Hundreds of furious South LA residents attended today’s Los Angeles City Council meeting to protest the proposed redistricting map they believe would weaken the influence of African Americans and severely disrupt their community.
“They’re going to take established communities and divide the neighborhoods, so they’ll lose influence,” said Jacqueline Arkord, as she waited to enter the council chambers.
“I’m not happy about what they’re trying to do with our community,” complained Joyce Stinson. “We as black people don’t have a say so. We’re here to make a stand.”
For three hours people from different districts of the city pleaded with the council to not make the proposed changes. At times, the testimony was explosive.
Korean American attorney Helen Kim, a member of the Redistricting Commission, testified that the process had been flawed and that the redrawing of the map had been done in secret back room meetings. Grace Yoo, the executive director of the Korean American Coalition, said they will sue over the new map.
In a heated exchange, a man accused Council President Herb Wesson of being an “Uncle Tom,” eliciting a strong reaction from a livid Wesson.
Not all public comments were against the proposed map. State Senator Curren Price, who represents much of South LA, was booed by the audience when he stated he was in favor of the new boundaries.
Despite the contentious public testimony, the City Council approved the map with new boundaries for the 15 council districts.
The vote was 13-2. Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, who represent South LA districts 8 and 9 and who have been the most vocal critics of the proposed map, were the dissenting votes.
The approved map removes a big chunk of downtown from Perry’s district, just leaving her the area around the Staples center, and takes USC out of Parks’ district. On a bright note for Parks, the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved an amendment earlier in the day that will keep parts of Baldwin Hills Estates in his district.
If not for that amendment, Parks’ place of residence would have been cut out of District 8, forcing him to either move or abandon his seat (council members must live within the district they represent). He has another three years left on his third and final term in City Council.
Perry will term out of her current seat next year, so the fact her downtown L.A. home residence has been left out of her district is not an issue for her. She is running for mayor in 2013.
In an unusual move, Perry addressed Wesson after the vote, apologizing for not having voted for him to become Council President. If she hadn’t been so critical of him, she said, perhaps her district wouldn’t have been sacrificed. “I feel your wrath, I feel your power,” she stated.
Wesson denied having used the redistricting process to punish Perry for not supporting his presidency.
“A great injustice has been done to the people of Los Angeles. Hundreds of people came out today in protest of what they viewed as maps that did not respect public testimony and the democratic process,” said Perry in a statement. “I am deeply offended and saddened that City Council insisted on rushing a process that will have enormous impacts on the future of communities for the next decade.”
Shortly after the vote, Parks sent his constituents an email saying the new city council district boundaries will “turn South LA Districts 8 & 9 into poverty pits, stripping away thriving business districts and economic engines, leaving little opportunity for new development and new jobs.”
The process is now in the final phase. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has yet to sign it. Parks is asking the mayor to veto the proposal.
Both Parks and Perry, whose districts will now be the poorest in the city, have vowed to sue over the new map.