Yes, you read that headline right — although the next Los Angeles City Council redistricting process, which redraws the boundaries of our various City Council Districts and helps determine who will represent you for the next decade, doesn’t happen for another eight years, you can start tuning in and getting involved right now.
Here’s why and how.
Back in 2021, using data from the 2020 census, city, county, state, and national governments went through their every-10-year redistricting processes, to draw new lines for government representation based on the latest population data.
But while our county and state redistricting processes now employ independent redistricting commissions to do this work, to help safeguard against undue influences from specific groups or individual interests, the Los Angeles City Council redistricting process has so far remained much less independent. In fact, 15 of the 17 redistricting commissioners are appointed directly by the 15 individual City Council members whose districts are being redrawn. And the Council also retains the right to rethink and amend the map forwarded to it by the redistricting commission, and then take the final vote to approve the map.
This process, which proved particularly contentious in 2021, prompted many calls for reform, from both the public and City Councilmembers themselves. In fact, almost as soon as the new districts were approved in late 2021, Councilmembers Nithya Raman (whose district boundaries underwent major changes in the most recent redistricting effort), and Paul Krekorian (now City Council President), introduced a motion calling for a new ballot measure that would amend the City Charter to allow for a new, truly independent Redistricting Commission for the next city council redistricting effort in 2031. And the process to create that ballot measure, and the reforms it would bring, is already underway.
To kick off the redistricting reform process, Raman and Krekorian’s motion requested that the office of the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst report back to the City Council with information on other independent city redistricting commissions in the state of California, best practices used by those commissions to select commissioners and govern their mapping processes, and “any other considerations to ensure that the commission fairly and adequately represents the residents of the City of Los Angeles in the redistricting process.”
So the CLA’s reports began in March of this year, with an initial presentation by CLA representatives to the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform.
At that meeting, John Wickham, Division Head of the City Legislative Analyst’s Office, gave a presentation on some of the basic building blocks of redistricting reform that will need to be dealt with during the process, including three key concepts: determining the exact definition of an “independent” redistricting commission, figuring out how the commission will be organized and governed, and determining how simple or complex the process process will be.
Wickham said there are also three phases of the redistricting process it will be necessary for a reform process to consider:
- Pre-redistricting (forming the redistricting commission and gathering census data)
- Redistricting itself (presenting information, figuring out how many Council districts there should be and how large or small, drawing a draft map of the new districts, and drawing a final map)
- And Post-Redistricting (wrapping up the commission’s business, disseminating information, and determining when – or if – the commission will be disbanded after its mapping work is done.
Wickham noted that a citywide ballot measure to amend the City Charter to allow these kinds of changes would have to be finalized by November, 2023 to be on the ballot for the March, 2024 primary election…or by June, 2024 for the measure to appear on the ballot in the November, 2024 general election.
Challenges and Resources
Going back to the first of the three key concepts for redistricting reform, Wickham pointed out that one of the most challenging parts of this process will be defining exactly what an “independent” redistricting commission is, including qualifications for redistricting commissioners, how commissioners apply for and are selected for the job, how to ensure they neither represent nor are influenced by any elected officials, and how new district maps would be approved “without confirmation by any elected official or elected body.”
To prepare for this process, Wickham said the CLA’s office has researched independent redistricting commissions in 10 different California cities, three counties, and the state of California itself. And it has also studied the California Fair Maps Act, which can provide helpful guidance for redistricting efforts.
Wickham said one big finding from this research is that there are varying degrees of “independence” for city council redistricting commissions, starting with (on the very independent end of the spectrum) those that seat a “random selection of qualified voters” to redraw district boundaries. Slightly less independent are those that have some degree of governmental agency or city involvement in the process. And, finally, he said, at the much less independent end of the spectrum, other cities – like Los Angeles now – allow the elected officials whose districts are being re-drawn to actively engage in the redistricting process.
Finally, Wickham also reminded the Ad Hoc Committee that the 2021 City Council Redistricting Commission itself made a list of recommendations for future redistricting efforts, including:
- Establish an independent, rather than advisory Redistricting Commission.
- Create narrow criteria for the replacement of Commissioners during the redistricting process.
- Ban all ex parte communications between elected officials and the Redistricting Commissioners.
- Begin the redistricting process earlier.
- Assign a full-time City staff member to assist the Commission.
- Provide sufficient funds for the Commission’s work.
- Authorize the search for an Executive Director prior to the seating of a Commission;
- In the year preceding redistricting, provide grants to community organizations to conduct redistricting training for the public.
- Establish a starting point website for the Commission prior to the beginning of its work.
So these recommendations, too, may help guide the redistricting reform process now being discussed.
Wickham explained that details of each of the three parts of the redistricting process will have to be addressed during any sort of comprehensive redistricting reform. These include:
Before redistricting commissioners are chosen, there need to be procedures in place for:
- Commission selection (including applications, outreach, candidate screening, and commissioner selection processes)
- Resources (budget, office space, telecommunications, computing resources, and office equipment)
- Data (software selection, sociodemographic data, geographic data, data documentation)
- And a timeline for all of these, understanding that starting as early as possible is always a good idea, and that work for a commission formed even for just a limited period of time requires much preparation before the actual redistricting process begins.
As with the overall redistricting process, the work of the redistricting commission itself falls generally into three distinct phases, any or all of which may be part of a larger reform process:
- Establish an organizational structure
- Hire staff and contractors
- Conduct special studies
- Public education and outreach
- Initial public hearings and workshops concerning “communities of interest”
Draft Map Phase
- Evaluate maps, comments, and data
- Develop criteria for draft maps
- Draw draft maps
- Conduct public hearings on draft maps and obtain input from the public
Final Map Phase
- Evaluate comments submitted
- Refine and amend the draft map(s)
- Hold public hearings on final map
- Approve final map
- Close out contracts, staffing, etc.
- Organize and transfer background materials and records to City Clerk
- Pay all contractors and staff
- Retain legal counsel in case of litigation
- Provide staff support for any litigation
- Call commissioners back if a revised map is required after litigation
- Provide documentation and support for creating a revised map after litigation
Comments and Next Steps
After this first presentation from the CLA, Ad Hoc Committee on City Government Reform members Paul Krekorian, Bob Blumenfield, Marqueece Harris Dawson, Eunisses Hernandez, Nithya Raman, Traci Park, and Heather Hutt discussed their major concerns, including the primary importance of expanding outreach and opportunities for all Angelenos to engage in the process regardless of their age, income, ethnicity, renter or homeowner status, and ability to organize their communities.
Wickham also noted that despite the city’s desire for public participation, most people tend not to pay much attention to redistricting efforts, no matter how hard the city works to publicize the process, until they see a draft or final map…and then they want to know why it looks the way it does and how it got that way, which is often too late in the process to have much influence.
So Wickham and the committee members agreed that it will be extremely important, starting as soon as possible, to inspire and engage residents much earlier in both the next redistricting process and – starting now – in the current efforts to reform that process.
And this would be a really good time to tune in. After the introductory session in March, the Ad Hoc Committee scheduled five further “listening sessions” on specific elements of redistricting reform, to be held in various locations around the city. Two of these sessions (on the composition of an independent redistricting commission, and the ideal number and size of City Council districts for Los Angeles) were held in April – and we’ll report on them in the coming days. Three more sessions are yet to come, addressing the selection of redistricting commissioners, instructions for redistricting commissioners, and commission support systems.
So if you’re interested in how our city council districts are drawn – here’s your very first reminder not to wait until the draft maps are issued in 2031. Instead, if you’d like to have a real voice in the process, you can start listening in and speaking up now, as the ballot measure for redistricting reform is being considered and crafted. It’s the perfect time to start learning, getting involved, and making a difference.
Remaining Redistricting Reform Listening Sessions
Redistricting Commission Selection
MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023 at 4:00PM
Van Nuys City Hall 14410 Sylvan St. Van Nuys, CA 91401
Redistricting Commission Instructions
THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2023 at 10:00 AM
Cheviot Hills Rec. Center Gym 2551 Motor Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Redistricting Commission Support Systems
MONDAY, JUNE 12, 2023 at 10:00AM
Los Angeles City Hall 200 N. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA 90012
[Please note that all of these meetings are being held in person, in real time, at the locations listed above. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend, and public comments will be taken at each meeting. But all comments must be made in person. There are NO ZOOM LINKS or other opportunities for remote comments during during the live meetings. Recordings of each meeting are made available after the meeting, via YouTube.]
OMG, what foolishness. None of this will improve the city one iota. So what if Nithya Raman, the multi-millionaire carpetbagger, was forced to represent people in the Valley and did not get all the renters in Koretown. No amount of changes in restricting will fixthe city council because the problem is the criminal vote trading system.
There has been a proposal since 2016, which no one will discuss because it would bring real change and would allow all citizens to have a voice. It’s called the 3/15/45 City Council.
http://bit.ly/1W74Er9 February 7, 2016, Zwartz Talk, The Corruption Eradicator, The 3/15/45 City Council, by Scott Zwartz