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Black Lines Matter: The Fight Over Redistricting Lines in Los Angeles
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2021

This map outlines the council district boundaries recommended by the redistricting commission. (laccrc2021.org)

Council Districts (CDs) 8, 9 and 10 saw minimal changes in the final draft map to be submitted to the Los Angeles City Council by the Redistricting Commission.

According to some Black observers, these lines have significant meaning for South Los Angeles and African Americans who reside and operate businesses within the city of Los Angeles.  With Los Angeles’ Black population declining, many people are convinced that it is critical that the lines be drawn to keep African American representation as close knit and unified as possible.

This aspect increases in importance in light of critical factors such as representation and resources, particularly within CDs 8, 9 and 10 as those council seats come up for re-election in future years.

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In the opinion of many African American constituents, Black Lines Matter and in order to retain seats and influence within Los Angeles, these lines play more of a influential role in the Black community’s everyday lives than most people realize.

CD 8 draft map (laccrc2021.org)

After months of meetings, discussions, and public testimony from more than 12,000 L.A. residents, the 21-member body adopted the graphical version of the new boundaries of the city’s 15 CDs on October 21. The map, along with the commission’s final report, will be submitted City Council on October 29.

The actions conclude the commission’s role in the redistricting process, which calls for city council district (CD) borders to be adjusted after the completion of each census.  Under the L.A. city charter, each district must be approximately equal in population size, which is comprised of about 260,000 people based on data from the 2020 census.

With most African Americans residing in CDs 8, 9 and 10, the Black redistricting commissioners – the Rev. Edward Anderson, Charisse Bremond-Weaver and Valerie Lynne Shaw – made a determined effort to make certain that the concerns expressed by the Black community in those areas were addressed.

CD 9 draft map (laccrc2021.org)

Anderson, the pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church, was the CD 10 appointee; Bremond-Weaver, president/CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, was the mayor’s selectee; and Shaw, a California Community College System governor, and former public works commissioner, was the CD 8 representative.

In determining the final map, the commission weighed in on the discrepancy between economic assets in CDs 8 and 9, deciding to place USC in CD 9, represented by Councilmember Curren Price, and locating Exposition Park in CD 8, which is represented by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.  For decades, USC, Exposition Park and Leimert Park were located in CD 8, but in the 2011 redistricting process, Exposition Park and the USC campus were shifted to CD 9 and most of Leimert Park was positioned in CD 10.

Currently, the issue of CD 10 representation greatly concerns many South Los Angeles residents since Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was elected to the position, was suspended by the City Council after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him over allegations of bribery.

Constituents are asking, “Who is going to fight and defend the lines of the 10th district?”  Many people, like the Rev. William Smart, conclude that CD 10 is vulnerable with no voice at the table to defend or accept how the redistricting lines have been drawn.

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“As the City Council begins to debate a redistricting plan, it seems to me as a resident of the 10th Council District, that this is a hypocrisy. They just suspended the representative for the 10th, Councilman Mark Ridley Thomas. There seems to be hidden agendas and a serious discrepancy that the very strong voice that is knowledgeable through this process has now been disingenuously eliminated from this process and we in the 10th don’t have a voice who will stand and fight for us. We want and need Mark Ridley-Thomas at the table fighting for our district,” stated Smart, who is also president of SCLC of Southern California.

Expressing a similar viewpoint, Jacqueline DuPont-Walker, a CD 10 resident and MTA commissioner, said,  “As redistricting goes to the City Council, a vacant 10th council seat would be tantamount to a Voting Rights Act violation, thus a denial of our civil rights. Our councilman must be restored to his duly elected post immediately.”

Los Angeles is not the only community with valid concerns over redistricting and the possibility of creating concentrations of poverty in certain CDs without providing economic assets to balance the impact on the L.A.’s most vulnerable residents.  City Council President Nury Martinez was equally critical and alarmed over the lines drawn for her San Fernando Valley district.

“While some areas kept their assets and neighborhoods whole, poverty was concentrated in other communities that have already suffered from disinvestment and neglect for generations,” Martinez said.

In a follow-up statement reported by the L.A. Times, Martinez’s spokeswoman said the council president was describing two districts — her own, which includes such areas as Van Nuys, and a proposed district that include Winnetka and other West Valley neighborhoods.

CD 10 draft map (laccrc2021.org)

“What the [City] Council does after this is up to the Council,” said Commissioner Carlos Moreno, a retired judge appointed by City Attorney Mike Feuer, who is running for mayor. “But, I think no one can really question that each of us, and collectively, we’ve done our best.”

Despite complaints about the final draft of the map, Commission Chair Fred Ali defended the map, saying the commission “is very proud to send the map adopted… to the City Council for its review. Our work has been informed by census data, the federal Voting Rights Act and countless hours of public testimony.

“In the final adoption of the map, the commission took great care to ensure that traditionally disadvantaged districts included critical economic assets,” Ali said, adding that it wasn’t the commission’s job “to protect elected officials, their jobs or their political futures.”

The next steps in the process call for the City Council to hold public hearings as well as make changes to the map before adopting the final borders for the 15 districts, which will go into effect on January 1.

 Visit laccrc2021.org to learn more or review the redistricting timeline.

Sentinel Executive Editor Danny Bakewell, Jr. and City News Service contributed to this report.

Categories: News | Political
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