Redistricting lawsuit filed on behalf of South LA voters

imageAttorney Leo Terrell filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of residents in the 8th, 9th and 10th Council Districts, alleging that city officials used race as the basis for redrawing boundary lines for those districts.

Terrell accused the City Council of redrawing the boundaries to create a predominantly African American voting bloc in the 10th District represented by Council President Herb Wesson, who is African American. Many of the black neighborhoods represented by 8th District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, who is also African American, were taken out of the 8th and put into Wesson’s district.

Parks has said moving those neighborhoods out of the 8th District has been economically disastrous for his district.

“Over the last two years we were leading the city in creating jobs, but the 30,000 jobs were taken out just by the drawing of a line. This community leads the city in homelessness, unemployment and foreclosures,” Park recently told Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce.

In a news release, Terrell said,” Key Redistricting Commission and City Council members redrew the City Council district boundaries, with the explicit purpose of increasing the African American voter registration percentage in District 10, and increasing the Latino voter registration percentage in District 9.”

District 9 is now represented by Jan Perry, who is African American. Perry is termed out and running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Terrell also points to how redistricting “diluted the voting power of the Asian American community” by breaking up parts of Koreatown and Downtown Los Angeles and moving them into other districts. The redistricting commission moved much of the downtown neighborhoods out of District 9, leaving it with mostly low-income neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Voters will be electing a new city council member in District 9 on Tuesday.

“Shame on this city when minorities disenfranchise minorities,” Terrell told the Los Angeles City Council today.

Councilmember Herb Wesson did not comment on Terrell’s lawsuit.

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.

Multi-racial coalition relieved by latest redistricting map

There was panic last week when “visualization” maps drafted by the Citizens Redistricting Commission had redrawn the 33rd Congressional District lines in such a way that many activists charged it would reduce the political power and representation of communities of color in Congress and the State Legislature. There were accusations of racial segregation, because the proposed map would have cut out key African-American and Latino neighborhoods creating a white majority district. This prompted members of several community organizations to form a multi-racial coalition to present a united front in the battle to keep the 33rd District in its current form. Their efforts paid off.

Former Congresswoman Diane Watson speaks during multi-racial coaltion press conference.

Leaders from several community organizations, including S.C.O.P.E., Community Coalition, the Korean Resource Center and former Congresswoman Diane Watson, gathered in front of the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) High School this morning to celebrate the Redistricting Commission’s vote last night to keep District 33 almost intact.

“Latinos, Whites, Asian Pacific-Americans, and African-Americans have worked together for over a generation to elect progressive leaders who meet our needs,” said Gloria Walton, Executive Director of S.C.O.P.E. “”The Commission talked honestly about race yesterday, and they did the right thing to keep us together.”

“Together” is a key word for the coalition. As S.C.O.P.E. Senior Organizer Manuel Hernandez points out, “all the communities of color working together, staying on top of the issue, making sure our voices are heard and being vigilant until the final vote was cast, made a difference.”

Current 33rd Congressional District map

The current make up of California’s 33rd Congressional District is 34.6 percent Hispanic, 29.9 percent African-American, 19.9 percent White and 12.1 percent Asian. Democrat Karen Bass is the area’s Representative. She wasn’t at today’s event, but retired Congresswoman Diane Watson, who represented the District until January of this year was present, emphasizing the importance of unity and of tolerance “in a nation of immigrants.”

According to S.C.O.P.E., the lines will be slightly shifted to the West and the Northeastern area of Los Feliz will no longer be part of District 33.

Multi-racial coalition urges redistricting commission not to segregate community

Leaders Call On the Commission to Rise Above Racial Segregation

LOS ANGELES – Much of the discussion following this year’s redistricting process has focused on racial divisions, but at least one multi-racial coalition of leaders – located in the 33rd Congressional District – is demanding that the Redistricting Commission promote diversity, not segregation.  “Our community has a 30-year history of coming together across racial lines to find solutions for our common challenges,” exclaimed Gloria Walton, Executive Director of S.C.O.P.E “Latinos, Whites, Asian Pacific Americans, and African-Americans, have worked together for over a generation to elect progressive leaders who meet our needs.  Breaking this district up along color-lines would take our country and community in the wrong direction.”

WHAT: Unity Press Conference to Promote Diverse Congressional Districts
WHO: Leaders from Community Organizations – Korean Resource Center, S.C.O.P.E., CHIRLA, The Honorable Diane Watson, and other diverse community organizations & leaders from across the 33rd Congressional District
WHERE: Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) – 5931 West 18th St, Los Angeles, CA 90035 – A high-achieving school that represents the success & diversity of the 33rd Congressional District
WHEN: Monday, July 25, 10:00 A.M.

Indeed, the 33rd Congressional District is one of the most diverse districts in the State – it is one of only four in California that has at least 10% representation from across four racial groups.  The District’s boundaries stretch from Culver City in the West, through Mid-Wilshire to parts of Koreatown in the East, and South through Baldwin Hills to capture chunks of South L.A.  The current Representative for the district, Karen Bass, is African-American, as have been the previous two congressmembers – the Honorable Diane Watson and Julian Dixon.

“What we have in this district represents California.” said Dae Joong Yoon, Executive Director of the Korean Resource Center “Asian Pacific Americans are a part of the 33rd District and we share common concerns that cross racial lines, issues like public safety, access to quality health care, effective transportation, and the desire for more green space and public parks.  We would be sorely disappointed if the Commission decides to separate us from our neighbors.”

The coalition of leaders say they were spurred to speak-up by map “visualizations” released by the Redistricting Commission that propose radically shifting the make-up of their district.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking.” said Daniel Henrickson, a business owner from Culver City “If you look at some of their maps, supposedly I have more in common with white people 20 miles to the North in Topanga Canyon, than my African American neighbors two miles to the East in Baldwin Hills.  They must only be looking at skin color.  I thought we had moved passed that type of thinking, but some people seem bent on bringing us back to the 1950’s.”