Every 10 years, elected officials redraw their district lines to make sure they’re representing their constituents well. At least, that’s what they’re supposed to do. Redistricting usually means drawing lines that make sure an incumbent stays in office for a long time.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is drawing its new district lines. The supervisors heard Tuesday from dozens of people on the idea of creating a second majority-Latino district.
Five people serve on the board. Only one is Latino. Federal law requires redistricting every 10 years to reflect population changes. And with Latinos oh so close to reaching 50 percent of LA County’s population, Supervisor Gloria Molina and Latino activists say it’s time for a district besides hers to also have a majority of Latinos. Loyola Law Professor Justin Levitt presented their side early in the hearing.
"The Board of Supervisors risks legal action that could jeopardize all of the very hard work of the boundary review committee because there’s a very real concern here about meeting the obligations of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965," Levitt said.
A majority on that boundary review committee supports a redistricting plan that makes small adjustments to the current map. The alternative proposal that would create a second majority-Latino district would also make big changes to the districts of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe. State Assemblyman Tony Mendoza supports that alternative. He represents Artesia, Whittier and other San Gabriel Valley cities.
"I know what the political realities are: Even a well-known Latino candidate can’t win against supervisor Knabe when the main goal is to re-elect Supervisor Knabe by approving a district that is dominated by coastal communities that don’t share anything common with the San Gabriel valley cities," Mendoza said.
But mayors and other officials from several L.A. County cities lined up to take the opposing view.
"Don Knabe’s been our supervisor, and you know, we like where we’re at. We wanna stay in that 4th district," said Norwalk Mayor Mike Mendez. He spoke proudly of his 23 years on the Norwalk City Council and of his Hispanic heritage.
"I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great if we can have a Hispanic elected official that speaks Spanish. But I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world. I think it’s who that person is. And is he out there and does he have the compassion for his constituency," Mendez said.
The supervisors plan to hold a second hearing next month on the best way to draw their district lines.