A California city council is facing outcry and criticism after it elected all white people to represent the city.
The Palm Springs City Council made headlines in November 2017 when it elected all LGBTQ people to its body. Community members applauded the council after bisexual, transgender, queer and gay members were elected, but critics have emerged because all of the members are white, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) sent a letter to the city in February 2018 alleging that the city’s voting system, “dilutes the ability of Latinos to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Palm Springs’ council elections,” The Post reported.
SVREP is the “largest and oldest non-partisan Latino voter participation organization in the United States,” according to its website description.
Roughly 25 percent of Palm Springs is Latino.
The city responded to the letter by adjusting its system so that districts elect members, according to The Post.
“If you really want to get women, to get people of color, to run, show them how to,” council member J.R. Roberts said, The Post reported. “Empower them, give them the tools to do it. That will do far more to expand diversity than districts.”
Roberts has proposed city-sponsored educational forums in order to involve all members of the community.
“… [O]nce you set aside the issue of sexual identity, other political differences arise,” University of California at Riverside professor Benjamin Bishin said, according to The Post. “The real question is whether these representatives from one traditionally marginalized group can adequately represent those from another, in this case Latinos,” he continued.
“I’m in the group that says we can celebrate our all-LGBTQ council, but that we can also improve,” LGBT Community Center of the Desert community engagement director Alexis Ortega said, according to The Post.
“Never before was there a complaint that we weren’t representative,” bisexual council member Christy Holstege said, according to The Post. “This may not be the most inclusive council, especially when it comes to people of color. But we have to be careful that this is not used against us.”
Latina woman Grace Garner announced Feb. 13 that she will run for city council in November. She is straight.
“It is great that we live in a place that has allowed for this. But there are so few people of color in office, and I’m running to add a voice of diversity and a voice for working families,” Garner said.
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