MARIA GARCIA and BRENDA R. RINCON/Coachella Uninc
MECCA — A grassroots committee of mobile home park owners and residents, along with several elected officials, is urging voters to pass Measure D, which they believe will improve Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) representation for the Eastern Coachella Valley.
“It is important because currently eastern Coachella does not have an equal representation based on district links that are currently available right now. There’s a good proportion voting members who are primarily Hispanic that their votes are not counted because the voting are only the minority compared to other people who are voting,” says Mecca resident Sahara Huazano, a youth member of the Comité de la Calle Pierce. “So they’re not truly choosing the representative among the CVWD board of directors. It violates one of the laws of California.”
Last fall, el Comité de la Calle Pierce initiated legal action to change CVWD’s electoral system, believing the current system violates the California Voting Rights Act. CVWD’s five-member board voted unanimously to support the change requested by Comité de la Calle Pierce, but later decided to allow the voters decide by putting Measure D on the upcoming June 3, 2014 ballot. If passed, Measure D will change the CVWD election process from the current at-large system to by-division.
“In the past…it didn’t matter who was running for the board, everyone in the whole valley voted for that person. So even if the person represents Mecca, for example, people from Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells would vote to decide who represented Mecca,” explains Megan Beaman, attorney for the Comité de la Calle Pierce. “Under the [new] system only the people within their own district would get to vote for their own representative. Using Mecca as an example again, only Mecca residents would get to vote for their representative.”
Supporters of Measure D believe that the by-division system will create better representation for all CVWD customers by ensuring that board members are elected only by the voters within their divisions, rather than by all voters in the CVWD region. Beaman says this change will make representatives more accountable to the residents of their divisions, bringing government “closer to home.” Advocates of the change also believe that it will reduce the likelihood of dilution of minority groups’ votes, and ensure that divisions are balanced appropriately by population.
A letter to registered voters from CVWD states, “The cost to CVWD of implementing Measure D is not significant and will not require an increase in water rates or other fees charged by the district.”
Sam Torres, mayor pro tem for the city of Indio, says the benefits of by-division representation will extend beyond the Eastern Coachella Valley.
“If you come from the area you represent, you should be equipped with a better understanding of situations that your residents face,” says Torres. “If we vote for it and pass it, it’s going to allow those distinct communities to vote for their own representatives, rather than anyone at-large voting for who they think is going to do the best for the south, the east, the west and the north.”
In addition to Torres, Measure D is also supported by the following elected officials: Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez, State Senator Ben Hueso, Coachella Councilmember Emmanuel Martinez, Coachella Councilmember Arturo Aviles, Coachella Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hernandez, Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia, and Desert Recreation District Director Silvia Paz.