The City of Compton is facing a nearly $9.8 million revenue shortfall, has laid off over 50 city employees and closed city parks for the summer yet attempted to press forward with a costly special election that many residents felt was politically motivated. In the end, three of the council members voted against requesting Los Angeles County consolidate the November election with a special election for the city of Compton.
Mayor Aja Brown is up for re-election in April 2021 and appears to be leveraging community discourse with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as her platform to sway Compton voters.
The city convened a special meeting on Monday, August 3rd, in an attempt to place several charter amendments on the November ballot that many residents weren’t happy about.
Residents are clamoring for charter amendments to restore a one year residency requirement for persons wishing to serve as an elected official and term limits. Neither of those charter recommendations were on the ballot.
Instead, Compton wanted to ask voters to remove primary nominating periods and only hold a general election, extend the terms of the mayor and 2nd District Councilman Isaac Galvan to 2022, re-allocate certain funds and a baseless “advisory” change to the city’s contract with the Sheriff.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva appeared at a June 29th council meeting where he explained to the council that contract language and rates fall under the purview of L.A. County, not the Sheriff’s department. He further explained that the issues brought forth by the council were against the Sheriff’s union specifically.
“This ballot measure item regarding the Sheriff isn’t going to change the department,” said Councilwoman Tana McCoy.
Another councilwoman questioned why the city was attempting to change the election schedule when in theory it wasn’t mandated.
City Manager Craig Cornwell said discussion of consolidating elections began in 2015 when Senate Bill 415 was passed to increase voter turnout in small cities. Cornwell shared how the city of Redondo Beach challenged the mandate and found that “charter cities were not mandated to comply with SB 415”.
“If the idea is to increase voter turnout, why aren’t we holding elections in November as opposed to March 2021?” asked Councilman Galvan.
Public comments poured in from the community concerning the cost of running a special election when the city laid off an entire city department citing “budget constraints”. This drew the ire of Compton Mayor Aja Brown who chastised the city’s senior citizens for “holding back progress” in the city.
Councilman Galvan and Councilwomen Emma Shariff and Tana McCoy voted against calling for the special election. Their vote set off a firestorm of discussion and the council meeting going in an ugly direction with the women speaking over each other and becoming frustrated.
Mayor Aja Brown has benefitted from the election of Michelle Chambers and held a 4-1 voting majority since July 2019 which ended August 3, 2020. What changed?