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The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be Counted?

by TChris

Vernon, California consists of five square miles of "warehouses, meatpacking plants, fuel tanks and an occasional vacant lot." No parks, no schools. The city's motto is "Exclusively Industrial."

Vernon wouldn't seem like an ideal place to live, but the city owns almost all the houses within its borders, and it offers cheap rents compared to the cost of living in bordering Los Angeles. The catch: most of the renters work for the city, and therefore have an interest in perpetuating the political careers of those responsible for providing them with inexpensive housing. As a result, Vernon hasn't had an election since 1980, despite what seems to be profligate municipal spending, including employment of a city administrator who was paid $600,000 annually and given the use of a leased Cadillac Escalade, a city-owned apartment, and $120,000 for limousine services. Perhaps not coincidentally, the administrator, who retired last year, was the city clerk's father.

Don Huff thought he could do better, so he joined two others in a run for city council. Huff says city crews cut off his power before he was evicted in retaliation for opposing the entrenched government. But how did the election turn out? We don't know, because the city clerk refuses to count the ballots.

Huff and the other challengers sued when the city struck their names from the ballot. A judge ordered them reinstated.

On Tuesday, acting City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr. said he would keep the ballot box locked until the court fight is resolved. An attorney for the challengers, Albert Robles, called the move "absolutely not legal."

"I've never seen anybody, en masse, take an election and say, 'I'm not going to count the ballots until a court tells me,'" said election-law attorney Fred Woocher, who is not involved in the dispute.

More background is available in this story from yesterday's LA Times.

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  • Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 01:57:48 PM EST
    Vernon is the single ugliest place in all of urbania. And this kind of crap has been going on forever. There's a golf course/resort hotel east of downtown called Industry Hills, in the middle of what is essentially the ghetto. Built with funny money and kickbacks, most of the players went to jail over it, but there it stands, like the Ritz in a dump. Built on top of an old landfill actually.

    I used to work in Vernon. The stench of the slaughterhouse and rendering plant was almost unbearable. I don't know how anyone can stand to live there.

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#3)
    by swingvote on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 03:29:39 PM EST
    This is a very strange story. Is this place an incorporated town? If so, how did it manage to go 26 years without holding an election? And how on earth does this clerk think he can refuse to count the ballots? Something is very wrong here.

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#4)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 03:38:18 PM EST
    justpaul, It's a political fiefdom, owned entirely by the city, whose residents get perks they have no reason to elect out. Not that it's good, but that's what it is. Kind of like Washington D.C.. Kind of. If you'd actually go to Vernon, you literally could not believe THIS is the place they're talking about. It's like a big green hocker. Just awful.

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#5)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 03:39:51 PM EST
    I should've said most of the housing is owned by the city. As TL's post itself said.

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#6)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 03:40:29 PM EST
    And by kind of like D.C., I mean the place exists, but not like the rest of the country does.

    If the whole world were a bathtub and somebody pulled the plug, would Vernon be the first to go down the drain?

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#8)
    by chemoelectric on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 06:51:11 PM EST
    Isn't that the place with the nuclear power plant and a three-eyed fish called Blinky?

    Re: The Election's Over, But Will the Ballots Be C (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 07:22:35 PM EST
    Literally, it's slaughterhouses, byproduct processors, metal platers, chemical warehouses, buttress makers, probably a few sweatshops, freeway noise and smog on top of the slaughterhouse/byproduct stink, every other kind of industrially toxic and stench-producing factory, and I doubt there's a viable piece of vegetation in the entire city. Blade Runner bleakness without the charm. And sh*t floats, it'd go down the drain last.

    Sopranos west coast edition. Sounds like the drain would clog.