New Political Maps Now Official

August 19th, 2011

Posted on Park LaBrea News Beverly Press, by Tim Posada

Local Area to be Represented by 50th Assembly District

The end is near for the California Citizens Redistricting Commission as they released Monday the final drafts of California senate and assembly district maps, concluding the group’s eight-month efforts.

“For far too long, Californians have been frustrated by a legislative process that drew districts that primarily supported the reelection of incumbent legislators,” commissioner Vincent Barabba said in a statement. “The voters showed they wanted fundamental government reforms by creating the Citizens Redistricting Commission, charged with the responsibility to create districts that provided candidates of all political persuasions a fair chance to be elected.”

Little changed since the draft maps were released July 29, including Assembly District 50. Once primarily District 42, District 50 will become home to Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Malibu, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, along with the Hancock Park, Wilshire and Fairfax Districts. Part of the redistricting meant preserving the ecosystem of the region, hence the entire Santa Monica Mountains – Leo Carrillo, Malibu Creek and Topanga State Parks remain together.

Assembly-hopeful Torie Osborn, preparing her candidacy for the 50th District, is pleased with the new lines, more so than District 41, which includes Santa Monica, Oxnard and parts of Ventura County, where she resides.

“If anything, that was a nonsensical district. This district, although it has Agoura Hills, makes sense,” said Osborn, who laughed while she tried to understand why District 50 dips just enough to place UCLA in another district. “I think they did a good job taking into account environmental issues, like having the mountain homes in the district.”

The commission approved the final draft with a 13-1 vote. Commissioner Michael Ward remained the only dissatisfied member, who considered the commission’s actions illegal, riddled with backdoor dealings.

“The Citizens Redistricting Commission has certified maps that are fundamentally flawed as a result of a politically tainted process,” Ward said. “This commission simply traded partisan backroom gerrymandering by the legislature for partisan backroom gerrymandering by average citizens.”

Redistricting is designed to insure equal representation in regions based on population, but the previous efforts have been less than noble, said Kathay Feng, executive director of Common Cause, a non-partisan lobbying group dedicated to open government. She described “gerrymandering” as the unethical practice of mapping based on party lines rather than geographical ones.

“The previous process really exemplified back-room dealing, where incumbents cherry picked voters and excluded potential challengers,” Feng said. “We knew that whatever we did, we had to create a body of individuals who would create lines based on California’s population, not political motivation.”

Ward is not alone in his dissatisfaction though. West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who recently suspended his state assembly campaign, reiterated his confusion over certain aspects of the district lines.

“They included Agoura Hills, which isn’t geographically in line with West Hollywood,” Prang said. “When people think of the westside of L.A. they don’t think of Agoura Hills – that’s the west valley. The commission was supposed to keep in mind geographic boundaries.”

Prang added that that much of the district, like West Hollywood, Santa Monica and, even, Malibu, do align through characteristics like public transportation. He further expressed concern over the senate district, which includes most of Assembly District 50 and stretches down to Long Beach. He especially emphasized one particular ongoing problem in California government.

“In my view, we have the fewest number of legislatures per capita in this state – one million to one,” Prang said. “We need to increase that number to make government more accessible, both for the senate and assembly.”

Rabbi Meyer H. May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, also expressed concern over the new map because it separates a key Jewish community, splitting Pico-Robertson and Beverlywood. He did mention, however, that the Beverlywood line moved since July 29. Previously, the map split the Simon Wiesenthal Center between two districts.

“They clearly reacted to some of the letters they received, ours included, and we thank them for that,” May said. “But at the same time, the Jewish community is divided and that’s disappointing. Nevertheless, we will make the best of our new reality, and we look forward to working with all those who represent us.”
While several Republican groups have condemned the new lines, claiming they favor other parties, no official lawsuits have been filed, but there’s plenty of time for appeals before the 2012 election.

“The beauty of this law is that if there are things that need to be changed, then the California Supreme Court can look at the map and change them if necessary,” Feng said. “That’s all part of the process of allowing the public to determine for themselves if these maps make sense.”

The commission comes after the approval of Proposition 11, the Voters FIRST Act, which places redistricting power in the hands of citizens, rather than legislators.

“We see redistricting as a real actual moment where we can help insure our civic institutes are being fair,” said Chris Ringewald, research manager for the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization responsible for designing the California district maps. “The reason we have the census is to count our population so that political districts are lined as close to one person/one vote.”