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Voters Defeat Move to Give Latinos Better Chance at College Board


Voters narrowly defeated a proposal to divide the Cerritos Community College District into seven trustee areas to give Latinos a better chance of being elected to the board.

More than half of the voters, or 6,691, were against Proposition B, while 5,349 voted for it. Four incumbents retained their seats on the Cerritos College Board of Trustees.

Trustes will continue to be chosen at large from throughout the district, which serves Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and parts of Lakewood, Long Beach and South Gate.

During a February meeting, the board voted 4 to 3 in favor of creating seven trustee areas, which were expected to increase representation of ethnic minorities, especially Latinos, on the board.

Mark Durant, 38, who was reelected for a second term, opposed the proposition. He said that raising the ethnic issue was "wrong."

"It is wrong for one nationality to be favored over another group," he said. "It was set up and addressed to a certain group. I think it's garbage.

"I was glad, very glad that the public saw it for what it was."

Most of those calling for redistricting have argued that Latinos, the largest minority in the district, have been inadequately represented in the past and that the new plan would increase the likelihood of a Latino trustee being elected by largely Latino communities such as Hawaiian Gardens. The board has one Latino member, Ruth Banda.

"Our opponents made it look like we were dividing along ethnic lines," said Banda, "but we were just being sensitive to the community and trying not to intentionally divide it.

"We were trying to give areas more local control over selection of trustees, and redistricting was the best way to do it," she said.

She said she regrets that proponents didn't do a better job of providing more detail and background on Proposition B.

Joseph Stits, 52, who was reelected, said the issue will resurface.

"I'm sure the issue will come back soon, maybe in four years. It is not a dead issue at all," said Stits, who was appointed to the board in January.

Trustee John Moore, who was reelected to the board, was against the proposal, because there was not enough information on the plan.

Because of the present makeup of the school board, Stits said he's not convinced that redistricting would increase the number of minorities on the board.

Several other community college districts have trustee areas, including Rio Hondo, Pasadena and Compton.

In Tuesday's election, all four incumbents were victorious, including Ada Steenhoek, 50.

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