Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Opponents of Supervisors’ Redistricting Plan Vow to Ask U.S. to Block It
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Longtime advocates of Latino voting rights warned yesterday that they will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to reject a redistricting map approved yesterday by the five county supervisors for their districts.
“We see the recommended plan as nothing more than an incumbent protection plan,” said Alan Clayton, a veteran of the redistricting process.
Clayton’s own plan which called for a San Gabriel Valley district as well as a unified coastal district was seen as too disruptive by the Board of Supervisors.
When the board last redistricted 10 years ago the plan was challenged in court by the Justice Department. A federal judge agreed with plaintiffs that the lines were drawn to disenfranchise Latinos, and the county was forced to scrap an election and redraw lines to establish a new First District. As a result, Gloria Molina was elected as the first Latina to serve on the powerful board.
But approval of the new plan yesterday came on Molina’s motion.
Steven Reyes, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which was instrumental in the suit of nearly a decade ago, said some census data won’t be available until next fall, including what he considers important information about the voting age populations in various districts.
The organization will watch intently to see what demographic information becomes available and how the board treats it, he said.
If evidence arises indicating that the county should create two districts to better represent Latinos, “the Board of Supervisors has a continuing duty to take the [Voting Rights Act of 1965] seriously,” Reyes said.
“If they don’t,” he said, “their motion to receive periodic updates was a way to limit liability” in a future court proceeding.
Using data from the decennial census, a 10-member panel with two appointees from each supervisorial district redraws boundaries to ensure parity in population distribution and compliance with a host of criteria culled from federal, state and local guidelines.
In the end, the panel recommended that some 80,000 residents be shifted to adjoining supervisorial districts. The only city affected in its entirety is Walnut. The San Gabriel Valley city in Mike Antonovich’s Fifth District is slated to become part of Supervisor Gloria Molina’s district.
Other reassigned areas include parts of the Los Angeles communities of Brentwood, Venice, Hollywood, Canoga Park and Eagle Rock; and the unincorporated communities of Valinda, San Jose Hills and the so-called Covina Islands.
Some residents contended the current boundaries keep the San Gabriel Valley politically powerless in county government and hold Asian and Latino communities at bay without adequate representation.
The San Gabriel Valley is currently represented by Molina, Antonovich and Don Knabe none of whom live there. But the redistricting panel didn’t find enough evidence to warrant a more dramatic redraw.
“We can’t have a perfect world. We cannot,” Kevin Acebo, chair of the redistricting panel and an appointee of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, told Clayton during board deliberations on the matter.
The plan now goes to the U.S. Department of Justice, where approval is expected. The boundary plan must take effect by Sept. 24 for March 2002 primary election purposes.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company