On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11-2 to oppose a piece of state legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 52, by L.A.’s own Maria Elena Durazo, which would give the state legislature the authority to establish and Independent Redistricting Commission for the City of L.A. Those 11 Councilmembers should be embarrassed.

We strongly believe the Los Angeles City Council has forfeited its right to establish its own boundaries, especially in the wake of the racist audio recording last year that exposed then Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon, and labor leader Ron Herrera as either expressing or at the very least condoning racist remarks. The discussion they were having, many forget, was about how to chop up city council districts to benefit themselves and punish other councilmembers they didn’t like. The scandal renewed calls for the city to embrace an independent commission, and rightly so.

For most of its history, the California Legislature was also allowed to choose its own voters, rather than empower the voters to determine their elected member’s districts. But thankfully, Californians passed a proposition in 2008 that took that power out of their hands and created the State’s Independent Redistricting Commission. In the two cycles of redistricting it has governed, the state commission hasn’t made everyone happy, but has largely received high marks for creating districts that make more geographic sense and, in some cases, made them more competitive.

The same principle should apply here. Just as Willie Brown, Bob Hertzberg, and all the speakers before them held too much power to carve up California, creating safe districts for themselves, so too should Council President Paul Krekorian and his successors cede power to an independent commission. If Nury and company were corrupt in their orchestrating district boundaries, certainly past councils were just as guilty. It’s really a ridiculous notion, actually, that they should be anywhere near being allowed to govern this process themselves.

Krekorian, for his part, seemed to think himself brave by calling on his colleagues to support the opposition measure, telling them that redistricting was their responsibility and they shouldn’t shirk such duty. Hogwash. Should a police department be allowed to pick the members of its own citizen’s oversight commission, simply because they may feel dutybound? Of course not.

Krekorian and others also claimed SB 52 isn’t constitutional, arguing the redistricting process is codified in the City Charter, and can therefore only be changed by L.A. city voters. But according to reporting by the L.A. Daily News, esteemed constitutional scholar and Dean of Berkeley’s Bolt Law School, Erwin Chemerinsky, says it would be legal because the matter is “of statewide concern.” If they had any altruistic intent, the council would be leading the charge for an independent commission themselves.

Regardless, the measure should be passed in Sacramento and signed by the governor. The courts can do their thing, but should certainly at least be afforded the chance. Angelenos don’t have time to soothe the bruised egos of L.A. Councilmembers who fancy themselves so rich in integrity, but who know better about how the redistricting process has been systematically abused for decades. Don’t let them hold onto this power. Call your councilmembers today and tell them they were wrong to oppose this and that you as a constituent want to see an Independent Redistricting Commission for the City of L.A.

Districts Containing at Least Some Westside Voice Coverage Area:

Council District 4 – Nithya Raman (213) 473-7004

Council District 5 – Katy Yaroslavsky (213) 473-7005

Council District 10 – Heather Hutt (213) 473-7010

Council District 11 – Traci Park (213) 473-7011

Council District 13 – Hugo Soto-Martinez (213) 473-7013

Image by bodrumsurf

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