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LETTERS -- Alternative 'Facts' About Voting Rights Case 'Truly Dangerous'

February 6, 2019

Dear Editor,

Like Donald Trump’s early morning tweets, Mr. Koury, in his most recent letter to the editor attempts to create an alternate reality by proclaiming what he calls “facts” (“Voting Rights Attorney Stands to Make Millions,” February 4, 2019).

And, also like Donald Trump, Mr. Koury hopes that he can confuse the public into believing those alternative “facts.” That is truly dangerous, both in Santa Monica and our nation as a whole.

Let’s start with the sliver of truth in what Mr. Koury writes. My colleagues and I do stand to make millions -- thanks to the Santa Monica City Council’s arrogant disregard for the law and minorities’ voting rights.

We have worked on the Santa Monica voting rights case for nearly four years and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce the voting rights of Santa Monicans against their out-of-control city government, and now that we have won, we are entitled to be paid for all that work and investment.

Had the Santa Monica City Council brought its elections into compliance with the law when we raised the issue in 2015, we would be paid $0.00 -- but they were too arrogant to believe that they, too, are required to comply with the California Voting Rights Act and the California Constitution.

Now, rather than acknowledge their defeat, and their selfish misguided decision to fight against minority voting rights, Mr. Koury and his lemming friends try to make this about money.

For us, it has never been about money; we just find ourselves lucky enough to be doing good work that can financially support us and our families. Not many attorneys can say that.

Hopefully, when other political subdivisions see the obscene amount of money spent by the Santa Monica City Council (the City is still hiding from the public the exact amount of money it wasted on its big-firm attorneys), and the disastrous results they achieved with that huge expenditure, they will be dissuaded from making the same mistake.

Now, where Mr. Koury is divorced from reality:

1) There was no gerrymandering of any districts. The districts were drawn by renowned demographer, David Ely, and adopted by the court because the City of Santa Monica refused to propose a district map of its own.

2) Never has the issue of district elections been presented to the Santa Monica electorate as a clean issue; it has always been attached to other unpopular features, like a strong mayor with veto power in 2002.

The only reflection of whether a majority of Santa Monica voters prefers at-large or district elections is the survey conducted by Sextant Research. In that survey districts were preferred over at-large by a margin of 54% to 30%; and the margin even increased (60% to 28%) when those systems were explained.

3) There is evidence of Latino underrepresentation. Thus the court’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs.

4) In my prior cases, Latinos have consistently done better in the district elections ordered by the courts.

In its first district election (2016) Palmdale elected the first Latino Democrat (Juan Carrillo) to the city council.

In Highland’s first district election (2016) the first two Latinos were elected to the city council.

In conservative San Juan Capistrano’s first district election (2016) a Latino socialist was elected. I could go on forever.

5) If the City appeals, it will lose; and will have to pay us much more money than if it quits now. So, city council members, if you are reading this, please appeal.

6) The case against SMMUSD for violation of the free school guarantee is already a class action, we don’t need to “make” it anything.

And, just as with the voting rights case, we submitted a complaint to SMMUSD before filing suit.

But, SMMUSD ignored us, as it does with all matters until it is sued.

Kevin Shenkman

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