Above, an elder discusses district mapping at the MAYE Center, a healing and organizing space based in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town in spring 2018. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

Measure DDD, to be decided by voters on Tuesday, has seen support from members of Long Beach’s large Cambodian community, who hope to have better representation in government by redrawing council boundaries.

But not everyone is in favor of the measure, which would establish a redistricting commission.

On Friday, more than two dozen Cambodian community members signed a letter speaking out against Measure DDD, calling it a ploy by the mayor to extend his time in office.

“Measure DDD is nothing short of an attempt by Mayor Robert Garcia to award himself the supreme claim to control over the City of Long Beach for the next generation,” read the letter.

This issue of Cambodian support became heated in a debate hosted by the Long Beach Post last month when former 8th District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich said the city “used and misled” Cambodians to push for a redistricting commission.

Gabelich’s comments sparked outrage from Garcia and a demand of an apology from the group Equity For Cambodians, which called her comments “ill-informed.”

But in their letter on Friday, other members of the Cambodian community said Equity for Cambodians doesn’t represent them.

Jonathan Nou, an architect and general contractor who has lived in Long Beach since 1975, said he led the letter-writing effort after talking with many Cambodian residents who are not in support of Measure DDD.

Nou said many in the community believe that redistricting will not give them better representation if it means keeping the current city leadership in power.

“We feel that city officials are simply using us as pawns to gain leverage for what they want,” he said.

The group said Garcia is the one exploiting the Cambodian community by using Measure DDD to gain traction for other ballot measures, including Measure BBB, which would do away with write-in terms for the city council and mayor and instead would allow leaders to run for three terms instead of two.

The group noted that Gabelich voted against the effort to redistrict the city in 2011, while the mayor, who was then a city councilman, voted in favor. The 2011 redistricting split up the part of the 6th district that includes the city’s Cambodia Town.

Laura Som, president of Equity For Cambodians, a collection Long Beach residents and 14 organizations aimed at redistricting, said she has signatures from more than 3,000 Cambodian community members in support of the effort.

Som said the push for redistricting started in September 2017, long before the city launched the Measure DDD campaign. Som said she doesn’t know any of the residents who signed the letter Friday.

“We’ve been working for the last nine months to educate the Cambodian community on this issue,” she said. “Measure DDD will create a level playing field for all residents.”

Long Beach has the largest Cambodian population in the country, with studies estimating the number between 50,000 and 70,000 people. They make up between 13 and 15 percent of the city’s population, but have never had a representative on the city council.