Redistricting Forum at Occidental College

Community 2 to 1 in Favor of Unifying in One CD

by Tom Topping

On February, 6, 2012, Northeast Los Angeles residents had a chance to tell the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission how they felt about the recently re-drawn districts. The forum, held at Thorne Hall in Occidental College looked pretty empty as only about 100 seats were taken by community members wanting to have their say.

The evening got off to a stressful start for me as the Occidental Campus Security officer who manned the main gate gave no consideration to my need to let off my handicapped mother near the theater entrance, as her emphysema would have made her walk to get in a very long and difficult one. (Hmmm… That may have been an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) violation come to think of it.) I just drove in from the other side and had no problem getting her to a comfortable bench there while I parked my car. (Thankyou CD14 staffer Zenay Loera for looking after her for a couple of minutes) I called Oxy Security to offer them a chance to respond, but they hung up on me. I am still waiting for Occidental Communications to call me back as well.

However, back at the hearing, many staffers of Councilman Jose Huizar were there in attendance, presumably to see who was there and to hear what they said. The chair of the commission started off the meeting by explaining how Northeast L.A. Council Districts would be affected by the proposed maps as currently drawn. He mentioned particularly about that changes to CD14 where Highland Park and Mt. Washington would be removed from the district, and most of Downtown L.A. would be added. He then explained the criteria the commission used to draw the districts.

Number one was that there should be equal potions of population in each district. Secondly, because of the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution, race cannot be used as criteria. However, the third criteria seemingly is in direct conflict with the second, being that because of the voting rights act, they cannot deprive minority voters, either.

The final criteria was to comply with city, state and federal law to achieve contiguity, compactness, respect existing boundaries and communities of interest.

CD 14 Councilman Jose Huizar was the first to speak, thanking Occidental College for the venue and the Redistricting Commissioners for their work. One, by one, community activists from the Northeast and some from the rest of the city got up to have their say.

Bob Aranaga, who some of you may recognize for his work on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee only had one thing to say, and that was that Eagle Rock should remain in the 14th District of Jose Huizar so that the many projects he is working on, namely the Take Back the Boulevard Initiative, would continue under the supervision of Mr. Huizar. Bob Gotham, president of TERA echoed those sentiments when he had his turn to speak, also vouching in favor of both the new and the old boundaries which place Eagle Rock in CD14.

Cathy Milligan of Highland Park, a York Blvd. business owner, had a similar desire, the difference being that she thought the York Boulevard improvement effort, started under Jose Huizar, would best be served by continuing under his jurisdiction. She wanted York Boulevard to remain in CD14 like the current districts are, which would require that the proposed Highland Park boundaries be redrawn into the 14th district, or simply reverted back to the current one which splits that community between two councilmen.

Tina Gulotta Miller of Garvanza also expressed her desire for the Garvanza Area to remain in CD14.

These and others from CD14 and Northeast L.A. basically ignored what might be best for the area in the long run and said they liked the job Jose Huizar was doing and that they wanted him to continue to be their councilman. Others, however had a different idea.

Nancy Wyatt of Highland Park fretted that having Highland Park split between two districts as it has been for the last ten years was something that should be changed, and that because Eagle Rock and Highland Park shared so much, they should be together in the same council district.

Kaye Beckham of Eagle Rock read a letter on behalf of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce that also asked for Eagle Rock and Highland Park to be united under the same councilman. Many others echoed this view and added that Northeast L.A. in its entirety should be under the same district.

As there were conflicting voices over whether the majority of Northeast L.A. should be split between two councilmembers or unified under one, there was no argument when it came to the folks from Glassell Park. “Glassell Park, Cypress Park and Mt. Washington should be in the same one,” said Tony Scudalleri of Glassell Park. His partner Doug Dawson said, “All Northeast should be in one district.”

Laura Guiterrez, a major player in the Van de Kamps coalition said, “We need to be whole.” Mitch O’Farrell, a Glassell Park stalwart was in favor of Glassell Park being entirely in CD13, where he has announced he will be running for that council seat next year. Ruby de Vera, a Glassell Park activist who has worked for both CD1 Councilman Ed Reyes and former CD14 Richard Alatorre said, “create a unified Northeast L.A.”

Tony Butka of Glassell Park was one of the few who spoke openly and critically about the proposed districts when he said, “They’re just as gerrymandered as last time,” and indeed, the tell-tale “Dragon” shape of a gerrymandered district fairly describes all three of the council districts in the Northeast area, 1, 13 and 14.

As the map shows here, (also available at http://redistricting2011.lacity.org/LACITY/draftMap.html), Northeast L.A. is broken up into three districts, pretty much as it is now. Although we share the same churches and roads and restaurants we must be split into three separate council districts.

Commissioners were interested in hearing about how the Northeast Community Plan that was created by volunteers some ten or more years ago, combined the communities of Northeast L.A. as they questioned Laura Guitterrez at length about it.

The next commission hearing is downtown at L.A. City Hall on Wednesday, February 8th at 6:30 p.m.

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