The Anaheim City Council showed its contempt for the principle of representative government again this week, defeating another proposal to let residents vote for council members on a district-by-district basis. The decision means that the voting power of the city's growing Latino population will remain diluted for now. But it's easy to envision a day when demographic change overtakes the city's political elite, and the shoe will be on the other foot.
The council has previously stiff-armed efforts to change the city charter and end at-large voting, a practice that enables more politically active residents of the wealthier parts of the city — along with entrenched special interests — to dictate the council's membership. The ethnically diverse city, now more than half Latino, has elected only a handful of non-white council members in its history. The five current members are all white. And over the years, few have come from the densely populated, lower-income parts of the city.
With more than 330,000 residents, Anaheim is the largest city in California that still has at-large voting. Proponents of the shift to district voting argue that it would lead to a more equitable distribution of resources for parks, libraries and other city services. Those resources are now concentrated, they complain, in the better-off neighborhoods. Opponents counter that the change would only lead to intra-council feuding. But if there's harmony at the council table today, it's only because the city's majority has no seats there.