Sunday, June 16, 2024

LA City Council committee recommends independent redistricting commission

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A Los Angeles City Council committee on Thursday, Oct. 5, recommended the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw new City Council district maps.

In a unanimous – and expected – vote, the Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform made the recommendation as part of a set of reforms related to redistricting changes. The proposed changes come after several months of meeting. Now, they go to the full City Council for consideration.

“We are going to give the voters exactly what they have rightly demanded, a redistricting process in which the Council will play no part. Not in selecting the commissioners, not in drawing the maps or reviewing the commission’s work,” Council President Paul Krekorian, who also chairs the governance reform committee, said in a statement following the vote. “A process where the voters choose their representatives and not the other way around.”

Krekorian is joined on the committee by Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt, Traci Park, Nithya Raman and Bob Blumenfield. Blumenfield was absent from the vote on Thursday.

Ultimately, it will be up to voters whether to switch to an independent redistricting process. But the City Council must first make some decisions about what an independent commission would look like and how it would operate so that the proposal can be placed on the November 2024 ballot for voters to decide.

“Redistricting,” or the redrawing of council district boundaries, occurs every 10 years when updated U.S. Census figures are released. This is done so that each district is roughly the same size, and to improve voter representation.

In L.A., having an independent commission redraw these boundaries would be a dramatic departure from the past, when politically-appointed commissioners drew maps that the City Council could override, effectively giving councilmembers the power to determine their own districts.

Widespread calls for an independent redistricting commission, one in which councilmembers could not meddle in the redistricting process, were renewed following last year’s City Hall audio leak scandal, in which three current or former councilmembers were caught in a racist, backroom conversation discussing how they wanted the maps redrawn to benefit themselves or their allies.

During Thursday’s meeting, the governance reform committee reached consensus that an independent redistricting commission should be made up of 16 commissioners, plus four alternate members. The committee had previously talked about having 17 commissioners and eight alternates, but upon further reflection and input from the League of Women Voters, decided that having 25 members would be difficult to manage.

The committee is also recommending that commissioners serve for 10 years and that they be prohibited from having any “ex parte” communications, or private conversations, with councilmembers or anyone else outside of a public meeting to uphold transparency.

Although committee members advanced recommendations for an independent redistricting commission on Thursday, they did not get around to finalizing any recommendation on the number of City Council districts L.A. should have.

Krekorian said at the end of the approximately three-hour meeting that he understood that people may be growing impatient, but the issues the committee is weighing take time to consider and pledged to hold another meeting to discuss the number of council seats.

“We are absolutely committed to moving forward expeditiously with the other issue of council size,” he said.

The City Council has until June of next year to finalize any questions it decides to put on the November 2024 ballot related to these reform measures.

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