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Plaintiff in lawsuit calls meeting a “set-up” to attack him and the lawsuit.
By Brian Hews and Tammye McDuff
Over 135 Bellflower High School students and several Bellflower residents, including Luis Melliz, plaintiff in the lawsuit of Melliz et al.v.City of Bellflower, attended the third public hearing to consider draft plans and potential voting district boundaries this past Monday September 28.
The council voted unanimously to adopt “Map A.” One more hearing will be held October 12, 2015 and thereafter for approval of final ordinances.
But the approval did not come without controversy. Several observers said that the number of Bellflower High School students that attended the meeting was “by far” the largest of any of the meetings, raising suspicion of some that the attendance was “set up.”
Jeff Stewart City Manager first explained to the students that a lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund [MALDEF] against the City of Bellflower stated there were barriers in place to prevent a minority from seeking and obtaining office. As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, the City agreed to hire NDC and consultant Douglas Johnson, to develop redistricting maps where all ethnicities would have better representation.
Five students were chosen to go before council and give their opinion of the redistricting issue. Interestingly, all five students were against the redistricting.
One student stated that we do not elect officials by race, but by qualifications. She stated, “I along with my fellow classmates will be voting against the redistricting maps in the 2016 elections.”
Plaintiff Luiz Melliz was incensed, calling the meeting a set-up. Melliz told Hews Media Group-Community News, “I was verbally attacked by some of the students, can you believe that? I was used as a scapegoat in the meeting for the voting rights act litigation brought on by MALDEF. I was appalled that the City Council went so far as to use BUSD students to protest the re-districting and carry their message of hate and discrimination. The relationship between BUSD President Jerry Cleveland and his brother Ron Schnablegger couldn’t be more evident than yesterday’s blatant spectacle which I find anti- democratic and anti-American.”
Melliz went on, “as a product of the Bellflower Schools, I know firsthand that our students can think critically and exercise their right of civic engagement. It is appalling that teachers and administrators would proceed to fall into these reactionary propaganda shenanigans led by demagogue local politicians that dupe our students. This is about having an accountable, representative, and responsive local government.”
In preparation for actions to be taken later, it was recommended the City Council select one of the maps as its preferred districting configuration for the City and assign district numbers to the separate districts in that plan; Map A was chosen.
The numbering would result in coordinating the election schedule with the end of the terms of the current Council; it would also result in the district with the highest Latino percentages being up for election in the first by-district elections, and the district with the lowest turnout rate being up for election in a Presidential election year, which could boost turnout in that district.
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