Divided Fontana Council Accepts Ward Map Over Public Protest

A sharply divided Fontana City Council on July 25 approved an electoral map with four council districts which can be best described as northwest, northeast, central and south.
Prior to its adoption, the map was referred to as Draft 6. Upon finalization later this month, it will be the master chart for the city’s council wards, and will go halfway into effect in 2018 and be fully implemented by 2020.
With mayor Acquanetta Warren and councilmembers John Roberts and Jesse Armendarez in support and councilmen Jesse Sandoval and Michael Tahan in opposition, the decision was to have Districts 1 and 4 which are delineated in the Draft 6 map up for election next year and Districts 2 and 3 up for election in 2020. The mayor will continue to be elected at large.
Under the map approved, District
1 encompasses the northwest portion of the city, bordered by the city limits on the west and north, as well as by Sultana and Citrus avenues to the east and the line of demarcation with the unincorporated portion of Fontana to the south. District 2 is bordered on the North by Summit Avenue, Citrus and Almeria on the west, San Bernardino Avenue at the extreme south and Sierra Avenue to the east. District 3 is bordered by the city limits on the city’s east side to the north, the logical extension of what would be Sultana Avenue as well as Sierra Avenue to the west after jogging eastward along Summit Avenue, on the south along a line parallel to and roughly midway between San Bernardino Avenue and Valley Boulevard and the city limits to the east. District 4 is bordered to the north partially by San Bernardino Avenue and then Valley Boulevard after running southwest along Fontana Avenue, the city limits to the west, the city limits to the south and the city limits to the east.
Since the city’s incorporation in 1952, the entirety of the council has been elected in at-large elections. The city has gone to a ward system in the face of threats by attorneys alleging that racially polarized voting has occurred in Fontana and that ward systems will increase the likelihood that protected minority members, such as African Americans and Hispanics will be more likely to be elected under ward system elections than at-large elections. This has come despite the consideration that the council currently has one African American member and two Latino members.
Councilman Mike Tahan expressed a willingness to have a further set or round of discussions with regard to the most desirable form for the city’s ward map before selecting one. He expressed disappointment that Warren pressed forward with having the council make a decision before that further input could be heard publicly.
Some city residents wanted three yet-unpreviewed maps to be considered and others wanted a serious discussion with regard to dividing the city into six wards rather than four. Warren opposed a greater number than four as being potentially chaotic. “We’re better off with fewer districts than more districts,” she said.
Councilman Michael Tahan said residents had been led to believe there would be an inclusion of further options and more discussion prior to a vote being made. He accused Warren of hurrying the process unnecessarily, while ignoring the input and feedback of residents in such a way that the wishes of the public were being ignored.
“It looks like it’s being orchestrated,” Tahan said, adding that “it doesn’t make a difference what the public says.” Tahan accused Warren of stampeding and bullying the council through the use of her mayoral authority.
Warren said she was simply being decisive and offering leadership after enough input from the public had already been gathered by the council.
One city resident, Amparo Miramontes, said it appeared the council and Warren in particular had turned a deaf ear on the city’s residents and had come to a conclusion on what form the map would take “before the meeting began” and that the hearing had been a charade. –Mark Gutglueck

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