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Escondido Faces Ultimatum Over Latino Representation

Aired 12/9/11 on KPBS News.

Half of Escondido’s population - and a quarter of the city’s voters - are Latino, but there's very little Latino representation on the City Council.

The Escondido City Council was faced with an ultimatum this week: Change from citywide to district elections, or be sued.

The council has adopted policies, such as traffic checkpoints, that some say target Latinos.

Long-time Escondido resident Demetrio Gomez told the council it’s time to change the way city councilmembers are elected in order to give Latinos a better chance at fair representation.

“Such a small percentage of the voters in Escondido are controlling basically the fate of everyone in the city,” Gomez said. “All the checkpoints that are set up, all the negativity against Latinos in the city.”

Gomez is a member of the state’s Building and Construction Trades Council, which is threatening to sue if the city doesn’t consider the change at its meeting next week.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said it’s not going to happen: “We are not going to be intimidated by threats,” he said.

Abed said he is totally opposed to splitting cities under a million people into districts - he calls it divisive. He said minorities are well represented on the council: Olga Diaz, a Latino, was elected in 2008.

“They elected me as mayor,” Abed said. “I am a minority, so what’s the problem? The problem is very simple: It’s political. They disagree with our policy on the checkpoints. We are not going to change that. We are supporting the traffic safety checkpoints because of public safety. “

Several dozen Latino workers attended the council meeting to demand the city consider district elections at their meeting next week - or face a lawsuit.

Attorney James Finberg, representing the state’s Building and Construction Trades Union, said a change is needed to bring the city in compliance with federal and state voting rights acts. He said the change should be made before the 2012 election.

“The next election is a presidential election,” Finberg said. “It is a critically important election; there will be a big turnout and we would like the Latino voters to be well represented in it.“

Escondido’s school district has already decided to change to district elections next year to improve minority representation on the school board.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 9, 2011 at 8:39 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

While some Iraqi-American businesmen go out of their way to attract the Latino consumer, Mr. Abed goes out of his way to repel them as residents.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | December 9, 2011 at 1:04 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

In other words, please stop enforcing the laws... Look, we all get hassled by the law. If you park downtown and don't put enough change in the parking meter, you get a ticket, if you don't curb your tires on an incline, you get a ticket, if you speed, you get a ticket, your car has a light out, or you haven't kept your registration up.. You get a ticket. And the same goes if at a random stop your paperwork isn't in order. Cops are looking for money, the city needs money, and quite frankly many people want the laws enforced to prevent larger problems that can come from not enforcing the small fry stuff.

I'm so tired of people who know they are here illegally or have come here from abroad expecting special treatment. Come here legally, learn the language, and accept the social norms or please don't - just stay where you are.

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Avatar for user 'JusticeP'

JusticeP | December 9, 2011 at 1:19 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Seriously, Mr. Abed? So you think because one Latina is on the City Council that Latinos should be happy with that? They are almost half if not more of the City residents. You are so out of touch with your community residents. (Shaking my head).

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | December 10, 2011 at 5:14 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I am so sick of people encouraging to divide Americans by race. I was raised to think of myself as an American. I have hispanic heritage, but my experiences have taught me that being an American is more than the color of one's skin and pronunciation of a name. These people who want representation based on race are destroying the very reasons our ancestors came here in the first place. They want a better life because the culture and way of life in the country of their origin doesn't live up to their standards. Allow them to create a similar society in America and in one generations' time it will be as defunct as the one they escaped.

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Avatar for user 'Roberto Rolando Salinas'

Roberto Rolando Salinas | December 16, 2011 at 8:44 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Maybe you have forgotten that there are many of us who's history didn't begin
crossing a border. Maybe you have forgotten that the Southwestern United States was once Mexico, that was stolen by the facist, racist policy of Manifest Destiny. Maybe you have forgotten that this country was stolen from the First People, thru genocide and ethnic cleansing. You do a great disservice to history by distorting it. To many of us Americans, this country does not live up to our standards. That is why we must change the abusive way politicians disrespect the wishes of the people. We the people have lost control, it is time to throw out those that refuse to hear the demands of the people. Like the elected officials on the County Board of Supervisors,
Escondido mayor and city council, San Diego city council and mayor, judges, both Houses of Congress, and the presidency. Power conceeds nothing without demand, we the people are demanding, a government by the people, and for the people. Socialism for the rich and democracy for the poor, has to stop. Power to the People!!!!

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