Redistricting Q&A: What is it all about

imageThe opinions have been heard and the votes cast, but do you really understand the fuss over redistricting Los Angeles’ city council districts?

The redistricting commission sent official recommendations to the city council last week — a final map that included significant changes to South Los Angeles districts.

Public hearings on the maps will be held today at 4 p.m. at the Port of Los Angeles, Harbor Commission board room, tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the Van Nuys City Hall council chamber and Wednesday at the City Hall council chamber.

Before you head out to voice your opinion, read this simple Q&A with USC Professor of Political Science Christian Grose about what redistricting actually is and why it’s so important.

Intersections: What is the purpose of drawing new districts every ten years and what is the process supposed to achieve?

Professor Grose: There is a pretty general reason why districts are redrawn at the city, state, congressional levels and that is shifts in population. People move in to areas, people leave areas. Ever since the 1960s, a Supreme Court case has required that legislative districting be approximately equal in population.

City districts also try to achieve population equity standards. Districts are redrawn so that basically each voter is treated equally and that there aren’t some districts with relatively few people and some districts with lots of people.

Intersections: Are there other factors that play into the redistricting, such as wealth of an area, ethnic makeup or politics?

Professor Grose: There is no constitutional mandate regarding wealth of districts or anything of that sort. I know some of the complaints of the districts were that Jan Perry and Bernard Parks weren’t happy because the wealthier areas of their current districts were moved into other districts. That could have an impact representationally on the districts.

The population equity is the first thing that has to be done and the second thing is that voting rights needs to be followed — basically voting rights protections for minority groups that had previously experienced discrimination. They make every vote equal.

And of course, there are a number of other factors that come up like politics. This is a very political process and in the case of South L.A., [council members Jan Perry and Bernard Parks] were on the losing side of the redistricting commission so they have a pretty good right to complain because of the way the political maneuvering went on the commission. I know what’s definitely happened is that [Council President Herb] Wesson, who is the city council chair, his appointee and other members of the city council, have basically boxed out what Perry and Parks represent on the redistricting commission. So part of what is going on is just a power play at the city council level.

Intersections: You mentioned voter rights protections, what can an ethnic group benefit from being part of a majority-minority district?

Professor Grose: All the councils have an equal vote, so what matters is who is in the majority in each district and who is in a winning coalition within each district and who is in a losing coalition in each district.

But to take a step back, in L.A. it’s so multiethnic and multiracial that there are going to be numerous majority-minority districts — which is not the case when redistricting is done in other cities. Demographically the city is so diverse that you have a reasonable chance of having a majority-minority district in the city.

South L.A. is heavily African American and Latino. Depending on what part of South L.A., the districts are potentially going to be majority Black and majority Latino. Before this redistricting there were three districts that elected African American city council members, they were not African American majority districts, as far as I recall. So what’s going in South L.A., is districts are being drawn that are majority Latino plus majority African American, but not just one.

Intersections: What impact does moving districts have on voters and residents in a particular area? For example the parts of Downtown that have been moved out of Jan Perry’s District Nine?

Professor Grose: Any time there is significant redistricting there is a huge impact. A lot of the voters have gotten used to having Jan Perry and now a decent part of Downtown has been cut out of her district, so the voters there who may have wanted to keep her are going to have to learn about a new member of the council.

They’re going to have to interact with them and there is certainly a lot of learning that is going to happen with voters. So the loss is really the relationships that have already been established with the incumbent council member and the current voters — voters that have been shifted have to reconnect with new members of the council, existing coalitions that may have been established have to be worked out and so on.

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
Filed Under: Politics Tagged With: , , ,

OpEd: Why South LA councilmembers urge community to attend final redistricting commission meeting

Letter from Bernard Parks:

Dear Friends,

Last Friday, the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission released their latest draft map of the proposed new city council districts.

The Commission has proved, once again, that the numerous public hearings held throughout the city were a complete farce and intended only to give the illusion that the public had any say in the process.

When 74% of the public who gave testimony at the February 11th Commission hearing at West Angeles Church spoke in favor of keeping the current Eighth District boundaries why did the Commission decide to radically change the 8th, by removing all of Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Vista, Village Green and Leimert Park?

When 89% of the public who gave testimony at the hearing supported the current boundaries of the Ninth District, why did the Commission radically change the 9th by removing nearly all of downtown, adding USC, and transferring hundreds of residents to the 8th District?

The answer is becoming very clear: race. On-the-record comments from Commissioners and emails show that they are far more concerned about residents’ color of skin than about their opinions, their wishes, and the fabric of their communities.

This narrow-minded view that holds the voter in such low regard is not only backtracking on decades of progress in Los Angeles politics, it’s also a clear violation of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act. According to the law, race can not be the sole factor in determining district boundaries. In order for race to be considered, there must be evidence shown of racially polarized voting. There has been no evidence presented that has shown racially polarized voting in any of the 15 city council districts in Los Angeles.

With the new map released Friday, there is no doubt that the Commission is arrogantly ignoring the will of the people, and also violating the Voting Rights Act.

This prompted Councilmember Jan Perry and I to send a letter to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Commission President Arturo Vargas detailing these violations of law and warning that the proposed maps will not hold up to legal challenges.

I encourage you to stand up for honest and open government and let the Commission know you will not tolerate narrow-minded racial politics that seek to divide communities in violation of the law.

TOMORROW the Redistricting Commission will hold what could be their final meeting, and they are expected to vote on the proposed maps. This may be your last chance to let them know what you think. Please attend!

Wednesday, February 22 – 4 PM
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St.
Council Chamber – Room 340
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Comments can also be emailed to the commission at [email protected].



Letter from Jan Perry:

Dear Friends,

Last Friday, the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission released their latest draft map of the proposed new city council districts.

The new proposed maps further disenfranchise the people of the Great 9th District. They do not reflect public testimony nor do they respect historic boundaries, coalition building, or common sense. Instead, specific plans have been cut in half, the fashion district has been severed from the manufacturing sector along the Alameda Corridor, the Figueroa corridor has been bisected, and the people of South Los Angeles have been left isolated and removed from the very economic engine that has helped to attract investment for the revitalization of South Los Angeles communities.

With the new map released Friday, there is no doubt that the Commission is ignoring the will of the people, and also violating the principles that they adopted to incorporate public testimony, respect communities of interest, and do no harm.

I encourage you to stand up for honest and open government and demand that the Commission respect your wishes.

TOMORROW, February 22nd, the Redistricting Commission will hold what could be their final meeting, and they are expected to vote on the proposed maps. This may be your last chance to let them know what you think.

We want to keep Council District 9 united. Please attend!

Wednesday, February 22 – 4 PM
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St.
Council Chamber – Room 340
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Comments can also be emailed to the commission at [email protected]


Councilwoman Jan Perry

Council redistricting outrages council members

imageA commission appointed by the LA City Council prepared the redrawn maps to account for population changes since the last census. But the changes have outraged some councilpeople.

Bill Rosendahl represents District 11, which currently encompasses the west side, including LAX. His colleague, Bernard Parks, represents District 8, which includes Crenshaw and Leimert Park over to USC.

At a news conference, both councilmen criticized the proposal that would let Rosendahl keep LAX but would give Westchester to Parks.

“How dare they take people away from the issues that matter so much to them? It’s an insult to democracy at its best,” Rosendahl said.

Councilman Parks was quick to criticize what he calls closed-door meetings where the maps were drawn.

“We were asked well before the commission was created whether we want Westchester and the airport. And we said, ‘no, it doesn’t fit our community.’ How are people in City Hall talking about maps before the commission was created, and who’s creating maps outside of the commission?” he said.

Rosendahl drafted a petition against the redistricting proposal that has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

One Westchester resident, William Roberts, says the plan would break up a community with similar interests. He says LAX and nearby Loyola Marymount University affect Westchester residents like him.

“We share the burdens and benefits of LAX, we share the burdens and benefits of having students in our community who rent from homeowners here,” he said. “When there are problems, we want to go to one councilperson and have them worked out that way instead of having an opposing situation where you have two city council people representing the same area.”

Calls placed to the Office of Redistricting were not immediately returned.

Bernard C. Parks invites you to be heard

imageThe long and complex process to redistrict LA will take one more step forward today when it releases its first draft map of the new districts.

Created in 2000 to break the cycle of corruption and special interests when maps were drawn by the LA City Council, a Citizen’s Commission has been hosting meetings to gather public comments on what this decade’s districts should look like. After a meeting held in the Eighth District had one of the largest turnouts in the city, the message was clear that most in that district liked it the way it was and wanted no changes.

In an email blast sent from his office, councilmember Bernard C. Parks has extended another request to the public to speak up and be heard. When the map is unveiled this afternoon (watch for it here), he wants you to be there to talk to the Commission about it.He has arranged to have the meeting held in Van Nuys live-streamed to a chamber at Los Angeles City Hall, which will be open for the public to watch and speak to the Commission.

The Commission’s meeting will be held today 4:00 pm at:

Van Nuys City Hall
14410 Sylvan Street
Van Nuys, CA 91401

The live video feed will be held the same time at:

Los Angeles City Hall
John Ferraro Council Chamber
200 N. Spring Street.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

If you’re unable to attend either the live meeting or the live video meeting, Parks urges you to get involved in other ways. There’s a Facebook page for the event, you can tweet your comments to @BernardCParks, or send an email to [email protected].

South LA’s 8th district begins redistricting discussions

The results of the 2010 census have led to a spate of efforts to re-draw political lines at all levels, from Congressional districts to State Senate boundaries.

While those efforts have attracted considerable notice and controversy, less attention has fallen on this decade’s City Council redistricting process, which begins formally on Nov. 28.

A commission will ultimately make recommendations for the new shapes of the city’s 15 council districts, which will then be voted on by the current council members before March.

Los Angeles City Council Redistricting…Why Should I Care?” a flier reads, somewhat plaintively, and on a drizzly Friday night, not many were up to the challenge.

In South LA, Councilman Bernard Parks and District 8 Commissioner Tunua Thrash held a pre-meeting at the Constituent Service Center, designed to engage and prepare residents to make formal statements when the hearings begin the week of November 28.

Despite the lure of free sandwiches, just over a dozen people turned out; most were Councilman Parks’ employees and only a handful were residents.


“It’s extremely important that we have community members come out and testify and talk about what is their community, not only from a perspective of describing who the people are, describing what are some of the resources in those communities, but even going so far as to telling of us what are some of the boundaries in your community, what areas would you not like to see split apart,” Thrash said.

The redistricting process at every level borders on the arcane. The 21-person redistricting commission comprises one member appointed by each councilmember, as well as an additional commissioner for Council President Eric Garcetti. The City Controller and City Attorney also get one each, while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appoints three representatives on the commission.

The group is tasked with holding a series of public meetings before hashing out the lines. They will also consider the size of each district, natural boundaries, and “communities of interest,” a term that Thrash and Parks stressed had broad meanings, ranging from distinct neighborhoods to similar demographics, or even the areas under the flight path of an airport.

The commission will also consider the Voting Right Acts, a federal mandate that redistricting cannot discriminate against minority groups.

The boundaries for the 8th District, which saw just over 5 percent growth in the last decade, are not expected to move dramatically.

“The one thing that’s unique about the 8th District is our numbers are such that we can actually remain exactly the way we are,” Parks said. “The dilemma is that there are many districts around us that are in need of boundary changes to gain population, and that’s going to be the push and pull, as it relates to dealing with those districts.”

Although the three districts to its north and south were also mostly stable, downtown’s 9th District, to the east, rose at nearly twice that rate to overcome the 8th in population. (You can find a useful map of the council census data here at blogdowntown).

Because the 8th District is partially surrounded by other cities, including Culver City and Inglewood, which are not affected by redistricting, the areas where lines could be redrawn are limited. Some of Parks’ aides worry that few of the possibly affected residents, many of whom are not politically active, will turn up to contest those changes.

District 8 will hold its first official redistricting meeting on Dec. 12 at the Expo Center.

Redrawing the lines: The controversy behind Proposition 27


Listen to the audio story:


The American Association of Retired Persons, American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters are among the chorus coming out against Proposition 27.

In 2008, voters decided to take the power to draw voting districts away from politicians and put them in the hands of an independent 14-member commission. Passage of Proposition 27 would overturn that decision and give redistricting responsibilities back to legislators.

Clarissa Woo of the ACLU believes letting legislators make the call is not good governance.

“Allowing lawmakers to draw their own district lines is a conflict of interest that is hard to resist abusing,” Woo said.

Janis Hirohama of the League of Women Voters echoed that complaint.

“We had politicians carving up communities and neighborhoods to suit their own interests,” Hirohama said.

Many proponents of Proposition 27 are calling the new citizen commission an expensive add-on during a state budget crisis. Environmental groups, including the California League of Conservation Voters, are supporting it for entirely different reasons.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste said creating districts with secure seats for incumbents is crucial in passing environmental legislation.

“When Democrats are in a district that is considered politically safe, they tend to vote and support environmental policies,” Murray said. “When Democrats are in a competitive district, they tend to not support environmental policies as well.”

And while Murray concedes he understands the good governance argument from groups like the ACLU, he said that having every district be competitive is not good for public policy, especially environmental policy.

But opponents see the independent commission as more diverse than the legislature and less likely to break up communities.

“Right now, it’s polling really close,” Woo said.

Both sides are hoping people will pay more attention to a proposition that is tended to be overlooked.