The Fullerton City Council meeting Tuesday sparked criticism due to a change in the district election schedule that could force council member Jesus Silva to forfeit the last two years of his term.
At the council meeting two weeks ago, council decided to have Districts 3 and 5 go to vote in 2018. As of Tuesday, Districts 3 and 5 will be up for elections in 2018 instead. Whittaker added the change to the election schedule.
While council member Greg Sebourn was affected by the Feb. 21 decision, Silva is directly affected by new schedule.
“To me, the first thing that is wrong with this action is we have government favoring itself by creating a favorite person to run in a district that is already here but definition to me, that is wrong. We should not have that conflict of interest presented to us,” said Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee.
Those in favor of the change were Whitaker and council members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Sebourn. Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee and council member Jesus Silva were against it.
All sitting members of the city council were decided by an at-large vote. The change was part of a settlement of two lawsuits filed against the city claiming that minority voting power in Fullerton was weakened. The settlement required the issue be put to the voters, who approved Fullerton being separated into districts with corresponding representatives.
Fullerton resident Jane Rands called the city council “evil” in a statement directed toward Fitzgerald.
Silva, who is the only Latino on the council, is affected most by the change. Since Silva was elected in 2016, his current at-large term ends in 2020. With District 3 being voted for in 2018, Sebourn can finish off his term and run for the district seat. Silva would not have a chance to run against him without losing the last two years if elected in the district seat.
Silva proposed to change his term to two years so he can have a chance to run against Sebourn. Cheers erupted in the council chamber as Sebourn leaned over and looked at Silva. Silva also proposed the redrawing of the district maps.
Some at the meeting said the maps were gerrymandered, and it was now playing against the same council members who created it.
“I was actually hoping that there would be an opportunity, as Mr. Silva suggested, that we go to a different map because actually that would have resolved the problem,” Rands said.
The matter can be put back on the agenda for a vote.