Menlo Park switches to district elections but fails to attract any Latino candidates

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

What was the point of dividing Menlo Park into five districts for City Council elections?

An anonymous party, speaking through a Southern California attorney, threatened the city with a lawsuit if it didn’t switch to districts because of “racial polarization,” specifically that Latinos and African Americans in the eastern Belle Haven portion of the city were being denied the ability to win seats on City Council because the city conducted at-large citywide elections.

The attorney’s letter said that in Belle Haven, 60% of residents were Latino and 29% African American.

Now Menlo Park has five council districts.

Previously, with at-large elections, every resident had a say in electing all five council members. Now, they will only get to pick one person. The voting rights of every resident have been reduced by 80% due to this switch.

Friday (Aug. 10) was the deadline for candidates to sign up for this fall’s council elections. No Latino candidates filed to run in the new Belle Haven district, or in any of the other four districts. Two African American candidates are running, Cecilia Taylor in the Belle Haven District and Drew Combs in the Willows District. Both are former candidates who came close to winning in previous elections and stand an excellent chance of winning this time.

That’s terrific for African Americans, but what will it take to draw Latinos into future council elections? It’s sad to see that this switch hasn’t worked in as far as the Latino population is concerned.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.

2 Comments

  1. You ever consider that the Latinos aren’t running because they’re not citizens? The population of Latinos might be great, but the number who are eligible to vote or run for office isn’t so big.

  2. Dear Mr. Price – thanks for the opinion. It made a lot of sense on a surface level however the comments made also reflect a lack of understanding of the voting practices within the Latino community of this area.

    1) As stated in an earlier response, many within the community can not vote due to their residency and immigration status.
    2) You assume that just because a Latino runs, the Latino community will back them simply because of their surname
    3) 1st and 2nd generation Latinos who grew up in Belle Haven and the Ravenswood area have left or are leaving.
    4) Those that remain have tried the political process and have found it wanting. Too many years of faces claiming to represent the needs of the Belle Haven community, have come and gone.
    5) Information regarding the redistricting was mainly in English. If there was such a concern for the Latino vote, publish your op ed in español or start a new publication entitled “El Diario de Palo Alto”.
    6) Finally, el pueblo var votar para un candidato que representa los necesidades de la gente. No importa si son Latinos, Afro-Americanos o de las Islas Pacifica. La persona con quien vive las misma realidades cade día con el pueblo ganara el voto.

    Respectfully

    Alejandro Vilchez
    Barrio BH (Belle Haven) since 2005

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