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City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform Finalizes Recommendations for Independent Redistricting Commission

LA City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform committee members Eunisses Hernandez and Nithya Raman, committee chair Paul Krekorian, and City Legislative Analyst representative John Wickham at the Ad Hoc Committee’s October 5 meeting.

On Thursday, October 5, after one last fine-tuning of its list of recommendations for a new Independent Redistricting Commission, the Los Angeles City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform voted to pass along the proposal to the full city council.  The full council will consider the suggestions, along with another set of recommendations yet to come from the Committee on possibly increasing the size of the City Council, as material for a potential ballot measure in the November, 2024 election.

The Ad Hoc Committee has been doing a deep dive into the possibilities of creating an independent redistricting commission, and possibly increasing the number of City Council districts, since early this year.  Originally, both the redistricting commission and council size issues were being discussed together, but over the last couple of months, the council size question has been temporarily sidelined while the committee finalized its detailed recommendations for a new independent redistricting commission.  And that work finally concluded last week with a 6-0 vote to move forward with the latest amendments to the group’s recommendations.

Very briefly, the final debate in the months-long discussions resulted in the following amendments to the committee’s overall recommendations for the creation and operation of a new independent City Council Redistricting Commission:

  • The Independent Redistricting Commission should have 14 members, and four alternate members.  The alternates will attend all Commission meetings, and participate in all discussions, but they will not vote unless they become appointed to a vacant seat on the Commission.
  • Of the 14 commissioners, eight should be chosen randomly from pools of qualified applicants representing eight distinct geographic regions around the city.  Those eight commissioners will then choose the remaining six commissioners from the remaining applicant pool.  Their choices will be guided by other factors (such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, profession or others), chosen by the commissioners to help balance the group’s diversity.
  • Commissioners should serve 10-year terms.  (While the commission’s redistricting work will generally take about two years, from start to finish, they will remain available after that in case there are any legal challenges to their newly-drawn districts, and/or in case any maps need to be re-drawn later as a result of those challenges.)
  • All commissioners must be at least 18 years old, and should not have been a city employee within the last 12 months.
  • Commissioners should not be allowed to run for office in any districts they have been involved in drawing, and will not be allowed to run for any elected office for at least four years from the end of their service, whether or not they serve their full 10-year terms.
  • Outreach and education materials for would-be redistricting commissioners should be made available in all 13 languages required under federal law, plus any of the top 10 languages spoken in Los Angeles that are not on the federal list, and any additional local indigenous languages as needed.
  • Applications for redistricting commission positions should be received and processed by the city’s Ethics Commission and the City Clerk’s office, which will review them to make sure applicants have met basic objective criteria for age, residency, etc.
  • All applications should be posted publicly, and will be open for public comments.
  • The Ethics Commission should also review the applications to make sure each applicant has demonstrated a few more subjective criteria such as a history of community involvement, the ability to work collaboratively, and the ability to process complex information.
  • Any applicants deemed not qualified after these processes should have the chance to appeal that decision, and a ruling on the appeal should be made before the selection process continues.
  • After the full pool of qualified applicants is determined, they should be divided into eight groups representing eight similarly-sized regions of the city.
  • The Ethics Commission should hold a public lottery to choose one commissioner from each of the eight geographic groups.
  • The first eight commissioners should select the remaining six commissioners based on a list of balancing factors that may include, but are not limited to, things like race, ethnicity, age, profession, and more. The applicant deliberations will all be done during fully public meetings.
  • During the map-drawing process, commissioners may consider major economic assets or landmarks in their redistricting discussions. (This will not be required, however, as a motion by committee member Marqueece Harris-Dawson to change “may” to “should” ended in a tie.)
  • Drawing district lines to favor or protect incumbent councilmembers should be prohibited…though there should be a recommendation that areas containing the largest number of voters from a previous district should retain their same district number in the new maps.
  • Elected officials should not be prohibited from making public comments during redistricting meetings, but they should be subject to the same time restrictions as other members of the public.
  • All redistricting meetings should provide remote access, and live Spanish-language translation, as well as translation in other languages as requested.
  • The bidding and contract process for firms to help the Ethics Commission with outreach and education efforts during redistricting should be handled by the Ethics Commission and not the City Council or other elected officials.
  • All ex parte communications (private discussions between commissioners and elected officials) should be prohibited during both the commission selection process and the redistricting process itself.
  • Funding for the redistricting committee and its process should be generally “sufficient” rather than a more specific stated amount.
  • A city Data Bureau should be created to help with data needed by the Commission.

Before taking a final vote on the recommendations, committee member Eunisses Hernandez asked if a recent city council motion to create a new City Charter Commission, which will explore more extensive revisions to the city’s governing document, would have any effect on the Ad Hoc Committee’s efforts.  Committee chair Paul Kreorian, who was one of the co-sponsors of the Charter Commission motion, replied that the Commission could choose to explore these or other redistricting reforms, but said it will take a while for that group to get up and running, and that he remains committed to his original promise of making sure the Independent Redistricting Commission proposal makes it to the November, 2024 ballot. So it’s important, he said, to keep moving the Ad Hoc committee’s work forward.

In the end, the six committee members in attendance (member Bob Blumenfield was absent) voted unanimously to move the independent redistricting commission recommendations forward to the full city council.  The Committee will next turn its attention to the other big issue on its plate:  whether or not to increase the size of the Council…as well as another, smaller, discussion about what should happen with LAUSD redistricting moving forward.

What’s Next?

After the vote, Krekorian explained that the redistricting commission proposal will not be agendized by the City Council for at least 30 days, to give the public time to weigh in before the Council discussions.  Also, during that time, the Ad Hoc Committee will continue its debates on council size, and may be able to reach a consensus and final recommendation on that topic so it can be discussed by the Council at the same time it addresses the redistricting commission proposal.

If you’d like to read the City Legislative Analyst’s report on the Ad Hoc Committee’s redistricting commission recommendations reviewed at the October 5 meeting, it’s available here. A recording of the meeting is here.  (A new draft of the CLA report, including the final amendments made at the meeting, will be available soon.)

If you would like to read more about the Ad Hoc Committee’s discussions over the last six months, or weigh in on the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations, you can do so on this page for the Council File for the motion.  Just click on the “Submit a Public Comment” link near the top of the page (it’s marked with a red “NEW” flag).

You can also read our previous Buzz stories about the city council reform process here, here, here, and here.

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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