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County Board Presides Over Lengthy Redistricting Meeting

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors holds a marathon public hearing on proposed redistricting boundaries that will continue next month.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' public hearing on proposed redistricting changes lasted more than four hours Tuesday, with speakers warning of lawsuits if a second Latino-majority district is not created.

The hearing centered on a proposal brought forth by the county's Boundary Review Committee that was tasked in November 2010 with drawing new lines to reflect population changes found in the 2010 Census.

The county's population grew by 300,000 people to 9.8 million and ideally the five county supervisorial districts would have 1.96 million residents in each district, said Curt Pedersen, chairman of the Boundary Review Committee. The county is the most populous in the country and has a larger population than 42 individual states.

The committee narrowed down its options to two maps and presented the option now known as A-2 to the board for their consideration. The plan largely retains the status quo and moves 150,121 residents into different districts.

An alternative map devised by black and Hispanic interest groups, called S-1, would move 3.4 million residents into different districts and create two Latino-majority districts.

Under the S-1 option, the 3rd District, which includes West Hollywood, would be significantly altered. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky would lose the eastern portion of the San Fernando Valley to Supervisor Gloria Molina's central district, while picking up the southwestern port of Supervisor Don Knabe's district along the Santa Monica Bay to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The 10-member BRC, which consisted of two representatives appointed by each supervisor, voted 6-4 to recommend the status quo map over the plan calling for a second Latino-majority district. The BRC representatives for the white supervisors — Yaroslavsky, Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich — voted to support the status quo alignment, while the committee members appointed by Molina, the Latina representative, and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is black, voted for the alternative map.

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School and redistricting expert, warned the supervisors during a 15-minute presentation that they risked legal action if they did not create two districts in which Latino voters would have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

Latinos now make up 48 percent of the county's population and Levitt warned about "packing" them into just one district.

"There's a very real concern here about meeting the obligations of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965," Levitt said.

He noted that the county was sued after its 1980 redistricting due to gerrymandered boundaries that diluted the Latino vote. A federal district court judge in that case (Garza v. County of Los Angeles) also found that the county had engaged in intentional discrimination in redistrictings in 1959, 1965 and 1971.

Molina in February 1991 became the first Latina ever elected to the Board of Supervisors thanks in large part to the Garza decision.

The lone elected dissenters were state Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, who represents Cerritos, Buena Park and others areas in his 56th Assembly District, and Cudahy Mayor Josue Barrios.

"The status quo plan, A-2, does not do anything for San Gabriel Valley cities because the coastal part of the district continues to dominate elections and therefore representation," Mendoza said.

Barrios also said that Latinos need more fair representation.

"We are not here to protect incumbents," Barrios said. "We are here to protect the residents of the community."

Supporters of the S-1 option addressed the board during the second half of the meeting. 

Tunua Thrash, a member of the African-American Redistricting Collaborative, reminded the board that they drew on numerous communities of interest to draw up the S-1 map.

"Today's conversation should not be celebrating localization efforts and email blasts. Redistricting is not about intimidation, rather it is an act that promotes accountability," Thrash said. "I urge you to be accountable to all Angelenos by voting for S-1, a map that provides real opportunity for real people."

She also urged the board to avoid the appearance of "incumbent protection."

Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, reminded the board that he litigated the Garza case 20 years ago and warned of unintentional discrimination in the redistricting process.

"I hope that this community will spare a repeat of the divisiveness that resulted the last time around," Rosenbaum said. "The testimony that I've heard so far this afternoon on behalf of keeping the status quo is a carbon copy of what I heard 20 years ago. The promise of redistricting is the promise of the American dream, that our democracy was constructed to grow and become more inclusive."

The board voted unanimously to continue the public hearing on A-2 on Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. and will hold a second public hearing in which other maps could be considered Sept. 27.

The board set a deadline of Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. for a supervisor to submit another map for consideration.

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