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Glendale Community College to consider trustee districts

College commissions study to examine whether it should move from at-large representation.

November 13, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • The Glendale Community College Garfield campus on Monday, August 22, 2011. The college has commissioned a $35,000 study to explore moving to a district-based system for electing trustees. (Roger Wilson/Staff Photographer)
The Glendale Community College Garfield campus on Monday,…

Glendale Community College has commissioned a $35,000 study exploring the possibility of moving from an at-large process for electing trustees to a district system.

The decision comes six weeks after Cerritos Community College was sued by voters who claim its at-large structure violates the California Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino vote.

“One of the reasons that you do a study like this is for self reflection, to determine whether or not you need to look at making a change in the way that your elections are held,” said Mary Dowell, legal counsel for Glendale Community College. “If you conclude that you do not need to make a change based on the study, then the study is very powerful evidence in your defense if an interest group sues you.”

In an at-large election, candidates can run and be elected, regardless of where they live. In a district-based system, candidates compete to represent specific geographic areas. The Glendale Community College study will focus on local voting patterns, something that can help determine the fairness of the current system.

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Glendale Unified school board members — who, like Glendale Community College trustees, are elected in an at-large process —likely will vote next month on whether to piggy-back on the study and share costs, board President Joylene Wagner said.

“We want to know how, and if, our efforts can combine with the college’s,” Wagner said. “We certainly need to be prepared.”

During a presentation Nov. 1, representatives from the Community College League of California and the consulting firm Redistricting Partners told local education officials that the Cerritos Community College case is likely to be repeated elsewhere, making this an opportune time to consider a change.

In addition, a recently signed law gives community colleges the ability to make the switch to a district system within a specific timeframe without putting the issue before voters, avoiding a potentially costly and protracted approval process.

The voters who make up the Glendale Community College District include significant minority groups, including 17% Asians and 19% Latinos, Redistricting Partners consultant Paul Mitchell said.

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