More LA county overseers? Recent reallocation process calls for a change – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
A historic but stormy redistribution process at the county level has sparked a new discussion on an old but very timely issue in local government: Should Los Angeles County’s number of overseers – currently five – be increased?
It’s an issue that was addressed long before 2021. But it has taken on new meaning in the recent reallocation process, where an independent commission for the reallocation of citizens of their kind approved a new card on Wednesday 15th December.
The map redrawn the region’s five supervisory district lines.
The work of the 14-person commission – the first to redraw the ten-year map without the involvement or approval of the board of directors – provided a glimpse into the frustrations of trying to create fair and equitable political boundaries when any change that would benefit any part of the world Population could negatively affect others.
For such a huge county – 10 million residents, 88 cities, 122 unincorporated areas, 100+ Los Angeles neighborhoods, and dozens of interest groups – the task was, uh, not easy. Imagine that.
In its final report, the commission recommended “that Los Angeles County consider voting and legislative changes to increase the number of board members.”
The commission noted that throughout the year there was consistent public reluctance to increase the number of counties in the county beyond five.
“It is also absolutely clear that if we could draw 15 districts, they would be quite different,” Commission co-chair Daniel Mayeda said in the waning days of the commission’s deliberations. “We’d make a lot of different considerations that you can’t have if you only had to choose five.
“We should at least ask the question. I mean, there is definitely an elephant in the room. “
A screenshot from the Los Angeles County Indpendent Citizens Redistricting Commission
This elephant showed up in marathon commission meetings where commissioners had to tackle how they could prevent “interest groups” across the county from being split up or even grouped into districts that could potentially dilute the power of their voting rights. It’s a challenge for any commission, but given the size and diversity of LA County, the challenge has been compounded.
The commission was faced with differing interests from municipalities, some of which wanted to remain “entirely” in their current supervisory district or wanted to maintain historical links with neighboring areas. Some were concerned about being reorganized into a whole new district, represented by a new overseer and communities with which they may have little in common.
The scenarios played out as commissioners debated whether to move heavily Latin American communities in southeast LA to District 2 to endanger the traditional African American electorate in south LA.
The California constitution defines a community of interests as “a cohesive population that shares common social and economic interests that should be incorporated into a single district for the purposes of their effective and fair representation.”
They share common political concerns. And there are many of them in LA County – big and small, some with more or less influence than others – all pushing and pulling the commission to draw a map that benefited them.
Observers say more supervisory districts in the county would not only make the Commission’s work easier, but also make democracy more direct in a region where each supervisory authority currently represents 2 million people.
The supervisors would be more responsive, claim supporters.
This year’s reallocation process has opened eyes while adding to the need for expansion, say observers.
“I’ve always supported the idea that we need an expanded council and an expanded county board,” said Rob Quan of UnrigLA, who advocates a more representative government. “But until this redistribution process, I didn’t really appreciate seeing the inherent limitations and how difficult it is.”
He points out the challenges of redistributing the city of LA where he tried to draw his own maps. The task was difficult, even within the boundaries of 15 districts and the need to balance the population between the districts. The difference was that in the city of LA the commission was not independent from the city council that eventually approved the final map. (The council is considering moving to an independent commission for the next reorganization of the city in 10 years.)
In some ways, legislature approval makes life easier, Quan said. But not necessarily better.
“It’s a lot easier when politicians draw the line,” he said. “If Nury Martinez says the card is done, it’s done. But when you have a commission that is really trying to represent communities and figure out how to do things, it’s difficult. “
As a matter of fact. The LA City Redistribution Commission report also recommended increasing the number of city council districts from 15 “to better create the borough boundaries that reflect the 99 neighborhoods and 114 neighborhoods. Ultimately, Los Angeles lags behind other major cities in the county, state and nation in terms of councilor-to-residents ratios, ”the report said.
Ultimately, he said, the district commission carries a heavy burden of “limited puzzle pieces”.
Quan and others admitted that even nine overseers would not be a panacea.
“But it would be a lot easier to bring some of these communities together,” he said.
The idea of expanding the number of overseers in such a large area is not new to LA County. It was tried and it failed, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.
He referred to the state constitution, which provides for five-member boards at the county level. Just one problem: the constitution was designed for the contours of early California, where counties don’t exceed 100,000.
“They were much, much smaller, so you could argue that the boards represented their electorate well,” he said.
But flash forward to LA County in 2021.
“If you have a county with more than 10 million people, talk about 2 million in each of the counties,” he said.
However, it was not easy to change the status quo.
It was hard enough getting the county to set up a supervisory board representative for the county’s Latino population.
It took 1990 to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court upheld the decision of U.S. District Court Judge David V. Kenyon that the County Board of Supervisors discriminated against Latinos when it did in 1981 in East LA and San Gabriel. District boundaries drew ravine. The case resulted in a new Latino-majority district.
But there were still five districts that represented vast swaths of southern California.
One would think that voters would enjoy smaller districts because it would bring them closer to their elected leaders, who in theory would be more approachable. Not necessarily, say experts.
“Voters are very suspicious of electing more politicians to a representative or legislative body,” said Regalado
It’s not like groups haven’t tried.
Back in 2017, Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), supported by a group of 10 state senators, introduced a nationwide vote that would expand the board of directors from five to seven members and create a new, elected county chief executive officer.
The county board declined, saying the board’s fate should not be dictated by LA County’s voters. Elected leaders such as then Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Senator Henry Stern, D-Woodland Hills, opposed the measure that the county’s fate should not be dictated by outside voters for similar reasons.
Mendoza’s efforts – to get legislature approval for a proposed expansion on the statewide vote – have gained some momentum in the legislature, said Alan Clayton, who has been putting forward map redistribution proposals for years and lobbying efforts for more Cited districts. Efforts lost momentum, however, after Mendoza abruptly resigned on sexual misconduct allegations, shortly before colleagues threatened to expel him.
“He was the last one to do this,” Clayton said.
To make matters worse, voters often ally themselves with politicians who have an incentive to maintain their power in huge districts.
“It’s all about power,” said Regalado. “It’s hard to give up when you have it.”
It wouldn’t be the first time such an attempt to expand the board has failed. It is said to have occurred eight times since 1926.
There are some contradictions in the current board of directors.
Overseer Janice Hahn would support an expanded board, which would include an elected district board, similar to a “mayor” of the district.
“I always felt that we should increase the number of carers,” she said. “I think the public now more than ever sees the problem of dividing a population of 10 million people into five.”
Hahn added, “For a person who adequately represents 2 million people, it might work fine now, but it would work better around the world if those districts were smaller,” she said, pointing out more possibilities for an elusive Asian – American Pacific Islander Seat or any other seat where Latinos could represent a candidate of their choice.
But Hahn differs from her colleagues on the podium when it comes to expanding the district.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger doesn’t see a bigger board as a better board.
“A bigger government is not a better government,” she said.
The board of directors, she said, has been upgraded to “city council” for unincorporated areas.
Critics of a larger body also point out that a finite number of district department heads would then have to be subordinated to an even larger group of overseers.
“There’s no need to add more managers,” said Barger.
Supervisor Shiela Kuehl agreed.
“I was never in favor of expanding the board,” she said, referring to the good collaboration between the members of the current board and its size, which makes it more efficient.
Kuehl said the requirement of a three-vote majority – often unanimous at a time when the board is now politically minded – makes it easier to “keep business going.”
“I think it is in our constituents’ best interests to get the business done,” she said.
Hahn also recognizes the challenge of convincing voters of such a measure, which would change the district’s statutes.
“You have to convince voters that this is a good thing, and in the past, voters have turned it down,” she said.
Still, she thinks the moment has come as she went through a challenging redraw process.
“It was difficult to see this independent commission trying to cut this cake into five pieces,” she said. “There are so many challenges and so much diversity, and our population is growing … I think the time is right.”