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Independent redistricting commission plan unanimously approved by LA City Council

Los Angeles City Hall is pictured. The LA City Council unanimously approved a proposal for an independent redistricting commission Nov. 29. Further approval will be required by voters next year. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sharla Steinman

Dec. 6, 2023 6:26 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Paul Krekorian’s name.

This post was updated Dec. 6 at 11:55 p.m.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a proposal Nov. 29 that, if approved by voters in 2024, will allow an independent redistricting commission to redraw council districts for future elections.

The proposal was the first assignment the Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform worked on following its creation last November, after three councilmembers made racist remarks in a leaked recording discussing methods to redraw districts in their favor.

[Related: Editorial: Racist council members must resign; redistricting should be investigated]

Councilmember Nithya Raman said during the meeting that the decision came in response to the lack of trust Angelenos have felt in their elected representatives. She added that giving power back to the people is one way the council is building that trust back.

“This redistricting is an important first step on how we as a council say that in order for this city to be governed in the best interests of the people of Los Angeles, we actually need to step back from the powers that we have in our own hands and to give those back to Los Angeles,” Raman said during the meeting.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years following the United States Census. Under the current system, councilmembers appoint redistricting commissioners to create new maps, which are then approved and implemented by the LA City Council.

If approved by voters, the city clerk would appoint 16 members and four alternate members to serve on the independent commission for 10-year terms. Members would be unable to run for office or work for elected officials or the city until four years after their time on the commission has ended if they leave prematurely, or once they complete their 10-year term.

LA City Council President Paul Krekorian said during the meeting that the committee heard hours of public comment and received detailed reports from academic experts and community organizations.

“This is a historic moment, because this city adopted geographical districts for the city council 100 years ago, and in that 100 years, there has never been a single time when those districts have been drawn independently of the city council,” Krekorian said during the meeting.

While all members of the city council voted in support of the proposal, Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Imelda Padilla introduced amendments to alter the proposal that were later approved by the council.

Harris-Dawson’s first amendment asked to reduce wait times for city workers from four to two years. His second amendment asked for the independent commission to change the proposal’s wording to consider a district’s economic and cultural assets throughout the redistricting process.

During the meeting, Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez supported Harris-Dawson’s amendment.

“It’s naive of us to not see that for what it is and try to create something on paper that acknowledges that process,” Hernandez said. “If we need to tackle it through planning policy and other things, let’s start doing that right now.”

Councilmember Kevin de León, who was involved in the redistricting scandal last year, said during the meeting that he supports Harris-Dawson’s amendment because he acknowledges that economic assets have been historically gerrymandered, which is the act of manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party or class.

Raman said she believes the issue is with the city’s land use rather than redistricting.

Padilla’s amendment called for a change in requirements for applicants to have resided three years in the city to five years.

“People that are on this commission should have been here long enough to witness and experience an election,” Padilla said. “With three, the possibility is you never did.”

Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, who supported Padilla’s motion, said during the meeting that it is important for people on the commission to have lived experience in the city, especially in a region as diverse as LA. She added that five years is a reasonable compromise to ensure that someone knows the nuances of the city.

“I’m glad we’re starting to advance an actual, authentically independent redistricting process,” Rodriguez said during the meeting. “I won’t be silent in pretending that there weren’t substantial interventions from members that remain on this council that were involved in that process.”

 

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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