For more details on the calendar of redistricting meetings, see below:
South LA — Thur., 4/20,, 4 p.m. at the Expo Center.
Van Nuys — Mon., 5/22, 4 p.m. at Van Nuys City Hall.
Cheviot Hills — Thur., Jun. 1, 10 a.m. at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center
Downtown — Mon., Jun. 12, 10 a.m. at Los Angeles City Hall
LA COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 — Angelenos have a rare chance this week to make their city’s political process fairer and more responsive. A City Council committee will be conducting a listening tour, starting Thursday and continuing into June, to discuss changes to the city’s charter to make the redistricting process more independent.
City Council members have long had unusually immense power to shape their political futures and stymie those of their foes, through the redistricting process, due to their ability to vote on adopting district boundaries drawn by an advisory commission.
Each member also represents around a quarter million residents, a higher ratio than that for any other major American city.
The opportunity to make changes that affect councilmembers’ own political power, doesn’t come up often, according to Aaron Robertson, director of political voice for Catalyst California, an advocacy group formerly known as the Advancement Project California, which works to bring communities that have historically been excluded from the political process.
“It’s been quite some time since there was charter reform in the city of Los Angeles and the fact that it looks likely that there will be a reform proposal that goes to the ballot in 2024 is a unique window to shift things,” Robertson said. The last major charter reform in Los Angeles city occurred a generation ago in 1999.
The council is under pressure to make reforms due to audio leaked last fall from a private meeting at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor offices that not only exposed the racist attitudes of powerful city leaders, but also their scheme to fix the redistricting process in their favor, and take power away from renters in LA, during a contentious moment in the last redistricting process in 2021. The audio leak led to the resignation of the council president at the time, Nury Martinez, while another participant in the conversation, City Councilmember Kevin de Leon, remains on the council. In the audio former Council President Martinez renounces the creation of a so-called “renters’ district,” saying, “Nithya is not going to get the perfect district — we’re not going to give her a renters district. That’s what she wants. I told her that’s not happening; you’re going to get the district that you’re going to get, you’re going to have to run, and probably in a district that more than half of them don’t know who you are. Go fucking do the work and see if you can get reelected.”
Catalyst California is one of a dozen groups that advocate for communities of color that came together as part of the OUR LA coalition, after the audio leak, that is pushing for reforms that would give BIPOC and low-income Angelenos a bigger political voice in Los Angeles.
The charter changes are being taken up by the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform, led by Council President Paul Krekorian. Their first stop is this Thursday, April 20, at 4 p.m. in South Los Angeles, at the Expo Center, followed by stops in Van Nuys in May, the Westside in June and a final one at City Hall.
This Thursday’s meeting will focus on a proposal to increase the number of councilmembers, which was raised to 15 from nine members in 1924, nearly a century ago, when the city had a population of around 577,000 residents, which averages out to 38,000 people represented by each councilmember. The city of Los Angeles now has a population of nearly 4 million people, which means each councilmember represents roughly a quarter of a million people. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.
People who want to make public comment will need to attend the listening tour meetings in person. There won’t be a call-in option — something that was first made available for council meetings during the pandemic, and has proven popular for those who wished to make live comments to the council but have difficulties getting to the meeting. Public comment can still be submitted in writing, using this online form, and referencing the relevant council file: 22-1196-S1.
Candice Cho, director of policy and counsel for AAPI Equity Alliance, says their group has been engaging with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community throughout Los Angeles on charter reform issues, and the number of Los Angeles city council members is a major one.
Having 15 council members for a population of 4 million makes the city “an outlier in the country when it comes to representation,” she said. “And as we’ve seen from things like the leaked conversation among the three city council members … these types of political structures result in a city that isn’t sufficiently inclusive, or equitable or representative of our communities.”
The first of the series of meetings was actually held last Thursday at LA City Hall on the topic of “commission composition” and can be heard here. The issue can be followed through the city council file here.
The committee’s listening tour will be making the following stops:
Thursday, April 20, 2023, at 4 p.m.
– Topic: Size of Council Districts, Expo Center, Comrie Hall, 3980 Bill Robertson Lane, Los Angeles, CA 90037
Monday, May 22, 2023, at 4pm
– Topic: Commission Selection, Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan St., Van Nuys, CA 91401
Thursday, June 1, 2023, at 10am (9am set up)
– Topic: Commission Instructions, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center (In the Gym), 2551 Motor Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90064
Monday, June 12, 2023, at 10am
– Topic: Commission Support Systems, Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012From LA City Council press release