ACLU Sues Over Vacancy on L.A. City Council, Saying Residents Have Lost Voice and Vote

January 29, 2001 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit today in federal court, saying that residents of the 13th Council District have been deprived of representation by the City Council’s refusal to fill the seat.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that taxation without representation is unjust,” said Dan Tokaji, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “But that is exactly what is happening to over 250,000 residents of this city, who have no voice and no vote on the City Council. There is no excuse to continue disenfranchising these people.”

In legal papers, the ACLU charged that the continued vacancy violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the City Charter because it deprives constituents of a voice on the City Council, even as the Council makes decisions which profoundly affect them.

Last week, the City Council delayed a decision on whether Jackie Goldberg’s former chief of staff, Sharon Delugach, should be appointed to temporarily fill the seat vacated when Goldberg was elected to the State Assembly. Some City Council members have proposed extending the vacancy through the runoff election on June 5.

Section 409 of the new City Charter, which went into effect on July 1, 2000, states that vacancies in the offices of the City Council shall be filled by appointment or by the scheduling of a special election for a replacement prior to the next election.

At a City Council meeting on January 23, more than 100 residents of District 13 waved tea bags to symbolize their lack of a voice in their own government, in a reference to the 1773 “Boston Tea Party” revolt by American colonists who resisted taxation by British authorities.

“Whether the issue is police reform, paramedic services, park land, or budget allocations,” Tokaji said, “the Council’s decisions shape the lives of Los Angeles residents. Public policy and resource allocation matter to individual districts and are shaped by the interests of different neighborhoods and communities. Those interests will not be represented by Council members from other districts.”

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