Thursday, October 19, 2017
How city redistricting seems to be affecting the African American community
By Yussuf J. Simmonds Sentinel Managing Editor
Published February 29, 2012

L.A. City Council President, Herb Wesson

City Council-member Jan Perry (CD-9) 

City Council-member Bernard Parks (CD-8)

The state did it; the county did it; now it’s the city’s turn and there seems to be turmoil in the process even though the city charter spells it out clearly,

According to the City Charter, every 10 years City Council district boundaries are re-drawn in accordance with the city’s demographic changes. Recently a Redistricting Commission (comprised of concerned citizens) made recommendations to the City Council–based on their findings–for adoption of the City’s redistricting plan which in turn will establish new boundaries for the City Council districts. Despite the aforementioned, the council members can often use their political skills to modify the new boundaries based on communities of interest and other relevant factors, and still remain within the spirit of the charter.

So what’s the problem? There were public hearings and the opportunity for community members to deliver testimony, submit comments, and provide public input directly to Commissioners about the neighborhoods in which they live. Yet there seems to be some turmoil at City Hall, and the community is concerned … the residents are concerned because when the elected officials are not unified in their purpose of service, usually their constituents–the residents–will ultimately suffer.

The Los Angeles Sentinel have reached out to the President of City Council, Herb Wesson, who also represents the 10th council district (CD); and Council-members Bernard Parks (CD-8) and Jan Perry (CD-9), so they can let the community hear from them directly, instead of having the rumor mill, op-eds and gossip columns running wild speculating and misstating their positions on the matter.

President of the City Council HERB WESSON of the 10th District:


“A Victory for our Community”

“The latest redistricting maps drawn by the Redistricting Commission represent a victory for our community. At the recent commission meeting at West Angeles Church, our community spoke out, and the commission’s work shows that they listened.

“We should all be proud of what they recommended. In the face of threats and intimidation, they presented maps that unite the divisions created by the previous redistricting drafts and the decade-old redistricting.

“They unite our community by:

* Eliminating the boundary down Crenshaw Boulevard that has divided the community between CD 10 and CD 8
* Including all of Leimert Park in one unified Council District.
* Uniting Baldwin Vista with the rest of Baldwin Hills
* Uniting Baldwin Village
* Uniting Crenshaw Manor

“Redistricting is a once a decade process that is about the future as much as its about the present.

“The Redistricting Commission’s maps offer the prospect of two African American districts, CD 10 and CD 8, with a competitive opportunity to retain a third district, CD 9, over the next decade.

My pledge to you is that I will work my guts out to effectively represent the people of whatever communities the Commission decides to include in my district.”

Council member BERNARD PARKS of the 8th District:

“The Los Angeles Redistricting Commission’s very obvious and racially-motivated assault on the Downtown/South Los Angeles Council Districts of 8(CD8) and 9(CD9) intends to irreversibly weaken African-American influence in the city.

“The commission’s plan to lop off huge chunks of the African-American vote in CD8 and give them to Council District 10(CD10), would eliminate the only majority African-American district in the city. There are laws established by the Voting Rights Act that undeniably protect non-white majority districts like CD8. “However, the commission has decided to only acknowledge the laws protecting the majority Latino districts of 1, 7 and 14.

“What proponents of this plan will tell you is that they are “trying to save three black seats”. To put it bluntly, that’s a lie! There is a myth that there are three African-American seats on the L.A. City Council. But, only about 30% of African-American citizens who are voting age(CVAP) reside in CD’s 9 and 10. Whereas, 60% reside in CD8.

“And, though the commission’s number crunching may build up CD10’s African-American numbers to the 50 percentile, it’s only a fleeting accomplishment because, based on reality, there is no way African Americans in CD10 will continue to populate to maintain that number. Meanwhile, reducing the African-American CVAP in CD8 puts the last remaining majority African-American district on the fast track to become the newest majority Latino district- meaning that in a very short time, there will not be an African-American district to speak of.

“What’s even worse is that these moves have been made without consideration of community or history. The commissioners have ignored the words of most people who want their districts to stay pretty much the same. Staying pretty much the same would be good for Councilmember Jan Perry’s 9th District. It has created 90,000 jobs in downtown L.A. over the last 10 years. Separating her from downtown throws a wrench in her efforts to ensure local hiring on major development and public works projects that ease unemployment in South L.A.

“Apparently, the commissioners have not taken a second look at the ongoing projects in my district, like: Marlton Square, the Vision Theater, Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza,… etc. All of these are in progress, and a change or a delay in stewardship could lead them to doom. My district is the only district in the city that has seen a increase in jobs for six straight years, which is quite a change from its moniker as the flashpoint of the riots 20 years ago. After all of these improvements in South L.A., it makes no sense to take a huge step backwards.

“This latest redistricting process has brought allegations of vote trading with major conflicts of interest and illegalities becoming the norm. For instance, this commission’s creation of another Latino-majority district in the city is only legal if it can provide proof of a polarized voting study that calls for it. So far, they have failed to present that proof. And, according to an e-mail, at least one commissioner has tried to draw the district he represents based solely on race, which is also illegal. This commission has fallen short in reaching its ideal goals of achieving compactness, recognizing communities of interest and embracing community input.

“But, what this murky process really speaks to is the lack of leadership in this city. It’s ironic that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who enjoyed 55% of the African-American vote to get elected, is now working through his appointed commissioners to disenfranchise African-American voters. It’s even more ironic when you consider that this type of behavior is exactly what a lot of African-Americans feared as they weighed whether or not to give him their support.
“Mayor Villaraigosa makes a hell of a Black History Month speech, but the majority of the people I represent are as black in February as they are the other 11 months of the year. Attempting to silence their political voice in secret is not appreciated, nor will it be accepted.”

Council member JAN PERRY of the 9th District:

“Don’t Divide the Great Ninth”

“Every 10 years, the City of Los Angeles goes through the process of redrawing district lines as a result of the Census. It is a process, that on the surface seems simple–make slight shifts to address population change, keep communities of interest together, and ensure that the will of the people is heard. Unfortunately what has happened this time is a power grab which has very little to do with the people of Los Angeles. The result is that the people of South Los Angeles are again being lost in the process.

“The two legal concerns in redistricting are population imbalance and the Voting Rights Act. Compliance can be easily achieved without tearing Council District Nine apart. The central question for this redistricting is whether downtown should remain in District Nine. I firmly believe that it should and it must for reasons having to do with maintaining communities of interest and supporting economic development and job creation for our residents.

“First, and foremost, the census numbers do not merit a dramatic shift in the Ninth District’s lines. According to the 2010 Census, District Nine only exceeds the ideal district size by about 1.9% of the total population (approximately 8,000 people). What this means is, that while a shift in boundaries may occur, the data supports only minor changes. In fact, instead of severing downtown from South Los Angeles, minor changes to the map could make downtown whole in the Ninth District, removing decades of gerrymandering that has been a result of political interests that have taken precedent over the pragmatic process of drawing council district boundaries.

“Second, the process must respect the will of the people and the historical foundation by which alliances and partnerships are built. For well over half a century, the people of the Ninth District have stood together in a diverse coalition that has resulted in concentrated efforts to revitalize core neighborhoods like historic Central Avenue and disenfranchised communities like Skid Row. These strategic partnerships were the result of working together and leveraging the economic development of downtown in a concerted effort to garner investment dollars and support for redevelopment south of the 10 Freeway.

Countless advances have been made in these neighborhoods, including the addition of two new grocery stores and thousands of units of affordable housing for the homeless, our seniors and work force. Millions of dollars have been invested in parks and recreation center improvements along with the development of a new 9-acre wetland park which has replaced a blighted bus yard. What the Redistricting Commission has proposed for Council District Nine disregards this legacy and the historic, cultural and economic realities of this important district.

“The Great Ninth District has been the bridge that links the communities of downtown with southern portions of Los Angeles–an area that is rich with economic, cultural, and racial diversity. In fact, it is the diversity of this district that drives this part of the city forward, and it is diversity that is at risk in the redistricting process.

“Separating the two major partners in the continued vitality of the council district is wrong-headed and ill-considered. Severing downtown from South Los Angeles will have the effect of creating one of the poorest council districts in the city and disenfranchising the people of South Los Angeles from the economic engine that has helped to begin the process of reinvigorating its many communities. Instead of maintaining this winning partnership, the commission proposes to destroy it and set the district on a path of isolation with little to no means of leveraging investment dollars for new housing and retail. Instead of offering South Los Angeles the opportunity to continue this forward momentum, it is being pushed further backward. The proposed council district boundaries would stunt redevelopment efforts and leave the next Councilperson with fewer resources to support the continued revitalization of South Los Angeles.

“I am faced with term limits and as such I am asked why I care about redistricting. I care deeply about the future of the people I represent. There is no guarantee that any elected official will serve a full term in office. Many leave before their council terms end to achieve higher office. I have faith in the people of the Ninth District and their ability to elect a candidate to represent their interests. It is their time to do so; and, they will and should have high expectations for the person they elect.

“South Los Angeles has endured decades of waiting for the vision established by Mayor Tom Bradley that investment and development in downtown Los Angeles would yield benefits for all, including South Los Angeles. He was right.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of Los Angeles civil unrest-a tragic event that forever changed the face of South Los Angeles. Two decades later, we have finally seen our community lift itself up from the ashes through investment and redevelopment. What happens downtown is inextricably connected to South Los Angeles. It has been a long time coming. Losing the economic momentum now will harm our communities. It is not necessary; it is wrong and it is not the purpose of redistricting.”

Former U. S. Congressman Mervyn Dymally, who has had extensive experience when he was a state Senator as chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment said, “Notwithstanding the criticism of the redistricting plans, it must be noted that the three so-called black districts were preserved. The myth that somehow contributions from downtown make the district is false. Contributions do not build institutions; they help politicians.”

Under his tenure, he created the first Latino Senate district for Alex Garcia; then an aide to Congress Roybal, a congressional district for Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; and a Senate district for Nate Holden.

Blair Taylor, president and CEO of the L.A. Urban League, wrote–in part–in an op-ed, the community’s concern in a clear and concise manner: “Over the past weeks, the emergence of a deep political schism became very apparent in the black community. The redistricting process tore open a lingering scab of disdain in the City Council chambers and the exposed wound is now forcing division and debate among our residents. What was at stake for African Americans during the city’s redistricting was nothing less than the future composition and boundaries of Council Districts 8 and 9–two of the three seats held by black members of the Council. It was a scenario with permanent implications, since the outcomes of the L.A.’s redistricting process will be in place for at least the next ten years.

“Although some changes to the two Districts probably make sense, something else was absolutely going on here. And that something is an ongoing and very public battle or feud between the recently elected African American City Council President Herb Wesson, District 10, on one side, who apparently advocated strongly for the changes, with City Council-members Parks and Perry, both squarely on the other side.”

Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker of Ward Economic Development Corporation, and Member and Vice Chair–Los Angeles City Redistricting Commission wrote in part: ” And presently, directly tied to the Voting Rights Act, on March 1, 2012 the LA City REDISTRICTING Commission will send forth its proposal for the new City Council Districts. By July 1, 2012, the LA City Council will approve a REDISTRICTING Plan to govern elections in the city of Los Angeles for the next 10 years. Your legacy must be a legacy of protecting human and civil rights. Doing the right thing trumps doing things right!”

Categories: Local

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