[PICTURED: Zuma Dogg hands the blog over to The Professor of L.A. City Council for some REAL journalism!]
by Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks
Every 10 years, a citizen’s commission is formed to draw a map of Los Angeles that divides the city into 15 districts of equal population. The residents that live within the boundaries of each district then nominate and elect one of their own to serve as their representative on the Los Angeles City Council.
Unfortunately, the process is influenced by numerous special interests who seek maps that establish a political advantage for their particular candidate, party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create desired electoral results. This is called “gerrymandering”.
During this latest process, the commission has held numerous public hearings throughout the city and 95% of the public delivered the same message; “I like my District; Keep it intact.”
Unfortunately, the Commission did not listen to the public and has proposed a map that radically changes the Eighth District, and in my judgment, violates the City Charter requirement for districts that “keep neighborhoods and communities intact, utilize natural boundaries or street lines, and be geographically compact.”
The most egregious examples of this disregard for the public’s wishes and the Charter requirements are:
– Splitting up the historic Leimert Park neighborhood so that only the businesses and park remain in the Eighth District, while all the residences go to the Tenth district
– Splitting Baldwin Vista from the rest of Baldwin Hills and placing it in the Tenth District
– Taking the LAX-adjacent Westchester neighborhood from the 11th District and connecting it to the Eighth District through a narrow strip of land that’s only about a block wide.
The Commission came to this bungled conclusion after making a series of missteps:
• The Commission did not approve a set of guiding principles to help prioritize the general goals to be pursued during the line drawing. While there may have been reasons for tabling the proposed set of guidelines in the early going, the lack of guidance left small discussion groups rudderless to answer major questions about how to prioritize certain goals. The only person who saw the entire map was the staff line drawer, who was neither skilled in applying the law nor familiar with the politics of given districts. Within the small groups, not all of the approaches to handling the major questions were complementary. The choice to hold breakout sessions meant that small groups were creating districts without a joint understanding about the concepts that would resolve difficult areas that required the exercise of discretion.
• The aforementioned problem was exacerbated by the fact that important decisions that carried larger effects on other areas were made in the small independent groups. As several members have noted, for example, the choices made about the population groupings in the Valley districts directly affected the constraints on the configurations in city districts including CD’s 4, 5, and 13. However, neither of these small groups had the ability to address the close relationship between these two regions. The resolution groups also could not resolve major issues, since representatives for some of the affected districts were not present – which meant that no changes were permitted that would alter their proposed configurations.
• Very few of the districts reflect an apparent rationale to support their departures from the clear thrust of public testimony. It should be noted that neither the subgroups nor the line drawer provided an explanation for the particular configurations adopted in this presentation, which was surely one reason for the lack of satisfaction clear in some responses. Without a rationale, one cannot dismiss claims that the Commission engaged in either unfair or illegal considerations in making its decisions. For example, one issue that has often been raised is the treatment of areas like downtown and Korea Town; there is certainly public testimony that differs from the district configurations in the draft map. Another example is the configuration of the downtown area, which was consolidated in CD 14, despite the weight of the testimony expressing satisfaction with CD 9. In both cases, there is no apparent rationale for the decisions to depart from this testimony in designing districts in these areas.
• Similarly, the district boundaries in this map reflect some serious inconsistencies in applying the relevant law. Much could be said about the handling of communities of interest (how they are defined and weighed in the process), but there are more serious considerations that involve clear federal mandates. First, there is no basis apparent in how the Commission approached population deviation – aside from failing to adopt an overall goal for population deviation, the Commission did not explain its reasoning for the varying levels of deviation present in each part of the map. Further, the Voting Rights Act seems to be utilized quite differently in districts that are similarly situated. The populations of majority non-white districts like CD’s 14 and 7 appear to be treated quite differently from the majority population in CD 8, even though all three districts are covered by the same federal anti-discrimination protections and have a history of effective political participation.
If you’re like the 95% who testified before the Commission who want their district left alone, and reject the Redistricting Commission’s treatment of the Eighth District as a junkyard – taking parts they want and dumping parts they don’t – I urge you to let them know!
There is a meeting Wednesday, February 1st, at 6:30 P.M., Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005
The other meetings of interest are as follows:
On Thursday, February 2 at 11 AM at Westchester Recreation Center – 7000 West Manchester Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90045 Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, Councilmember Bill Rosendope (CD11) and their constituents will hold a news conference to announce their solution to the L.A. Redistricting Commission’s unpopular decision to separate Westchester from the Los Angeles International Airport(LAX) by putting the community into CD8 and taking it out of CD11.
Thursday, February 2 at 6:30 PM at Westchester Recreation Center, Gym – 7000 West Manchester Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90045- This meeting is especially important because it gives the South L.A. community a chance to support the residents of Westchester as they fight to stay in CD11. Why is this important? If Westchester stays in CD11 and does not move into CD8, it allows CD8 to take back its population (Baldwin Vista, Leimert Park) that was moved out of the district by the map drawers.
Saturday, February 4th, 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. – ECWANDC Town Hall Meeting Crenshaw United Methodist Church – 3740 Don Felipe Drive- Neighborhood Council representatives will attempt to vote down a proposed map that goes against our community’s interests.
Wednesday, February 8th at 6:30 P.M.- Redistricting Commission Meeting – L.A. City Hall, John Ferraro Chambers, 200 N. Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
On Saturday, February 11th at 11:00 AM, the Commission will hold a public hearing at West Angeles Church – 3045 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016 – to hear feedback on their proposal.
Please encourage your friends and neighbors to attend, and let’s send a loud and clear message that we want the Eighth District to remain intact!
Make sure you stay up to date with all the latest developments on my webpage http://www.bernardparks.com or twitter @BernardCParks and on Facebook at Facebook.com/CouncilmemberParks and Facebook.com/BernardCParks.