Despite Criticism, Commission Proposal Maintains Three African-American Council Seats In City of Los Angeles
On Wednesday, January 25 the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission (LACCRC) voted in a meeting at Van Nuys City Hall to adopt a draft map of the 15 council districts that would set a new course for this majestic city for the next ten years.
With a vote of 12 to 6, with one abstention and 2 absent, the 21-member Commission voted for a draft map that would maintain three City Council seats in which the African-American community can elect a candidate of their choice based on the 2010 U.S. Census tally. Currently those seats are held by City Council President Herb Wesson, Jr. (who will be termed out in 2018) and his colleagues, Councilmembers Bernard C. Parks (who will be termed out in 2015) and Jan Perry (who will be termed out in 2013).
This is only the second redistricting process, in the history of this 230-year-old city, that includes the residents, businesses, and stakeholders of Los Angeles. Like any change, it is a heart rending and hard-won procedure so sparks flew that evening. Citizens flexed their power of public input and argued their case for different electoral boundaries. The comments weren’t always flattering to us as Commissioners, but I commend the residents who have engaged in the development of maps and are fighting for their vision of a Los Angeles that reflects all of us.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years as the results of US Census count. Each U.S. Census sets the numbers used to draw our new city council boundaries. The effort to enumerate citizens underscores the importance of census participation to protect one person – one vote. The legal requirements are all designed to ensure that voters remain able to exercise equal power in determining the outcome of elections.
The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, which is convened after the US Census count, has been very busy over the last three months soliciting public input to incorporate as many of the expressed desires as possible in this process. However, the Commission must comply with key legal standards. To date, the Commission has held a public hearing in every council district between December and January before releasing a draft map for public comment with an announcement from Arturo Vargas, the LACCRC Chair, that this map was a “very rough draft.”
While we have met many of our goals, such as complying with the federal Voting Rights Act and maintaining three seats that preserve the traditional representational pattern for the African-American community, our preservation focus is critical because the current council members will be termed out by 2018. In fact, every community will have similar challenges since the current governance calls for “term limits”. We need the public to let us know where we can do better, and what they believe should be changed, as well as what we got right.
Although the City of Los Angeles’s African-American population is 54,584 less in 2010 than the 2000 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, we are aware of the significant undercount and undesignated segments of the African Diaspora (African nations, Caribbean countries, and those of various ethnic and cultural groups who have African roots) who are very likely not included in the current 2010 Census figures for African-Americans. The 2010 Census places the African-American population in the city is still heavily-concentrated in the geographical area surrounded by the I-405, I-10, and I-105 freeways. The Commission’s draft map ensured that the 8th, 9th, and 10th City Council Districts all had African-American voter registration numbers above 45 percent.
Black Voting Age Pop.
Black Citizen Voting Age Pop.
Black Voter Registration
Source: Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission
Reaction throughout the African American community and the city have been mixed when the new Council District boundaries map was released. Both Councilmembers Parks and Bill Rosendahl complained loudly about the decision to split Westchester neighborhoods between the 8th and 11th Council Districts. Councilmember Parks has called the proposed changes to his district a “junkyard” of leftovers from other districts, while Councilmember Rosendahl has been busy asking community members to sign petitions and attend the public hearing at the Westchester Recreation Center on Thursday, February 2 to oppose splitting the community in two.
Another looming battle in the redistricting process is the decision to split Downtown between the 9th and 14th Districts, held by Councilmember Perry and Councilmember Jose Huizar respectively. In the draft map, most of Downtown Los Angeles would go to Councilmember Huizar, with Perry retaining the L.A. Live, Staples Center, and Convention Center facilities including the proposed site for Farmer’s Field, the new professional football stadium. Councilmember Perry’s district had to shrink by 8,629 people based on the 2010 Census population counts, while Councilmember Huizar’s had to grow by 20,297 people. Councilmember Perry has called the changes “economic apartheid” largely because of the removal of key cultural and economic assets in downtown and the addition of three large public housing development communities because Councilmember Huizar has stated that, “keeping Downtown in one Council District followed most of the public testimony.” NOTE: Testimony given did not specify the 14th District vs. the 9th District.
The biggest fight in the Valley seems to be the new 4th Council District represented by Councilmember Tom LaBonge. The Commission’s draft drastically changes the district to run largely east to west, moving the Hancock Park, Miracle Mile, Larchmont Village, and Toluca Lake portions of the district into the 5th Council District, and stretches the district from Silver Lake to Lake Balboa. Councilmember LaBonge is also mounting a grassroots campaign in opposition to his newly configured district.
The Commission has scheduled seven regional hearings throughout the City during the first two weeks of February to hear from the public on the draft Council District boundaries. Below are the hearings near you.
Upcoming Public Hearings
- Wednesday, February 1 @ 6:30 PM Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 West 8th Street, L A 90005
- Thursday, February 2 @ 6:30PM Westchester Recreation Center, Gym, 7000 West Manchester Avenue 90045
- Saturday, February 4 @11:00 PM Pierce College, The Great Wall 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills 91367
- Monday, February 6 @6:30 PM Occidental College, Thorne Hall 1600 Campus Road, LA 90041
- Wednesday, February 8 @ 6:30PM L.A. City Hall, John Ferraro Chambers 200 North Spring Street, Room 340 LA 90012
- Thursday, February 9 @ 6:30 PM Walter Reed Middle School, Auditorium 4525 Irvine Ave., Studio City 91602
- Saturday, February 11 @ 11:00AM West Angeles Church of God In Christ 3045 South Crenshaw Blvd., LA 90016
Now is this time to get involved. This is not the time to “play chicken”.