Laguna Hills: the High Cost of Resisting Progress.

Happy October, fellow Laguna Hills taxpayers! Please join me in a Deep Dive into CVRA Litigation Expenses – this is something you NEED TO KNOW.

Here in South Orange County, a glaring exception to the progressive wave of district voting stands out — our own Laguna Hills. Despite neighboring cities opting for increased inclusivity, Laguna Hills, led by Mayor Janine Heft with the backing of City Manager Jarad Hildenbrand and the city attorney, remains steadfast in resisting change. Here we shall delve into the financial implications of their stubborn stance, examining the exorbitant taxpayer money likely to be spent on a losing battle against the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

While all the cities around Laguna Hills transition to district voting to comply with the CVRA, this city remains mired in a costly legal quagmire. The inconvenient fact remains: No California city has successfully fought and won against the CVRA in court, posing serious questions about the logic, realism and motivation behind Laguna Hills’ unyielding opposition.

The Price Tag of Resistance:

A pressing concern for Laguna Hills residents is the ever-growing financial burden to be imposed by their city’s resistance. How much are Heft, Hildenbrand, and the city attorney willing to spend on a futile legal battle against district voting? The current bill stands at $30,000, with the city poised to face a potentially staggering figure, reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars. As we taxpayers grapple with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, is this the wisest use of our hard-earned money?

The list of cities entangled in CVRA litigation paints a grim picture of escalating expenses. From the City of Modesto paying $1.7 million to its attorneys and $3.0 million to plaintiffs’ attorneys, to the City of Palmdale shouldering $4.5 million through briefing on appeal, the financial toll is undeniable. Laguna Hills, so far at $30,000 and counting, stands at the precipice of a potentially astronomical bill. The question remains: is the city prepared to bankrupt its residents for the futile pursuit of denying minority representation?

Where will Laguna Hills rank in the City Payout list? (Reasonable attorneys’ fee awards to prevailing plaintiffs are mandatory, with some conditions, but prevailing defendants – if there ever were any – would not be entitled to fees or costs.)

  • The City of Modesto is reported to have paid $1.7 million to its attorneys and $3.0 million to plaintiffs’ attorneys. The case never even went to trial, though legal issues did get litigated through the appeals courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • City of Tulare reportedly paid $250,000.
  • Tulare Local Healthcare District paid $500,000
  • City of Escondido: reportedly $585,000
  • City of Palmdale: reportedly $4.5 million through briefing on appeal, no argument
  • City of Anaheim: $1.2 million in settlement long before trial [Vern: I believe that after we paid both sides’ legal fees, it was closer to $3 million. For a reform it turned out 70% of us wanted anyway.]
  • City of Whittier: ~ $1 million, although City defeated motion for preliminary injunction, and case
    eventually dismissed as moot
  • San Mateo County: $650,000;
  • City of Santa Barbara: $600,000;
  • Madera Unified SD: $170,000;
    Hanford JUHSD: $118,000;
  • Merced City: $42,000;
  • Fullerton $260,000;
  • Highland $1.3 million;
  • City of Santa Clara: $3.3 million;
  • City of Santa Monica: demand $22 million.
  • Laguna Hills so far: $30,000 and counting $$$$$$$.

The True Cost of Racism:

As the city continues to resist district voting, the true cost is borne by minority communities, particularly
the Hispanic/Mexican population. Ironically, the taxes paid by these communities are being used to
obstruct their own representation and community inclusion.
Is Laguna Hills leadership actually willing to sacrifice diversity and inclusivity to maintain a predominantly white city council?

Joan of Heft, Ambitious Demagogue Mayor:

The actions of Mayor Janine Heft reveal her true selfish political ambitions. What else could her motivation be?

Janine is obviously looking to advance her political career in the OC Republican Party. Does she see herself as savior of white conservatism fighting to stem the tidal wave of brown inclusion? Will she be exalted by the Republican Party’s as their “Janine of Arc?” Their patron saint who fought the “brown horde” in court?

Is it possible she’s getting her “marching orders” from the OC GOP itself, led by the hapless reactionary Fred Whitaker? Whitaker [below right] has never been an advocate of Hispanic participation in the Republican Party. Whitaker has held his spot with the local GOP since 2015. The Republican party’s 2018 losses, and the recent decline of GOP voter registration in Orange County, all point to the failure of Whitaker’s reign.

If the Republican Party ever wanted to show that they even acknowledge the existence of the Hispanic race, this district voting issue is the best opportunity to show that they truly care for the advancement of Hispanic representation in South Orange County.


In an era where the importance of diversity and inclusion is underscored, Laguna Hills presents a stark contrast, clinging to outdated practices that deny minority representation. As the city heads towards a costly legal battle, taxpayers must critically evaluate whether they are willing to bear the financial burden of an administration seemingly set on preserving an exclusionary status quo. The fight for community diversity should not be a luxury only affordable in hindsight. As the costs of CVRA litigation mount, Laguna Hills risks not only financial bankruptcy but also the moral bankruptcy of denying a diverse community its rightful representation.

About South OC Paine

South OC Payne, anonymous FOR NOW, is an anti-establishment, reformist Republican in southern Orange County who is currently on mission to bring more race diversity into the GOP.