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07
Tue, Dec

The Total Shame of LA City’s Redistricting System, Yet Again

EASTSIDER - For some reason Angelenos tend to have no institutional memory, probably because the City Council and Mayor warp reality every single day. 

So I thought it might be helpful to take a look back at this and the last LA City Redistricting debacles, as proof that letting the City Council decide the outcome is a suicide mission.. 

The Last City Redistricting

First, take a look at what the Redistricting Commission thought about their very own work back in January 2012.  As the LA Times put it: 

“Los Angeles' Redistricting Commission released its proposed boundary lines for 15 City Council seats, pushing one district deeper into the San Fernando Valley, pulling another completely out of it and employing what Councilman Bill Rosendahl called an "outrageous case of gerrymandering" against his coastal district.

If approved, the draft map would move Councilman Tom LaBonge’s 4th District west into such Valley neighborhoods as Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Encino and Lake Balboa, according to information released Wednesday by the 21-member commission. LaBonge would lose neighborhoods in and around Wilshire Boulevard, such as Miracle Mile, Hancock Park and Larchmont Village.” 

Then in February, the Commissioners were even more direct in their efforts.  Again, from the Times: 

“Even some who serve on the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission and backed the changes sounded ashamed of the final product, which passed on a 16 to 5 vote after an eight-hour hearing that ended minutes before midnight Wednesday.

Commissioner Jose Cornejo, who may run for City Council in one of the districts he helped create, called the proposed district lines — and the process used to create them — “ugly.” Commissioner Rob Kadota, who also backed the map, said the commission failed to demonstrate equal concern for all parts of the city.

And Commissioner David Roberti, a former state senator well versed in power politics, said he felt badly about rejecting demands of hundreds of Korean Americans who called for the area covered by Koreatown’s neighborhood council to be unified in a single council district.” 

It got bad enough that there was even a cry to get then Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the mess: 

“In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, civil rights attorney Leo J. Terrell is asking the attorney general to become “an intervening party” to a lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles regarding the issue of voting rights violations involving the city’s 2011-2012 redistricting process.

Copies of the letter were handed out at a press conference Terrell held at noon Wednesday on the South Lawn of City Hall.

The suit—Stanley Haveriland, et. Al. v. City of Los Angeles, et. al—was initially filed in March in the U.S. District Court in California’s Central District.

Terrell said he was asking the attorney general to get involved in the case because, “in L.A. we have minorities disenfranchising minorities.”

“We’re asking the court to get involved in redrawing the lines citywide. All we’re simply stating is that race should not be used as a factor in drawing lines. I’m representing residents of the 8th, 9th and 10th districts who believe they have been disenfranchised. Basically, I’m representing people of African American descent.”

He noted that a group in the Korean community were represented in a separate suit alleging that race was used as a factor in cutting up their community. The two suits were reportedly combined in March, according to L.A. Weekly.” 

Holder, of course, was way too smart to get caught in our slime. Ultimately, after something like 3 years of litigation, the Korean community got screwed and was divvied between two council districts.  Thanks a bunch to Eric Garcetti and Herb Wesson. 

Impact On Northeast LA

As I wrote in 2019, beyond what happened to the Korean community, here in the Eagle Rock Boulevard corridor the redistricting has resulted in three Council districts literally drowning us in unchecked development. 

“Logically, the Eagle Rock Blvd. corridor should be a discrete entity with a single Council District. LA City politics, however, have little to do with community interests. As a result, we have been chopped into three Council Districts, which have split up the development spoils of the area. 

With the advent of gentrification -- a relatively polite word for a process of socioeconomic rapine -- the council members got seriously interested in their skim. 

With this economic incentive, plus the usual City Hall gerrymandering, we who live along this transit corridor or in the adjacent hills, are constantly body swapped as the boundaries change among our three Council Districts -- CD1, CD13, and CD14. 

Every time there is redistricting, this happens without input from the troops, and it has not worked to our benefit. Witness this recent Community Forum on the state of Eagle Rock Blvd.” 

The 2021 Redistricting Debacle

In June of this year, Connie Acosta wrote a good article on what redistricting should look like in Los Angeles, specifically referring to Chair Fred Ali’s implied promise of a fair process.  

“If the City of Los Angeles were to account for a far lower population than in previous decades when the 2020 U.S. Census numbers come out on August 15, we must not forget the affordable housing crunch due to the Ellis Act. For two decades, steadfast, according to the Coalition for Economic Survival, from January 1, 2001 to 2020, landlords and/or developers filed Ellis Act Declarations with the City of Los Angeles to evict 27,127 tenants from their affordable residential units. 

Lastly, Fred Ali Chair of the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission (LACCRC), announced that presently no maps have been drawn or released by LACCRC and that map drafts will become available in September at which time the community will be able to respond and provide comments.” 

Then in September, Chris Rowe did a CityWatch piece describing some of the sausage making in the redistricting meetings: 

“For two nights in a row, most of the comments have come from residents of Koreatown, the Greater Wilshire District, and also from Residents of Council Districts 8 and 9 who want certain assets in their Council Districts as economic drivers. 

Redrawing the lines of Koreatown within the existing Neighborhood Council District and beyond may potentially assist in keeping whole other smaller communities such as Thai Town according to those who spoke on this area. 

On Monday night, I do not think I heard anyone from the San Fernando Valley except for a group of residents from the Sherman Oaks area. Residents of these neighborhoods have spoken more than once about keeping Sherman Oaks whole. 

But what about the rest of the San Fernando Valley? One caller expressed concern about the community of Encino being separated from the Sepulveda Basin. Another North Hills West resident expressed interest in keeping that area in Council District 12 where it has been historically. 

But what about the rest of the San Fernando Valley? Are these residents just unaware of the redistricting process, or do they have other commitments? ” 

By October, Tim Deegan summarized the total mess that came out of the Commission, and, you guessed it, Council President Martinez’ throwing out their result so that the 15 Council members could slice and dice us like the pigs at a trough they really resemble. 

“DEEGAN ON LA —The prospect that parts of the hard work by the L. A. City Council Redistricting Commission may be headed for the shredder came as no surprise considering the divided 15-6 Commission vote to accept the Final Map version on Thursday, October 21, and the immediate negative reaction to the proposed districts map by Councilmembers Martinez (CD6), Krekorian (CD2) and Raman (CD4). 

Council President Nury Martinez publicly trashed the Final Map within hours of the Final Vote on the map boundaries, saying it needs reworking”. She added that there are “drastic changes” to political boundaries that “threaten to widen the divides between communities.” 

Commission Chairman Fred Ali, himself an appointee of Martinez who would be expected to reflect her views, exposed a drama within the drama when he pushed back hard against Martinez  saying “It wasn’t our job to protect elected officials, their jobs or their political futures.” He issued what sounded like a dare when he added that “We hope the council conducts its deliberations with the same amount of transparency and commitment to equity that this commission did.” 

On Thursday, October 28, the Final Report about the map will be voted on by the Redistricting Commission, and sent to City Hall. 

Once the council receives it, they will send it to the Rules Committee, which Nury Martinez chairs. The other two members are Joe Busciano (who's running for Mayor) and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Given that MRT has been suspended from the City Council, Martinez must select his replacement. That will be a key appointment; she and her choice will then dominate (2-1) the committee and ultimately send their notes on redrawing parts of the map to the full City Council for discussion and a vote.”  

In his followup article, he summarized the (predictable) self-serving outcome of the entire mess: 

“But, it was Martinez who emerges as the biggest winner and metaphorically threw the gauntlet down in front of anyone running for Mayor next year saying “this is me”. Holding what is arguably the most powerful elected political position in the City of Los Angeles, the Council President has shown iron-fist control over process and politicos, each of whom is a duke or duchess in their own fiefdom. But, she’s the boss and there’s now no doubt about that. They will listen to her, and the incoming mayor will need to factor her into their plans. 

Martinez flexed her muscles on Friday when she quick-stepped her ad hoc redistricting committee into a vote that brought coveted assets into her CD6 district. They include the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area—a sports complex that will be the home of some important venues for the 2028 Olympics—and Van Nuys Airport—a $2 billion economic engine for the Valley. 

What a week ago had looked like Nury’s “gang of three” has evaporated. Paul Krekorian (CD2) was a fierce attack dog for one day—at the City Hall hearing on whether or not to accept the commission’s map—and then faded away. His bite was subsequently placed in Martinez’ mouth at much lower decibel level. Nithya Raman (CD4), another in the small gang with Martinez and Krekorian, has been dislocated and marginalized.” 

The Takeaway

Even as our fly by night Mayor and 15 City Councilmembers celebrate their rapacity, in a State where the judicial system actually worked, they would all be in the slammer.  Such is not the case, obviously, with only three of this rotten body headed for prosecution and hopefully jail time. 

It seems to me that this same scenario will happen again the next time if nothing is done.  Perhaps it’s time for a pre-emptive State law taking the whole matter out of the hands of the City of Los Angeles. At least it would be a step removed from the City Council, and they’d have to beg Sacramento to take care of them. 

Just sayin’ 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)