OpEd: Council President Herb Wesson tries to ram new districts through approval process

By Bernard Parks

Dear Friends,

imageToday, Council President Herb Wesson announced the schedule for the City Council’s review of the new council district maps proposed by the Redistricting Commission.

An issue this important, that affects the lives of millions of Los Angeles residents for the next decade, should not be rushed in any way. The City Council should establish a fair, objective, transparent and deliberative review process of the proposed maps, as Councilwoman Jan Perry and I have called for.

Unfortunately, Council President Herb Wesson’s schedule calls for only three public hearings of the Rules & Elections Committee: March 5 in San Pedro, March 6 in Van Nuys, and March 7 in Downtown. The Council will then be in recess until Friday, March 16, when the Rules and Elections Committee and, then the full Council, will vote on the final maps.

Click here for political cartoonist Doug Davis’ take on the redistricting fight.

What’s the rush?

The City Charter deadline for the Council to approve district maps is July 1, a whole three months away. Considering the number of concerns that have been raised about the fairness of the Redistricting Commission process that created the maps, the Council should make every effort to make sure all residents have an opportunity to voice their opinion.

Why are there no meetings scheduled in Koreatown or South LA?

Residents in these communities have expressed the most concern and have been most critical of the Commission’s proposal. Failure to hold regional hearings in these areas can only be intended to stifle dissent.

Why is a hearing being held in San Pedro?

San Pedro is currently in CD15, the Commission has proposed leaving it in CD15, it has always been in CD15, and it will always be in CD15, due its unique geography – surrounded on 3 sides by other independent cities not within Los Angeles limits, and the Pacific Ocean. It seems a strange location to hold a public hearing: in a community not affected by the proposed changes, yet 20 miles away from those that are.

The Redistricting Commission has been a farce from day one, intended only to give the illusion that the public had any say in the process. Councilwoman Perry first rang the alarm bell in November, when she resigned from her council leadership post in protest of the secret discussions and backroom deals taking place among councilmembers over district boundaries and the election of the next council president.

Unfortunately, her concerns were proven correct over the next three months by numerous questionable actions of the Commission, such as:

– selecting Council President Herb Wesson’s top aide, Andrew Westall as the Executive Director, despite my objections and concerns for his ability to act impartially

– splitting into three secret sub-committees to draw the district maps, thus avoiding the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act

– emails and on-the-record comments by commissioners stating their intent to move boundaries based solely on race, a violation of the Voting Rights Act

– drastic changes of district boundaries that were not asked for by the public, and not called for by populations changes

I encourage you to read what the Los Angeles Times, Downtown News, The City Maven, KCET, LA Weekly, LA Weekly again, Intersections: South LA, former Daily News editor Ron Kaye, and Rafu Shimpu have all written about the process.

The City Council review process is the last opportunity, short of a lawsuit, to correct the Commission’s cynical decision to make the South Los Angeles districts 8 and 9 the poorest in the city, taking from them all thriving businesses and economic engines that could be leveraged to improve the quality of life of those worst off.

What Can You Do?

Call, email, or write to Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and let them know you are unhappy with the Commission’s proposal and demand that South LA be treated with respect. We are not a junkyard for other districts to take what they want and dump what they don’t.

Council President Herb Wesson Jr.
200 N. Spring Street, Room 430
Los Angeles, CA 90012
[email protected]

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
200 N. Spring St., Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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