Readers comments 2-1-19
In the course of the several council meetings where the proposal to switch Claremont to a by-district voting system has been discussed, the city attorney referred to a “threat” that the city had received which supposedly indicates that a resident or group of residents intend to challenge the city’s existing at-large voting system under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The city attorney has also claimed that he is in possession of a statistical analysis which demonstrates that Claremont residents have engaged in “racially polarized” voting, and that this analysis alone is sufficient for the city to be found in violation of the CVRA.
These claims—that the city has already received a credible threat of a CVRA challenge, and that the city is in violation of the CVRA—are highly relevant to the council’s decision if they are true.
On the other hand, if these claims are not true, there is no good reason why the council should be in any rush to break the city up into council districts—particularly as by-district voting would place our shared commitment to the common good at risk.
In the absence of a specific and credible threat, the council can and should decide to keep our existing at-large system indefinitely. In the event that any residents ever do make a CVRA challenge, the council can take up the transition proposal at that time.
Remarkably, given the crucial significance of the threat letter and the statistical analysis, the city council has refused to make them available for the public to see. It is not even clear that the council members themselves have personally reviewed them.
One of the very expensive lessons that the failed water system takeover attempt should have taught us is that the city’s attorneys and consultants cannot always be trusted to do their jobs as competently and as ethically as they ought to. In that instance, the council refused to publicly release a consultant’s feasibility study for more than a year, and then did nothing when presented with evidence that the study’s conclusions were off by more than $100 million.
We literally cannot afford to make any more mistakes like that. There are no legal or practical reasons why the threat letter and the statistical analysis should not be made public immediately.
City staff and the city attorney continue to play “hide the ball” in the matter of the impetus and rationale for this headlong dash of theirs towards by-district elections for Claremont.
At the January 17 meeting the city attorney twice asserted attorney-client privilege and refused to answer what threat of litigation the city was responding to, saying only that the city had “got wind” of a threat.
The mayor and city council, who could have waived any privilege that might have existed, said nothing.
I’m getting a little tired of the city attorney’s argument that we have to burn the house down before the arsonist shows up.
It’s past time for the council and staff to come clean.