Asian group claims Arcadia denies civil rights

Asian group claims Arcadia denies civil rights
Arcadia City Manager Dominick Lazarreto said the City Council will review a civil rights complaint filed by HQH.

Arcadia City Manager Dominick Lazarreto said the City Council will review a civil rights complaint filed by HQH.

An Asian-American civil rights organization has demanded that the City of Arcadia retire its at-large electoral system in favor of City Council elections by district.

A letter to Mayor Tom Beck from an attorney representing the Chinese American Equalization Association outlined several reasons for the demand including the under-representation of Asians on the City Council. The demand is similar to one submitted in August to Monrovia officials by The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

“In fact, U.S. Census and State population data shows that Asian-Americans constitute 60 percent of the City of Arcadia’s population, and 50 percent of its registered voters,” the HQH letter, written by Pasadena attorney Richard McDonald says. “However, it appears that only one of the current members of the City Council is Asian-American.”

Additionally HQH wants the city to write an ordinance and ask voters to approve City Council districts.

McDonald’s letter asks Arcadia officials to respond by Nov. 15, or face further legal action.

City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto said Arcadia has attorneys reviewing the letter. He said the City Council will take up the matter in a closed session. He also said that there’s no telling how long the process could take.

Lazzarretto referenced the demand filed by Hispanic rights group MALDEF in Monrovia, saying that he’s been aware of nearby cities fielding similar demands.

HQH President Ted Tian also said he was familiar with the MALDEF demands. In fact, he was inspired by those efforts.

“I heard something like this was happening in Monrovia,” he said. “And I thought ‘We should do that.’”

But HQH’s demand is unique in that an Asian-American group is behind it. In March 2015, the City of Fullerton received a similar demand letter from Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles and the ACLU of Southern California. Just four months later, Fullerton decided to settle the lawsuit and let voters decide on whether to adopt districts this November.

Although HQH won’t be the first Asian-American organization to make such a demand, Tian still hopes to make history.

“We believe that if we do this, other places will follow,” he said.

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