MAILANDER MUSINGS - "The participation of the Los Angeles Latino community in the process of redistricting has been extremely low," this editorial at La Opinion says -- with a straight face.
Indeed, Latino community participation has been low--because as the drafts have been drawn, Latinos have nothing to complain about.
In fact, the people who draw the lines have drawn them all in such a way that Latino districts absorb more gringos without threatening their existing demographic tilt at all.
From Sunland-Tujunga to Hollywood to Downtown, small but sizable communities that skew more Anglo than Latino have been annexed into Latino-dominated districts. It's the same kind of La Raza redistricting that has given Latinos an over-representation in the State Assembly.
There's good reason for the pro-Latino bias in redistricting: the Mayor's nominee to head the commission, Arturo Vargas. Vargas is Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). But there's far more to the story than that.
Many Anglo Councilmembers, such as Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz, appointed weak commission members who were much absorbed with other things--Krekorian's, in fact, barely knew the district at all, and Koretz's, David Roberti, has spent his entire political career involved with State-level rather than City-level politics. Conversely, Latino Councilmembers appointed Latino-centric sharks like Mike Trujillo (by Alarcon) and Jose Cornejo (by Cardenas), longtime Villaraigosa order-takers who still believe in the Eastside Latino Machine, despite its recent failures.
How did we get here, when LA's population isn't really changing all that much?
The interests of balanced, affinity-based representation no longer carve up the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, or the State of California after a census. This already legendary ProPublica piece, published in late December, proves as much.
But the truth is that affinity-based representation hasn't been a part of the view of most our best-known politicians for some time. Instead, the interests of a peculiar kind of redistricting not found elsewhere in America--call it La Raza Redistricting--dominates the local redistricting zeitgeist at State and City level within the bailiwick of Los Angeles. The practitioners, drawing mostly from partisan, agenda-driven materials provided to them by MALDEF and the William C. Velasquez Institute, are by no means exclusively Latino; but they do use shopworn, outmoded Latino political and demographic myths to advance their cause, which is closely wed to Democratic Party gaming of the process in the City and the State.
The myths the La Raza Redistricters use to advance their cause are two: they insist that the City of Los Angeles is growing, and they insist that as it grows, it is becoming more Latino-multicultural all the time.
Neither premise is true at our civic level. [link] The City is not growing in any appreciable way whatsoever, in fact; it is more like a kaleidoscope, shifting patterns but not colors, and generally displacing low rentals for pricey ones, while giving lip-service to affordable housing efforts that are more of a lottery for the remaining poor than a policy for all. The City's ethnic saturation point has long ago been reached--likely around 2003 and 2004. But the La Raza Redistricters at MALDEF and WCVI who ply and play the redistricting appointments at both the City and State level pretend these things are true for the sake of extending Latino-tilting Democratic power.
How far off base are these myths, so readily swallowed as conventional wisdom even by Valley Republicans?
Consider this: even with more Mexicans here than any city outside of Mexico City, with more Salvadorans here than in any city outside of El Salvador, &c., Los Angeles still didn't appreciably grow in population in any way [link] over the past decade. Two and six-tenths percent growth over the past decade [link] is almost exactly a quarter of one percent a year. Of course, had the Mayor not pushed the census count up so aggressively with a big PR campaign in 2009--which was, in fact, cheating--LA would have actually shown population loss from 2000 to 2010.
And the institution that most widely services all these people who are not arriving--the LAUSD--has been shrinking in enrollment numbers since 2003--this year dropping to 1999 levels--despite building 160 new schools over the past decade.
So where's all this Latino growth in this pueblo? If the City isn't growing in population--and if the local public school district is shrinking in size--where are all these booming Latino communities?
Despite all this, top Democratic Party officials and the La Raza Redistricters continue to dominate the process of drawing our lines, as they did in 2001 with tools provided them by WCVI and MALDEF in hand. They're able to do this in part because every other Democratic group from Labor to local chambers of commerce hopes to meld the Latinos into whatever they're selling themselves, and hand them half the keys to their own shrinking pueblos for the sake of hanging onto majority party power.
This doesn't work, is not working, hasn't worked, will not work for the city, as now people of all cultures leave Los Angeles in parallel numbers. Not only that, the maps generate the kind of representation that prioritizes government services over job creation--hurting us all.
At the heart of the sleight-of-hand is the fuzziness surrounding the definition of "Latino" itself. All the studies WCVI and MALDEF issue suggest that Latino populations are exploding everywhere. It's good for Democrats and it's good for Univision--but is it true?
Defining what constitutes a "Latino" or a "Hispanic" is not even reliably done by the U.S. Census--and there is no other measure.
The 2010 Census lists "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin" and "White persons" and "White persons not Hispanic" categories. Simply trying to identify the "difference" between ethnicities (Filipino? German-Mexican? Mestizo-American?) let alone track reliable numbers in a city that offers sanctuary to immigrants is all but impossible.
But our hardcore myth panderers continue to herd people by their likelihood to vote for people with diacritical marks in their surnames rather than the affinities found in their neighborhoods.
As a consequence, we're not even losing white-flight Anglo talent to Seattle and Portland and Irvine anymore; those middle managers have mostly long gone pursuing their opportunities elsewhere. With a crop of legislators more interested in baseline services than securing better jobs, now we're losing top Latino talent too--to Colorado, North Carolina and Massachusetts--even as La Raza Redistricters continue to promote the false case that Latinos form a consistent, amorphous, ever-growing underclass here.
La Raza Redistricters do not only include the Mayor, his cousin John Perez, Richard Alarcon, Maria Elena Durazo, Monica Garcia, Jose Huizar, &c. They include Nancy Pelosi, Eric Garcetti, Madeline Janis, Julie Butcher, Janice Hahn.
These redistricters are, in short, devoting all of LA's potentially transformational redistricting energy to planning for a more Latino-dominated, more multicultural future--a future that gives no demographic evidence of ever arriving.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of The Plasma of Terror. Mailander blogs at street-hassle.blogspot.com where this article first appeared.) Graphic credit: theeastsiderla.com
Tags: Joseph Mailander, La Raza, La Raza Redistricting, Los Angeles Redistricting, Hollywood, Downtown, Sunland-Tujunga, Arturo Vargas, NALEO, Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, Mike Trujillo, population, census, Latin, Latinos
Vol 10 Issue 12
Pub: Feb 10, 2012