During her remarks concerning Item #17* at the February 28, 2022 regular meeting of the Cypress City Council, Councilmember Marquez pushed for the Council to vote on how to respond to the demand letter asserting that the City of Cypress was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
“I’m in favor of district voting,” she said. “I believe that the Council owes it to the residents of Cypress to move forward with this issue and hope that any reforms will only take effect after the 2022 election. …I don’t think there’s an excuse for delaying a yes-or-no vote on district elections.” She also proposed a Citizen’s Redistricting Commission to help with drawing district boundaries
She said that although she would like to have the yes-or-no vote immediately, she would support giving the Council a couple more weeks to decide how to vote.
City Attorney Fred Galante suggested taking up the topic at the next meeting in two weeks in closed session. He “strongly encouraged” that discussion be in closed session due to the threat of litigation. In response to Councilmember Marquez’s request and bearing in mind the advice from the City Attorney, Mayor Paulo Morales put forward a motion that the Council discuss the question at the next Council meeting on March 14, in closed session due to the threat of litigation.
Before the vote on the Mayor’s motion could be taken, Councilmember Marquez asked a “quick question:” what would happen on March 14th?
The Mayor responded that the Council would discuss the topic in closed session prior to the regular open session.
The subsequent vote to take the discussion to closed session was unanimously in favor.
That discussion in closed session on March 14 resulted in City Attorney Fred Galante reporting out that the Council voted 4 to 1 against moving to district-based elections. Councilmember Marquez voted against the motion to keep at-large elections.
The City’s response to the CVRA demand letter
The City’s response to the CVRA demand letter (pdf) was signed by City Attorney Fred Galante, and contained five reasons for the refusal of the City to bow to the demand to move to district-based elections. The response letter opens with this paragraph:
Regarding the legality of the vote under the Brown Act
At the March 28, 2022 regular meeting of the Cypress City Council, Cypress City Attorney Fred Galante responded to published and verbally expressed allegations of a violation of the Brown Act when the City Council voted in closed session not to move to district-based elections. He stated plainly that there was no violation.
The City of Cypress has thoroughly documented the question of moving to district-based elections. For instance, the City’s response to attorney Kevin Shenkman’s CVRA demand letter (pdf) is available for anyone interested in reading it. Also useful and informative is a long list of questions-and-answers. I highly recommend reading all the documentation.
Many of those stating their opposition to the City’s decision to retain at-large elections base that opposition on the cost of litigation that they expect the City to lose — not because the City is actually guilty of racially polarized elections or voting dilution, but because the CVRA is written to make the mere allegation into a declaration of guilt.
* “City Council Discussion Regarding Placing a Resolution Outlining the City Council’s Intention to Transition from At-Large to District-Based Elections on an Upcoming City Council Agenda” — a video of the Council meeting is available.