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By Jeff Pack

FUESD approves trustee redistricting map, critics vow to keep fighting


Last updated 2/9/2019 at 11:04am

Jeff Pack photo

The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted 4-1 Monday, Feb. 4, to approve Map 103 that breaks up the Fallbrook district into five trustee districts as dictated by the California Voting Rights Act.

Trustee Caron Lieber was the lone dissenting vote.

"I feel a Latino voice on our board is invaluable," Lieber said before the vote. "When you see someone that looks like you that has a second language, like you, you are more likely to approach that person with your concerns."

Governing Board President Siegrid Stillman also addressed the crowd before the vote.

"I would like to thank everybody, for your time and your commitment and your obvious love for our community and for showing up and speaking in public," Stillman said. "I want to thank everyone for the process; I think it's been thorough."

But critics of the map disagreed.

Supporters of the so-called Favela/Stamos/Ortiz community map, which was put in front of the board and subsequently voted down last week, said the approved Map 103 continues to violate the California Voting Rights Act and denies the members of a majority Latino district in the 2020 election.

"There is a voting rights act that has been and continues to be violated," Leticia Maldonado-Stamos said after the Monday night meeting. "The attorney of record, Kevin Shenkman, emailed them this morning that Map 103 was problematic and would not fix that violation. He also offered to extend the time schedule to allow for more time for the board to work with the community to come up with a better map and plan, one that would remedy the CVRA violation.

"The board was every given chance and reason tonight to step back and reconsider, not to rush into this vote but they choose to do otherwise," Maldonado-Stamos said.

Map 103 places each current board member – Stillman, Patty de Jong, Lisa Masten, Caron Lieber and Susan Liebes – into a separate voting districts. Masten and Stillman will be eligible for re-election in 2020.

Critics said Map 103, as it was designed, will hinder chances for a Latino candidate to have a fair chance at winning in a 2020 election.

Before the vote, Ann Woodall read from a press release issued by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund that was in opposition to Map 103.

"MALDEF adamantly opposes Fallbrook Union Elementary School District's decision to select Map 103 and urges the district not to adopt Resolution No. 15-18/19 and instead consider other districting plans," the release said. "The plan is insufficient to remedy the California Voting Rights Act violation and may violate federal statutory and constitutional law prohibiting intentional discrimination in voting because, in order to protect incumbents, the plan delays the election of the only Latino-majority district, District 1, until 2022, and includes a weak Latino-majority district."

The Village News reached out to the FUESD board for comments regarding the criticisms of Map 103 and received responses from attorney Daniel Shinoff on behalf of the board.

"The map selected, which is based upon broad community input, includes a majority Latino influenced district very reflective of Fallbrook's demographic," Shinoff said. "The needs of all FUESD students have always been at the center of the board's decisions and will continue to be in the future."

He said three maps were initially constructed by a professional demographer and were based on legal criteria and board community input. The Favela/Stamos/Ortiz map was submitted at a later date and was considered.

Shinoff responded to criticisms that centered around the map being designed to manipulate future elections by placing each sitting trustee in their own unique district.

"Each currently seated governing board member was elected by voters in Fallbrook," Shinoff said. "Respecting the will of Fallbrook's voters in recent governing board elections by maintaining continuity in elective office is an important, common and legally defensible consideration when creating maps based upon community input."

Maldonado-Stamos reflected on the FUESD vote after rushing over to a Fallbrook Union High School District Special Meeting, which was held as an informational overview of the draft trustee area boundary maps.

"I am proud of Caron Lieber," she said. "She is the only one with the backbone to speak the truth. And she will probably pay a price for that with the other four plus the administration. I am disappointed in the rest but not surprised and that is probably even more disappointing."

Ricardo Favela was also disappointed in the FUESD's vote.

"We still had some hope there would be some reconsideration, but knowing how they signaled this vote would happen, it was to be expected," Favela said. "It's disappointing (because of) how important it is for this process to be accessible to our community as soon as possible because it really opens up the possibility of improved civic engagement.

"So, that process gets a back seat, which is never good for communities to be given the back seat on the bus," Favela said.

The next step is to continue to push against the map when it comes before the San Diego County Board of Education.

"(Approval of the map) becomes formalized by the elementary school board Feb. 11 with a resolution," Tom Frew said. "We will probably have a community meeting with the San Diego County Board of Education in Fallbrook, and the elementary school board will be out of it."


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