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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

More LA County Supervisors? Latest redistribution process prompts call for change

A historic, but turbulent county-level redistribution process has given rise to new discussion in local government of an old but very urgent issue: Should the number of Los Angeles County supervisors – currently five – be expanded?

This is an issue that has been resolved long before 2021. But it has recently gained new currency amid the county redistribution process, during which the first of its kind independent Citizens Redistribution Commission approved a new map on Wednesday, December 15.

The map redrawn the area’s five supervisory district lines.

The work of the 14-member commission – the first to redraw the decennial map without the involvement or approval of a board of observers – offers a glimpse into the despair of trying to create fair and equitable political boundaries when every change benefits a portion. One population may have a negative effect on others.

For a vast county—10 million people, 88 cities, 122 unincorporated areas, more than 100 LA neighborhood cities, and dozens of communities of interest—the task was, ahem, not easy. go figure.

In its final report, the commission recommended “the County of Los Angeles should explore a ballot measure and legislative changes to increase the number of boards of supervisors.”

The commission noted that throughout the year, there was a constant refrain from the public that the number of districts in the county be increased by more than five.

“It is also quite clear that if we can draw 15 districts they will be very different,” said Daniel Mayeda, co-chair of the commission, during the deliberations of the commission. “We’ll have a lot of different ideas that you might not have when you’re forced to choose just five.

“We should at least raise the question. I mean it’s clearly an elephant in the room.”

A screenshot of the Los Angeles County Independent Citizens Redistribution Commission

That was evident in the Elephant Marathon Commission meetings, during which commissioners had to deal with dividing “communities of interest” across counties or even grouping them into districts where the force of their voting power could be diluted. Is. This is a challenge for any commission, but given the size and diversity of LA County, the challenge is heightened.

The commission encountered varying interests from communities, some who wanted to remain “the whole” in their current supervisory district, or who wanted to maintain historical bonds with neighboring areas. Some were concerned about being grouped into a whole new district represented by new supervisors and joined by communities with which they had little to do.

The scenarios played out as commissioners jeopardized the traditional voting force of African Americans in South LA, whether or not to repopulate heavily Latino Southeast LA communities in District 2, you saw tension in a proposal that included the San Fernando Valley. Coastal communities were grouped in the same district as the communities. ,

The California Constitution defines a community of interest as “a population that shares common social and economic interests that must be included in the same district for the purposes of its effective and fair representation.”

They are united by common policy concerns. And there are plenty of them in LA County—large and small, some with more or less influence than others—all who pushed the commission and pulled over to draw a map that was in their favor.

Observers say more supervisory districts in the county would not only make the commission’s work easier, but also make democracy more direct in an area where each supervisor currently represents 2 million people.

Observers will be more accountable, proponents argue.

Observers say this year’s redeployment process was eye-opening, as well as exacerbating the need for expansion.

“I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that we need an expanded council and county governing board,” said UnrigLA’s Rob Kwan, who advocates for more representative government. “But I didn’t really fully appreciate it until this redistribution process, when you look at the inherent limitations, and how difficult it is.”

He points to the challenges in the City of L.A. redistribution process, where he tried to create his maps. The task was difficult even within the boundaries of 15 districts and the need to balance population between districts. The difference was that in the city of LA, the commission was not independent of the city council, which eventually approved the final map. (The council is considering moving to an independent commission for the next rescheduling of the city in 10 years.)

Kwan said that in a sense, getting legislators to sign makes life easier. But not necessarily better.

“It’s a lot easier when you draw the line to politicians,” he said. “When Nouri Martinez says, ‘The map’s done,’ it’s done. But when you have a commission trying to really represent communities and figure out how to do things, it’s hard. “

Actually. The City of LA redistribution commission report also recommended increasing the number of city council districts from 15 to better create council district boundaries that represent the city’s 99 neighborhood councils and 114 neighborhoods. Ultimately, Los Angeles County lags behind other large cities in the state and nation with respect to the ratio between council members and residents,” the report reads.

Ultimately, he said, the county’s commission was carrying a heavy burden, with “limited puzzle pieces”.

Kwan and others acknowledged that even nine observers would not be a panacea.

“But it would be much easier to unite some of these communities,” he said.

The idea of ​​increasing the number of observers over such a large area is not new to LA County. It’s been tried, and it failed, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.

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He pointed to the state constitution, which calls for five-member boards at the county level. Only one problem: The constitution was designed to outline early California, with counties no more than 100,000.

“They were very, very small, so you could argue that the boards were doing a good job of representing their components,” he said.

But flash-forward to LA County 2021.

“When you have a county that has more than 10 million people, you’re talking about 2 million in each county district,” he said.

However, changing the status quo has not been easy.

It was difficult enough getting the county to produce a supervisory district representative of the county’s Latino population.

It fought for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990, where the court upheld US District Court Judge David V. Kenyon’s decision that the County Board of Supervisors discriminated against Latinos when in 1981 in Eastern LA and San Gabriel. District lines were drawn in Valley. The case led to a new Latino-majority district.

But it was still five districts representing vast areas of Southern California.

You’d think that voters might be happy about smaller districts, because it would bring them closer to their elected leaders, who would theoretically be more accountable. Not necessarily, say experts.

“Voters are very concerned about more politicians being elected to a representative or legislative body,” Regalado said.

Not that the groups haven’t tried.

Back in 2017, Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), backed by a group of 10 state senators, introduced a statewide voting measure that would expand the board of observers from five to seven members and a new, elected county chief executive. Will make ,

This was opposed by the County Board of Supervisors, who said the fate of the board should not be determined by voters in LA County. Elected leaders such as then-supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and state Senator Henry Stern, D-Woodland Hills, came out against the measure on the grounds that the county’s fate should not be determined by voters from outside the county.

The Mendoza effort — seeking to gain legislative approval for the proposed expansion on a statewide ballot — was gaining some momentum in the Legislature, said Alan Clayton, who has presented proposed redistribution maps over the years, and who lobbied for more districts. helped in the efforts. But after Mendoza’s abrupt resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct, just before his colleagues threatened to expel him, the effort failed.

“He was the last person who would do this stuff,” Clayton said.

Complicating things, voters often align with politicians, who have the incentive to retain their power in vast districts.

“It’s all about power,” Regalado said. “It’s hard to leave when you have it.”

This would not be the first time such an attempt to expand the board has failed. This has reportedly happened eight times since 1926.

There are some contradictions within the current board of supervisors.

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