SoCal Mayor Sues City Next Door

The mayor of Lancaster, a city in the high desert of Los Angeles County, has signed on to a voting rights lawsuit against neighborhing Palmdale

The mayor of Lancaster has taken on pit bulls and motorcycle gangs in the past. On Monday, the flamboyant politician said he is going after the high-desert city next door.

Mayor R. Rex Parris announced he has signed on as co-counsel for a voting rights lawsuit brought against Palmdale, where he grew up and has a high school named after him.

The prominent litigation attorney claimed his hometown's method of electing City Council members by a citywide vote rather than through individual districts is keeping black and Hispanic candidates out of office.

"Despite a Latino population of approximately 54.4 percent and an African-American population of 14.8 percent in the city of Palmdale, only one Latino and not a single African-American has ever been elected to Palmdale's City Council," Parris said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed last April by Palmdale resident Juan Jauregui, is scheduled for trial in May. It alleges Palmdale violated the California Voting Rights Act by using an election format that dilutes the influence of minority voters.

The law has been used to sue several cities since it was adopted in 2002. One was Modesto, which switched to district voting as a result.

Lancaster, with a population that is 38 percent Hispanic and 21 percent black, also elects its council members at large. But Parris said his City Council has a Hispanic member, his predecessor was black, and Lancaster is fully integrated.

He also indicated during an interview there is no love lost between Lancaster and Palmdale, calling the latter a neighboring city, not a sister city.

"To say it's our sister city might imply that we're friends," he added with a laugh.

Palmdale spokesman John Milnar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two municipalities about 70 miles north of Los Angeles have competed for years to attract business while promoting themselves as desirable places to live.

Parris has a penchant for grabbing headlines.

He kept the Mongols motorcycle gang out of Lancaster a few years ago by using a tax law to shut down a hotel where members had booked rooms for a gathering.

Concerned that street gang members were using pit bulls to terrorize residents, he got Lancaster to adopt a law requiring all male pit bulls to be castrated.

Perhaps his most ambitious proposal -- putting a spy plane over the city to keep a watch on crime -- got under way last summer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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