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Visalia On The Way To District Elections For City Council

visalia_city_hall.JPG
Joe Moore
/
Valley Public Radio
City Hall in downtown Visalia

The city of Visalia is getting closer to altering how they elect their city council. As FM 89's Jeffrey Hess reports, it's a move that some hope will increase diversity in city government.

The city is planning a series of public hearings, beginning in early April, to finalize the five new districts that will each elect one council representative. 

Visalia spokeswomen Nancy Loliva says the city is drawing districts for the first time to settle a voting rights lawsuit over the current system where all council members are elected at-large.

Loliva: “Even though the citizens had the opportunity and voted to keep at-large elections, most cities have not been unsuccessful in fighting legal challenges, so the city made the decision to change,” Loliva said.

Opponents argued that the at-large system cut Hispanics out of the political process.

The city is 46-percent Hispanic but has only ever elected one Hispanic councilmember.

The city of Merced is also working on implementing districts elections. 

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.