.

Last month, the Times reported, “A voting law meant to increase minority representation has generated many more lawsuits than seats for people of color.  Of the 22 cities that have made the move to district elections since June [2016], only seven saw an overall gain in Latino council members.” The reasons for poor Latino representation had nothing to do with racism.

Eventually, a city needs to stop Shenkman by challenging him in court, and I am hoping Murrieta and Temecula will be those cities.  Until the last election, Murrieta had Harry Ramos on their city council.  The city is about 26% Hispanic, and among the wealthier cities in western Riverside County.  The council will be voting in mere hours at City Hall on the matter.

Temecula is right there with Murrieta, similar in their history with Hispanic candidates, as well as having the financial ability to take the fight to the court system.

Also, we need to remember that the Supreme Court tossed part of the federal Voting Rights Act in 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder. In doing so, the Court emphasized the importance of evidence in determining whether there is racial discrimination in any particular jurisdiction that Shenkman is just not capable of presenting.  California's Voting Rights Act could very well be tossed out by the courts for its vagueness, since its evidentiary standards are so low that it allows virtually any candidate to challenge an election loss as being a case of racism.

And, if a case was to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court, the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch provides greater hope to cities considering fighting Shenkman's extortion.

The cities can also appeal to Sacramento.  They can use the Shelby County v. Holder as incentive to amend California's voting rights act, calling for higher standards of proof of racism, or at least to remove the monetary incentives that reward lawyers like Shenkman for their exploits.

Until then, Shenkman will continue to force the dominoes to fall, one by one.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What next, this will open the door to who knows what, like CAIR !