City redistricting battle may head to the courts

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After an eight-hour meeting, The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission (LACCRC) approved a “Final Map Recommendation” just before midnight Wednesday on a vote of 16 to 5.

Los Angeles City Council Districts 8 and 9 will suffer dramatic changes to their borders under the newly approved district maps. Both will lose neighborhoods that are the economic engines of their districts.

CD-9, Jan Perry’s district, will lose its downtown constituency. CD-8, Parks’ district, will lose Leimert Park, a hub of black culture and commerce, and Baldwin Hills, a primarily black, middle-class neighborhood.

Without these neighborhoods, Districts 8 and 9 will be among the poorest of all LA City Council districts.

Also, the University of Southern California will be moved from CD-8 to CD-9. Why? Councilman Parks said he couldn’t identify a single community member who asked for that change, saying, “What I thought was amazing was that no one had come to the commission from either the 8th or the 9th district that live in that area or stakeholders saying that that should be moved”.

In fact, Parks accused the commission of drawing the maps before getting any community input:

“The real meetings were in secret. They just kind of placated the public by showing up and discussing or letting people talk.”

The Redistricting Commission’s website says there would be “at least 20 public hearings.” So far, 15 have been held during January and February of this year. Members of the public have also been able to submit their own maps via a form on the Commission’s website.

But the maps that were produced at the beginning of the redistricting process have not changed very much since then and now, despite citizen submissions and the public meetings. In Parks’ district, there were three meetings.

“They decided the maps were worthy of more weight than the public comment that was overwhelming in three meetings that said ‘Leave the 8th District alone.’”

Both Parks and Perry have said they think it’s payback because they didn’t support 10th Council District Representive Herb Wesson’s bid for City Council President. Said Parks, when asked about the allegation, “I”m too old to be punished. The issue is they’re punishing people that don’t need to be punished. So if their goal is to punish the community…These lines will be in place for 10 years. They’ve created two districts, the 8th and the 9th, with no resources and a bunch of poor people.”

Wesson, who won his bid for City Council President, stated in a recent LA Times article, that he has no personal motives for the redistricting moves. His press secretary, Edward Johnson, said he had no official comment.

Parks and Perry have pledged to file a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit will allege that the redistricting process failed to adequately incorporated community input. It will also claim that the districts are being re-drawn along racial lines, which is prohibited under the VRA unless studies are conducted which prove that voting is so strictly polarized by race that elections are not competitive.

The Redistricting Commisson will hold another meeting on February 29, 2012. Final approval is slated for March 1.

The new map is expected to be available for viewing on the LACCRC website by February 27th.

Redistricting changes for South LA one step closer

imageAfter what turned into a nine-hour-long meeting on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission has moved one step closer to solidifying major changes to the city’s council districts, including those in South Los Angeles.

The commission voted Wednesday night to move the Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills area out of Councilman Bernard Park’s 8th District, and into District 10, represented by City Council President Herb Wesson.

Additionally, Councilwoman Jan Perry lost most of Downtown Los Angeles from her 9th District, including the financial district, Little Tokyo and the Civic Center. Under the new boundaries, District 9 retains only the Staples Center and L.A. Live.

The commission also moved the University of Southern California out of Park’s district and into Perry’s.

All of these moves, which were opposed by the majority of public comment at Wednesday night’s meeting, could serve to further impoverish South Los Angeles, said David Roberts, the 9th District’s representative on the commission.

“It becomes more difficult, especially in the case of Downtown, opportunities to leverage resources from a more affluent, wealthier (area) to south of the 10 Freeway,” said Roberts, who opposed the changes to Districts 8 and 9.

In short, by losing Downtown, Perry’s district becomes one of the poorest districts in the city and will no longer be able to afford much of the redevelopment she has been able to accomplish in the past.

One such example is the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park that opened last week, which was funded in part by resources generated from Downtown, Roberts said.

The case is similar in District 8, which is losing its most thriving economic area to District 10.

“(Leimert Park and Baldwin Vista) are the wealthiest parts of the district … not only economically, but politically too because this is where the Black middle class is,” said Earl Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “So you’re essentially lopping one of the parts of the district that has economic and political clout.”

Blighted communities in South Los Angeles, in both the 8th and 9th districts, are at great risk for losing resources that fund not only redevelopment of the area but social programs, as well.

“I think there is reason for deep concern on the part of the elected officials and constituents in these areas,” Hutchinson said. “The greatest concern is that we in fact will be even further marginalized at City Hall. Our needs, our wishes have not been taken into consideration by the commission.”

In an ideal world, communities like South Los Angeles, should benefit from where district lines are drawn because resources are allocated evenly, giving underserved communities a greater voice, which is crucial now that the Community Redevelopment Agency has been closed down.

“The CRA used to take care of the issues of blight and poverty, but those tools don’t exist anymore to improve the quality of life for those very vulnerable residents,” Roberts said. “And South LA is where those issues are most acute.”

The map approved last night will be available online Saturday. The next schedule hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. at Los Angeles City Hall.