The Citizens Commission, tasked with redrawing political boundaries in Los Angeles, urged city leaders Thursday to expand the number of boroughs, saying such a move would meet “the needs of a complex and changing” city.
In a report submitted to the council, the 21-person Redistricting Commission said LA has spent nearly a century on the same number of boroughs – and lags other major cities in council-to-voter ratios. The commission’s plan, approved last week, assigns approximately 260,000 residents to each of the 15 counties.
“The expansion of the number of boroughs is necessary to better create the borough boundaries that reflect the 99 boroughs and 114 boroughs,” the commission said in its report, which was adopted by 14 votes to 6.
The recommendation was one of several in the Commission’s final report, which concludes a year-long decision-making process by around two dozen volunteers – some longtime politicians, others newbies to the world of politics.
The panel presented a map that, if approved by the council, would introduce significant changes for three parishes in the San Fernando Valley. And she recommended that the next map-making process, planned for 2031, be taken completely out of the hands of the council and given to a truly independent body.
California Common Cause, a government affairs watchdog group, took a similar stance this week, releasing a letter arguing that the Commission’s work was “controlled by politicians behind the scenes” – and was “fundamentally flawed”.
“Despite our repeated demands for more independence and transparency, the city council has deliberately ignored these demands to ensure that you and your employees can continue to manipulate the process to your advantage,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, managing director of the group.
The Council is due to take up the Commission’s proposal on Tuesday. Proposals to change the map must be submitted that day, according to a memo from the council’s senior legislative analyst.
According to the map proposed by the commission, either Alderman Paul Krekorian or Alderman Nithya Raman would end up in an entirely new West Valley district – an idea opposed by their supporters and a number of neighborhood councils. Raman was elected for her first term last year while Krekorian was elected for his third.
Raman and Krekorian have harshly criticized the card, saying that it deprives voters of the right to vote and needs to be revised.
Council President Nury Martinez has already suggested that an ad hoc Council committee start revising the Commission’s proposal, saying it is “worrying” for “many marginalized communities”.
“If we are to build a stronger, fairer Los Angeles, we need a map that reflects that,” she said in a statement.
Fred Ali, a Martinez-appointed chairman and chairman of the commission, has denied the President-in-Office’s allegations over the past few days. On Thursday, he said the map was not perfect but reflected extensive public comments over the past year.
“All in all, I’m very proud of this card,” he said. “I am very proud of the report we are putting for your approval today.”
In its report, the Commission did not say how much bigger the council should be. Instead, the panel recommended that city leaders set up a task force to develop a strategy to achieve this goal.
Any expansion of the city council would require a change in the city statute, which in turn requires the approval of the voters. The idea of expanding the number of parish wards was a topic in several city campaigns.
Raman ran for office last year with the idea of expanding the council. City of Atty. Mike Feuer, who is now running for mayor, announced last month that he would urge voters to double the number of parishes in 2024 – after winning his race for mayor.
According to his proposal, the salaries of each council member would be halved.