Upland residents have called for a change in the way the city council is elected – by redrawing the boundaries of the voting district and moving away from a larger mayoral seat – that may have to wait 10 years.
That’s because resident-generated maps driven by population growth indicated by the 2020 U.S. Census were rejected by the Upland City Council as of Monday, Jan. All five council members indicated that they wish to keep the current mapping framework adopted by the previous city. The Council is calling for some minor amendments.
Under current boundaries, four council members are elected from four different voting districts: Shannan Moust, District 1; Janice Elliot, District 2; Carlos García, District 3 and Rudy Zuniga, District 4. The fifth member, Mayor Bill Velto, was elected in November 2020 from voters across the city and not from any district.
Residents who want the change are concerned with protecting the “majority-minority” voting districts (Districts 3 and 4) in the southern part of the city, which are made up of Latinos of 45% and 50% of the voting age, respectively. Some say that Velto and Maust, who both live in northeastern District 1, where there are fewer potential Latino voters, give a voting advantage to 40% of the population, weakening the Latino vote. He says that this is against the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
April McCormick presented her set of maps, one with five council districts and one with seven council districts. These are posted on theuplandreport.com. The mayor does not have a major seat in both plans. After his term ends in November 2024, Wellto will move to a new “District 5” under McCormick’s map and the mayor will be appointed by the council on a rotating basis.
“This will be a huge improvement over equal and fair representation for Upland residents,” McCormick said in an interview on Monday.
Three other voting district maps submitted by residents continued with the four council districts and the mayor was largely elected. But two of the three proposals did not have the Latino-majority districts that exist under the current city voting district system, city officials said.
Velto disagreed with the suggestion that Mayor and Mast living in the North Uplands, where there are more white residents than the South, influence minority turnout. He said that the council members work on issues affecting not just their respective districts, but the entire city.
“Every single narrative required has been fulfilled. We have two Latino council members, two women serving. I think the demographics got it. I want to leave the districts as they are. How we set it up now is extremely fitting,” Velto said during the meeting.
McCormick and others pointed to La Verne, which had recently been redistributed by moving to council districts and eliminating the at-large mayor’s seat and instituting a rotating mayor system.
McCormick said that by not electing a mayor, which draws from Upland’s entire voting population, there would be less money from special interest groups spent on the elections. “There is no harm in going to five districts,” he told the meeting.
However, changing from four to five or seven council districts requires a vote of the people in Upland, said assistant city manager Stephen Parker. Elliot says she wants the city to follow her, but that may have to wait. City attorney Stefan Dietsch said he would have to research that aspect of the election law.
According to Jeff Simonetti, a consultant who worked on the redistribution of Upland and La Verne, La Verne made the change by a council ordinance, but this may have been possible because it was the city’s first change in district voting.
Maust wanted to see if some of the upland boundaries could be adjusted to allow for a more equal population in each of the four districts. Simonetti said he would make minor changes to some districts and bring them back at the next public meeting on the subject on February 14, when the city council is scheduled to adopt the district’s map on the first reading. Residents can also submit maps, he said.
As of the 2020 census, the city’s population increased by 5,308, bringing the total population to 79,040.