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Election Proposal a Step Backward

February 14, 1988

It was a sad day for the City of Santa Monica when Councilman Alan Katz produced his at-large numbered seats "reform" proposal. Such "reforms" are usually sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan, racial and ethnic bigots and political machines seeking to suppress grass-root candidates. It is absurd that Mr. Katz, a man of good intentions who is clearly not a bigot, should make such a ridiculous proposal. It was shameful that five members of our City Council would even entertain this foolish notion.

Like the poll tax, at-large numbered-seat electoral systems have a long history of abuse. Racists and bigots use this system as a means to restrict minorities and as a tool to prevent elections of racial and ethnic candidates. Civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, have long opposed at-large election systems for both primary and general elections and are currently engaged in legal and political struggles to eliminate this system. Mr. Katz suggests that such a system is suitable for Santa Monica because we have few minorities. In other words, he is suggesting that if there are only a few minorities in a community, it is OK to paint "Whites Only" on public restrooms.

Mr. Katz's proposal does absolutely nothing to reduce the need for expensive campaigns. Under this "reform," citywide elections will still be needed, thus making candidates dependent on slate cards. The only difference will be that the new Katz slate cards will have numbered seats next to the names. His proposal will guarantee even more negative campaigning in our community, thus adding more personal animus to the usual divisive Santa Monica issues.

It is tragic that Mr. Katz, the chief of staff of Leo McCarthy's campaign for the U. S. Senate, could show such insensitivity to the plight of economic and racial minorities. He runs the real risk of becoming a political liability to Mr. McCarthy, who very much needs the support of Hispanics, blacks and other minorities in order to be elected.

If your City Council really wants to give the voters a choice, they should include a geographical district proposal along with Mr. Katz's proposal. In this way, the voters could choose whether to move ahead to a more representational form of government, stay where we are, or to move backwards with Mr. Katz's proposal.

PAUL C. DeSANTIS

Santa Monica

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