The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the DP Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.

By Daniel Ritz

On March 19, City Council member Debra Lewis stood before a crowd of more than 50 Dana Point residents in a community forum discussing the ongoing consideration of district voting.

“This could be the biggest decision this Council has made in, well, ever,” said Lewis.

The discussion, held by Toni Nelson of Capo Cares at the Capo Beach Church, aimed to explain the ongoing consideration of by-district City Council elections that could potentially be implemented in Dana Point in time for November elections.

“There’s a lot of confusion surrounding what this (by-district voting) means, and whether we as a city are taking the right steps,” Nelson told the Dana Point Times before the meeting.

A large portion of the meeting, in addition to the explanation of the timeline of by-district voting as laid out in the March 6 City Council meeting, centered around a claim found on the National Demographics Corporation (NDC) website, the demographer selected by the City of Dana Point to conduct demographics research and develop potential voting districts for consideration by the Council. NDC claims the number of cities studied have not been found to be  in violation of the California Voters Rights Act (CVRA).

“While CVRA is extremely broad, not every jurisdiction is in violation: most of the over 200 California jurisdictions for whom NDC performed this specialized analysis did not need to change to district or trustee area elections,” NDC’s website claims.

Dana Point’s current at-large voting system, where the entire city votes for all five City Council seats, was determined to be in violation of the CVRA by Russel D. Myrick of the RDM Legal Group, who sent a letter to the City on Feb. 2 threatening litigation if the City did not embark on a pursuit of by-district voting.

In order to comply with the request of RDM’s claims that Dana Point is in violation of the CVRA due to “racially polarized voting,” City Council needed to pass a resolution to pursue by-district voting within 45 days of receiving the letter. City Council passed the resolution at the Feb. 23 City Council meeting.

After passing the resolution, the City has 90 days to establish districts in order to be within what is called a “safe-harbor” time period, where RDM could not sue the City for violation of the CVRA.

Lewis expressed, and the crowd voiced support of, that there may be other options not being explored by  City Council such as exhausting the demographic analysis capabilities of NDC, as well as possibly stepping into line with some other Southern California cities who are taking their turn and facing up to the never-before overturned CVRA.

Mission Viejo for example, recently admitted to racially polarized voting, and is allegedly in discussions seeking, as Lewis described it, alternative methods. Mission Viejo received their letter from Kevin Shenkman of Malibu-based Shenkman & Hughes law firm and is passed their 90-day safe harbor timeline.

Another example, the City of Huntington Beach, was notified of their alleged CVRA violations in April 2017, also from Shenkmen, and refused to pass district voting. Their city attorney claimed that a lawsuit from Shenkman may chart a course to set new uninvited legal precedent that finds the CVRA, or portions of it, unconstitutional.

Toni Nelson, founder of Capo Cares, took issue with the fact that the current demographics of Dana Point do not seem to easily allow for a “minority-majority” vote.

“Who is this helping?” Nelson asked Lewis. “Now, we are the ones being disenfranchised. As a citizen of Capistrano Beach and as a citizen of Dana Point, I feel like this hurts us.”

Several attendees voiced similar concerns, stating they felt by-district voting would essentially disable their  influence to more than their representative district City Council member.

Keith Fullenwider, a resident of Capistrano Beach since 1975, was one of the few speakers that voiced a different opinion during the semi-informal meeting.

“When I used to represent Capistrano Beach, I would call the County to ask questions concerning Capistrano Beach, and they informed me, ‘Sir, you’ll have to contact the City of San Juan Capistrano.’ They weren’t even aware we were an unincorporated part of the county,” Fullenwider said. “Capistrano Beach has always been a disenfranchised voice, and if we continue the status quo, we will continue to get the scraps. Maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to have one district, one representative representing us.”

In what Lewis called a “non-scientific” survey, a majority of the meeting’s attendees voted by a show of hands that they would prefer to explore options similar to Mission Viejo.

After the City Council passed the resolution to pursue by-district voting on Feb. 23, the first public input session was held during the March 6 City Council meeting. The second, and final, public input session before potential districts are drawn by NDC to be discussed by the public and then considered by the City Council will occur tonight, March 20, during the Dana Point City Council meeting.

Links to NDC’s Dana Point demographic study based on the 2010 census and by-district presentation can be seen here. Also seen on this City Council agenda is the original letter sent from RDM Legal Group on Nov. 2 to the City.



Trustworthy, accurate and reliable local news stories are more important now than ever. Support our newsroom by making a contribution and becoming a subscribing member today.

About The Author Dana Point Times

comments (6)

  • It seems like Capo Cares has become a very powerful organization in Dana Point, not surprising that they are up in arms regarding redistricting. Clearly it could impact their influence in the city. Personally I think it will help to ensure all parts of Dana Point have a voice, versus one that has found a way to band together tightly.

  • I attended the meeting described in this article and can verify there were plenty of people there from Monarch Beach and Central Dana Point. This is not about Capo Cares, although they had the energy and intelligence to locate a meeting site and host a very thorough discussion of this important issue. At large representation is crucial for our city and Capo Cares is making sure everyone has a chance to notice the value and speak up for the interests of our entire city. Thanks also to the DP Times for being present and putting this timely article out.

  • And now Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Jolly, another Capo Cares Conspiracy Theorist who has come out of hiding to alert you to all the terrible things Capo Cares is doing to this town. Actually, Jolly is probably just one of the internet trolls that has already promoted this and needed to change their name because no one believes them anymore. Jolly needs to realize that if we actually already had a councilman that represented Capo and tried to help them out of the poverty level and homelessness on full display everyday on Doheny Park Road then there wouldn’t be a need for Capo Cares. But wait, we HAVE a councilman from Capo and his name is John Tomlinson but no one who lives in Capo can tell you one thing he has ever done to improve our community. His campaign managers are going to have a hard time propping this guy up to get votes whether we go to districting or at-large elections. So Jolly, nice try, but the citizens know who is working everyday to help our community and no matter what you infer in your remarks they’re not buying it.

  • Disenfranchised? In Capo, come on. They receive more benefits than another other area, yet they complain and complain. The disenfranchised are those in MB, Dana Hills and the Village, paying their bills. Jolly is spot on. Look at the numbers people and look at the ones who scream the loudest, they usually have the most to hide.

  • So people like Councilwoman Lewis, Steve Stewart, and Buck Hill have consistently stated that the city is broke, out of money, in dire straits. These same people now want to fight the California Voters Rights Act, something that has never before been over turned? Please help me to understand why it makes sense to spend our precious resources so irresponsibly? Just because Capocares will loose its grip over the city?

    The law is the law, seems pretty black and white in my opinion.

  • Last night showed the true colors of Capo Cares (for those that missed it check it out on TV) – they release disinformation into the public arena, get slaughtered by the city council and attorney (for rudeness, arm chair quarterbacking, misleading statements and down and out lies). Yet they keep screaming. Those that scream the loudest usually have the most to hide.

    To hear Capo Cares and their followers; Capo is neglected, RIGHT: They receive more funds per area than any other area of the city (35% if you exclude DV or 42% if you include DV, facts Steve and Jay), yet cry and cry. Disenfranchised? Dana Hill residents get roughly 6% and MB residents get 9%. (even with the cost of Town Center, the downtown area still received less than Capo, too) Yet, Capo gets so much more. Enough, grow up!. The non stop political theater on display last night was embarrassing.

    You can thank the progressive wing of the state Democratic party for this whole issue. Don’t blame anyone else! Not Muller, not Tomlinson and not Viczorek. Blame your friends Leon, Brown, and all of the lovely people that are pushing the homeless population our way.

    The gravy train is coming to a stop Capo, maybe now you will see it might be a good idea to grow revenue and stop the anti development push. Please do so soon, SB 2 SB 3 and SD 35 are about to bring section 8 housing to our town and the developers can just do what they want, based on these great laws that Gov Brown signed.

comments (6)

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>