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Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Process Ends In Verbal Fireworks

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This story comes courtesy of The City Maven.

By Alice M. Walton

An explosion of verbal fireworks set off the Los Angeles City Council's 90 minute discussion and vote on new district boundaries today as Councilwoman Jan Perry told the council president she regretted speaking out about what she saw as a corrupted process because it ultimately led to the destruction of her district.

The 13-2 vote to approve a new map and instruct the City Attorney's Office to write an implementing ordinance came after three hours of public testimony from angry and confused Angelenos, many of whom questioned the entire redistricting process.

The most vocal critic of the redistricting process was Perry, who released a letter last fall that stated the redistricting process was being tainted by the election of Councilman Herb Wesson to council president. Wesson has denied having a hand in the redistricting process. Regardless, Perry started off her comments this afternoon with a mea culpa, of sorts.

Perry said:

If I had the ability to turn the clock back to the day when I came to see you, to talk to you about your run for president and we had an exchange and I had questions which, in retrospect, perhaps I was impertinent. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so direct. If I had known then what I know now, I would have kept my mouth shut so that my district would not be sacrificed. Here we are, at the end of this process, and for me I feel your wrath, I feel your power.

I'm the only woman on the city council now. I'm one woman out of 14 men. This is a lesson in the wise use of power, to respect the process, to respect the people, and to do their business in the light of day. I want to tell you publicly, Mr. President, I regret not voting for you and I am sorry. As a woman, I'm completely comfortable saying that because I'm fighting for something bigger than the both of us. For those of you who have commented they don't like to see three African-Americans fighting amongst each other, don't marginalize the issue. It's bigger than that. We are fighting for the futures of our communities.

The comments from the Ninth District councilwoman had no impact as the council ultimately voted to move Little Tokyo, Skid Row, Civic Center, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Music Center, Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill out of her district. The Ninth District will hang onto Staples Center and pick up USC and Exposition Park.

Perry and Councilman Bernard Parks, who was the other dissenting vote, had worked out a technical amendment that would have allowed USC to remain in Parks' Eighth District in exchange for a population shift in the southern parts of their districts. However, the city council rejected that amendment and did not approve a request to suspend the rules of order for further discussion.

Two other amendments, one which moved Stonehurst from CD6 to CD7 and another which allowed the Second and Fourth districts to share the Campo de Cahuenga area, were unanimously approved.

Requests from the Korean-American community to place Koreatown in the Thirteenth District, rather than the Tenth District, were ignored. The executive director of the Korean American Coalition, Grace Yoo, said the group will sue over the new map.

"Creating a map is not pretty, but a lawsuit will be far worse and that's the only place you're leaving us," Yoo said. "You think our grounds are weak? Talk to your attorneys. Consider it because we are strong."

Earlier in the day, the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved an amendment that will keep the entire Westchester community in the Eleventh District and parts of Baldwin Hills Estates and the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Mall in the Eighth District.

Under the new map, there will be five districts with a majority Latino citizen voting-age population -- districts 1, 6, 7, 9 and 14. The Eighth District will remain a predominately African-American district.

In the end, the Los Angeles City Council spent little more than an hour discussing the map that will define the 15 council districts for the next 10 years.

Much of the work was done at the Redistricting Commission level. That commission was made up of 21 members appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city attorney, controller and members of the Los Angeles City Council. The commission's executive director was Andrew Westall - a senior deputy for Wesson.

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on an implementing ordinance in early May.


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