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K-Town Confronts the Arrogance of 10th District Power

RETHINKING LA - LA City Council President Herb Wesson has sent a clear message of contempt to the people of LA, one that communicates his complete dismissal of the civic engagement process.

The current redistricting process has resulted in the complete evisceration of Koreatown, a move that disregards the well organized message “Keep Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council whole and in CD13.” This message was delivered by hundreds of people who spoke in person and thousands of people who turned in written comments. It is a position that is supported by the simple rules of the process and the law of the land.

Granted, there are many constituent groups that are unhappy with their proposed council district boundaries and some of them are also well organized, large in numbers, and loud in voice. But when the largest and most vocal of all groups is completely disregarded, it is a clear message from the man pulling the strings that the fix is in, that the public is relegated to a spectator’s role as the assets of the city become the currency of power.

This past Saturday, Commissioner Helen Kim and Councilwoman Jan Perry visited the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition to offer their perspective on the redistricting process. It was an ugly story that resulted in a LANCC resolution, passed unanimously, that details charges of a flawed implementation, a manipulated process, and a predetermined conclusion.  

The LANCC resolution concludes, “Whereas, the current redistricting map was created in a manner that does not conform to law and does not serve the interest of the public, LANCC opposes the current map.”

While many would look at the current debate over council redistricting, a charter mandated process that takes place every ten years, as the simple battle over boundaries that will leave some folks satisfied and others discontent, the implications are far more significant.

The current redistricting process is a clear signal from the City Council President that the powerful voice of the people has been muted, that civic engagement counts for naught, and that the City of LA will be based on a new balance of power that is fueled by the old-school economy of favors, horse-trading, and fiefdoms.

In a recent discussion of LA’s current redistricting process and the proposed council district maps, a well respected community leader commented “Why should I complain, I got everything I wanted, my community is whole, my neighborhood council is whole, we’re whole!”

Sad, but true, this neighborhood council representative got everything he wanted because he set his sights so low. He fell for the “divide and conquer” strategy that sees communities throughout the city fighting small battles while LA’s City Council President, Herb Wesson, presides over the demise of civic engagement.

Elie Wiesel writes “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

To the people who live in council districts that are geographically defined, consisting of communities of interest, with neighborhood councils intact, the redistricting process may seem like a tempest in a teapot.

But it is important for the people of LA, throughout the city, to stand together and to demand a redistricting process that is fair, that is legal, and that moves Los Angeles forward. It’s time to stop the move backward into more of the “go along to get along” tradition of brokered politics that elevates the delivery of city services to the level of a Papal blessing.

During the Redistricting Commission hearings, proposals to “split the baby” would come up, a reference to Solomon’s experience when faced with two mothers who both claimed the same baby. The “splitting the baby” proposals were suggestions to implement a compromise, demonstrating a failure to grasp Solomon’s wisdom.

King Solomon, when faced with two mothers who claimed the same baby, simply threatened to “split the baby” but he never touched the baby. The two women reacted to the threat in such a way that King Solomon was able to determine the truth and he reunited mother and child.

Koreatown does not need to be split. It needs to be united and the people of Koreatown have spoken clearly and loudly of their desire to be “whole in CD13.”

Unfortunately, they faced another round of mythology when the Commissioners applied antiquated gaming theory in the form of “jigsaw puzzle strategies” that invoked the rule, “you start at the corners and work around the edge, then you fill in the center.”

Apparently lessons learned from the Cobble Hill Puzzle Company outweigh the City of LA’s Charter, the Federal Voting Rights Act, and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Elie Wiesel “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

The Redistricting Commission has turned their proposed maps over to the City Council and the Rules & Elections Committee has held three public meetings, taking the time to visit the Harbor region but passing up on the opportunity to visit Koreatown.

There are two current opportunities to impact the future of LA, not just with the Council District maps, but with a loud message that feudal politics have no place in LA’s future:

By calling, emailing, or writing Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and letting them know that the civic engagement process is a vital part of LA’s balance of power and that you oppose the current Commission proposal.

Council President Herb Wesson Jr.
200 N. Spring Street, Room 430
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
200 N. Spring St., Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012

By visiting and speaking in the final Rules & Elections Committee meeting and the City Council meeting that will immediately follow it where the maps will be discussed and then come to a vote.

Friday, March 16
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N. Spring St.

8:30 AM - Rules & Elections Committee
10 AM - City Council Meeting

Actually, there are three opportunities for action, the third being legal action; either independently or in concert with the residents of Koreatown, or in support of Councilmembers Perry and Parks who have already tendered legal objections.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.)

Tags: Stephen Box, Herb Wesson, redistricting, K-Town, Koreatown

Vol 10 Issue 20
Pub: Mar 9, 2012