The first of two hearings on the proposed redrawing of boundaries for the five LA County Supervisors’ districts took place on Tuesday of this week and the house—meaning the LA County Sups chamber—was packed. Eight hundred residents filled the chamber plus multiple overflow rooms and approximately 500 people signed up to speak on the three proposed redistricting plans, one put forth by Gloria Molina, a second by Mark Ridley -homas, a third by Don Knabe. The Molina and the Ridley-Thomas plans would redraw district lines—radically in some areas in the case of the Molina plan—in order to create a second majority Latino district, giving Latino residents influence that is more commensurate with their numbers in the county. (Molina’s district 1 is already 75 percent Latino. )
However creating a second district with a high majority of Latino residents under the Molina plan would mean, among other changes, moving nearly 3.5 million county residents from one district to another district with which they are unfamiliar. This means that, with the stroke of a pen, approximately 3.5 million residents would be represented by a supervisor whom they don’t know, and for whom they never voted. In the case of the large numbers of residents moved out of Zev Yaroslavsky’s District 3 and into Don Knabe’s District, the dislocated residents would have the added disenfranchisement of not getting to elect a new Sup until 2016 when Knabe terms out, instead of in 2014 when Yaroslavsky terms out.
Critics of the Molina plan also said that district rejiggering would splinter blocks of ethnic minorities and interest groups in such a way that would radically reduce their influence and effectiveness.
For example, one of the most vocal groups at Tuesday’s hearing was a contingent of around 50 Cambodian-Americans from Long Beach who said they represented 50,000 Cambodians now living in Knabe’s 4th District. They would be split up by Molina’s plan, said those who spoke from the Cambodian contingent, thus they strongly opposed it. “We do not believe the theory that people will only vote for a candidate of their own race. We believe that people will vote for the best candidate [to] represent them…”
Asian Pacific Islanders were another group who said that the Molina plan would unnecessarily damage their political influence in the county. Thus in giving more voice and power to one ethnic group, voice and power was being taken away from a whole list of other ethnic minorities, they said..
Those living in and around the Santa Monica Mountains also expressed their opposition to the Molina plan, which they said would fracture hard won alliances built over decades to promote and support fire suppression and disaster preparedness and recovery in the fire and flood-prone hills. (Full disclosure: many from this group had driven to the meeting from my hometown of Topanga.)
The LA Times has a good set of interactive maps that let you see how the various plans compare.
The next hearing on the issue will be held later this month. After that, the supervisors will try to arrive at a decision. Since three supervisors— Yaroslavsky, Antonovich and Knabe— are all in favor of Knabe’s plan, they are expected to attempt to horse trade with Ridley-Thomas to get his vote, making it a passing vote of four.
If the horse-trading fails and one side or the other cannot get a four-vote majority, the decision will go to an outside committee made up of Sheriff Lee Baca, DA Steve Cooley, and Assessor John R. Noguez.. This is a solution that the Sups on both sides of the question are hoping to avoid.
PS: I just noticed that, according to 2010 figures, the combined Asian and Pacific Islander population of LA County is 14 percent, as opposed to LA County’s Black population of 8.7 percent (by 2010 figures). Yet, the Molina plan has no trouble further fracturing the distribution—and thus the influence— of the Asian/Pac Island populations with this moving about of lines, nevermind that the API group is the 2nd largest ethnic population in LA County, ahead of Blacks.