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South L.A. Residents Testify Before Redistricting Commission
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2021

Tim Watkins, president/CEO of WLCAC, testifies during the redistricting hearing. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

Black and Brown residents shared their thoughts about the composition of Council District 9 during the September 2 meeting of the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission.

The comments were delivered at the latest public hearing that the commission hosted as part of the redistricting process, which requires that the boundaries of council districts be redrawn following each census and that each district be approximately equal in size.

In preparing their recommended redistricting plan for the City Council, the 21-member commission takes into account the testimony given by citizens detailing the histories and experiences that impact and define their neighborhoods. The goal, according to the commission, is to ensure inclusive representation, secure needed assets, and maintain a strong community.

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“The purpose of today’s hearing is to hear from you and how you describe your community, what makes your community unique and what you and your neighbors share in common,” said Commissioner Miguel Martinez, who was appointed to the commission by CD 9 Councilmember Curren D. Price.

“This is vital in the redistricting process and in the recreation of new boundaries. People who have common interest and needs often benefit from being grouped together in a single district. We value your time, so thank you for being here today,” he added.

Also, the Black redistricting commissioners – the Rev. Edward Anderson, Charisse Bremond-Weaver and Valerie Lynne Shaw, appointed by CD 10 Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti and CD 8 Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, respectively – were on hand for the hearing as well as.

Read Related:Make Your Voice Heard – Redistricting will determine the future of Black political representation

 The meeting opened with some community members expressing a desire to maintain the current borders of CD 9.  Citing the importance of historical neighborhoods such as University Park and institutions like USC, the constituents stressed their interest in keeping these areas within the council district.

“Neighborhoods like Adams Normandie, University Park and Exposition Park need to be protected, not…separated,” said Jacqueline Dupont-Walker, MTA commissioner and executive director of Ward Economic Development Corporation, which operates affordable housing complexes in CD 9.

“Please continue to look at equity and ensure that CD 9 is a vibrant district economically and recognize the kind of leadership that our current councilmember gives,” she said.

Redistricting Commissioners held their 15th public hearing via Zoom on Sept. 2. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

Read Related: The Census, Redistricting and The Republican Conspiracy

The Rev. Patricia Strong Vargas, pastor of Mount Salem Church at 762 S. Central Avenue, also urged the commission “to keep our community and council district together.”

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“We have built a culture and unit and a neighborhood that the city would really be proud of, but we got to stay together. Our community is made up of diverse neighborhoods, rich with history and culture and full of interesting and unique places to enjoy. Our neighborhood has culture and we would like it to stay the same,” insisted Vargas.

Other speakers echoing the opinion that CD 9 should keep its current boundaries included Pastor William Smart, president/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California; Dolce Vasquez, the owner of two properties in the district; and the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, pastor of Weller Baptist Church and president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of L.A. and Southern California.

Benjamin Torres, president/CEO of CD Tech, proposed going beyond keeping CD 9 together to preserving all of South Los Angeles for Black and Brown representation.  Torres said his organization focuses on “race equity in the 8th, 9th and 10th Council Districts” and he wanted those district to remain untouched.

 

“We have worked very hard to forge an identity around historic South L.A. that builds unity between Black, Brown and undocumented residents. We built that unity through struggle, through community building, organizing, and love,” said Torres. “Love for our community and our neighborhood. We believe that grass root residents of low income must have a seat at the table if we’re going to transform.”

Another suggestion about an expanded CD 9 came from Tim Watkins, president/CEO of Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), who requested that the commission consider incorporating the Watts neighborhood into the district.    Currently, Watts is part of CD 15, which mainly covers San Pedro, Wilmington and the Harbor section of Los Angeles.

Preceding his testimony with a short video advocating for the Watts’ annexation, Watkins urged, “The four-minute clip expresses why it’s so important that the area of Watts be considered for inclusion in CD 9. Looking at the map [of CD 15], we’re like on a island and we desperately want to be with neighbors.”

Similar comments came from speakers such as Keenan, a WLCAC volunteer, who stated, “The people of Watts are not seeing the community growth like in San Pedro. We belong in CD 9,” and Marcel, who plainly said, “We don’t have anything in common with San Pedro.”

Also speaking was Maryanne, who asserted, “I’m proud to be a Watts resident and I’m here to tell you that change needs to come. I’ve been here many years and I have not seen change. We deserve it. A couple of miles down, they have all the luxuries and support and the school system and the communities when we don’t have it here! Commissioners, can you get it right?”

The redistricting commission meeting lasted nearly three hours with a large number of people testifying about their viewpoint concerning CD 9.  As the meeting concluded, attendees were invited to participate in future meetings via Zoom or by telephone.

The next public hearing is set for Wednesday, September 8, at 6 p.m., and will focus on CD 8.  On Saturday, September 11, at 10 a.m., the public hearing will cover all council districts.

People can also submit comments via email at [email protected] or by using the comment form at laccrc2021.org.

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