By Jonathan Paik
I have been a Fullerton resident for most of my life; I grew up here, attended Sonora High School here, and always have and always will consider it home. That is why I want the city to be the best that it can be. That is why I am a plaintiff representing the Asian-American community in a lawsuit against the city. I want to make sure that the city council represents every community – not just the majority, but every community.
Our government is supposed to be representative, so city councils must represent the needs and values of the communities they are elected to represent. However, Fullerton's city council does not represent the entire Fullerton community. In the history of the city, only two Asian Americans have ever served on the city council and none have in recent history.
This is because of Fullerton's at-large election system. Because every voter votes for each city council candidate, the votes of some members of the community, especially minority communities like the Asian-American community, get watered down, denying those communities a voice in their city government.
I see the effects of Asian-American citizens being shut out of government every day in my work at the Korean Resource Center, where I am the civic engagement coordinator. Too many youths tell me that they feel disempowered and disenfranchised, that their vote and voice don't matter, and that politics is exclusively for the wealthy and privileged.
But we can – we must – change that. We can learn from Anaheim's recent success and demand a change in how our officials are elected. A district-based system would make sure that each community has a voice on the council and that the council is responsive and accountable to each community's unique needs. This will make Fullerton a better place for every one of its residents.
Our country just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the march in Selma, but the struggle to secure a meaningful right to vote for all continues. We have much work left to do before that dream becomes a reality, but together we can move that dream forward and bring much needed change to Fullerton.