Ontario Delayed Going To District Elections For Two Election Cycles

Nearly two years and ten months after it committed to doing so, the Ontario City Council on Tuesday adopted a district voting map together with the scheduling of district-based voting by 2026.
That action came a month and 12 days after the city failed to deliver on holding its first by-district election, which was supposed to take place on November 8.
The city council voted on December 20 to adopt what it referred to as Map 17, which divides the city into four districts for future elections.
District 1, which lies at the northwestern end of the city abutting Montclair to the west along Benson Avenue and the 10 Freeway at its north end, is the most densely populated of the four districts. It extends eastward to North Allyn Avenue and south to Mission Boulevard.District 2 lies mostly south of District 1, with Mission Boulevard forming its north boundary and extending south to East Walnut Street, lying between South Benson Avenue on the west and blanketing east to the city limits just beyond South Vineyard Avenue.
District 3 covers the southernmost portion of the city, lying south of Walnut Street and the 60 Freeway and north of the southern city limits between Euclid Avenue to the west and Hammer Avenue at the east.
District 4 is the least densely populated of the four districts as it surrounds Ontario International Airport and has as its northern border the northern city limits on the east side of the city along 8th Street, with North Allyn Avenue at its westernmost extension, South Etiwanda Avenue as its eastern boundary and the 60 Freeway for most of its southern boundary.
The map appears to place both Councilman Jim Bowman and Councilwoman Debra Dorst-Porada in District 1.
It is unclear whether the map also puts Councilman Ruben Valencia into the same district as Councilman Alan Wapner, and city officials had not clarified that issue by press time.
Scott Rafferty, an attorney based in Walnut Grove, some 400 miles from Ontario, utilized provisions of the California Voter Rights Act of 2001 to demand on behalf of Chris Robles, an Ontario resident and the immediate past chairman of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee, that the city adopt a by-district voting system. Rafferty and Robles claimed the at-large voting system Ontario has used throughout its history discriminates against so-called protected minorities, in particular Latinos, who in Ontario make up a majority of the population. Rafferty and Robles maintained that the at-large voting system was preventing minorities from being elected to the city council, despite the consideration that there are now and have been in the past Hispanic members of the city council.
The city opted to not legally contest the demand for a transition to the district voting system. In February 2020, the city adopted a resolution to make the changeover to district voting, saying it would have a district map drawn up for implementation by the November 2022 Ontario municipal election, during which Mayor Paul Leon, a Latino, was to be up for reelection as were Councilman Bowman and Councilman Wapner. The council races were to become district contests. The mayoral race was to remain at large. Both Dorst-Porada, whom some credit with being a Latina, and Ruben Valencia, a Latino, were due to stand for reelection in 2020, while at-large elections were to yet be in effect.
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 interrupted the groundwork for the transition to by-district voting. Dorst Porada and Valencia were reelected in 2020. This year’s election was held under the traditional at-large system. Leon, Bowman and Wapner were all reelected. Neither Rafferty nor Robles followed through to insist on the city adhering to the by-district election transition timetable the council had committed to in 2020.
The district map that was accepted by the council on December 20 was one of several maps that were the product of the analysis of 2020 Census data and public hearings and workshops the city held beginning in April 2022.
Under the terms approved by the city council on Tuesday, voters in Districts 1 and 4 will participate in votes to select their council members in the 2024 election, and Districts 2 and 3 will carry out district voting beginning in 2026.
-Mark Gutglueck

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