L.A. City Redistricting: Council President Herb Wesson Tries to Ram New Districts Through Approval Process
City Council President Herb Wesson has issued a grueling schedule for the final consideration of L.A.'s super controversial, egregiously gerrymandered new voting districts, as drafted by the council's own appointed commission. (Wesson's district looks like a fat turkey! And boy, does he like it that way.)
Our 15 elected officials will have a single week...
... to propose any changes to their districts. And after that, they'll have one more week before the new maps must be given the kiss of approval and whisked off to the City Attorney for legal review.
Last time the council flew through a stack of papers this quick, we ended up with a $73 million DWP bill that stank of back-room secrecy. Or was it the mayor's bungled solar plan, a billion-dollar campaign slogan that somehow sailed through council with "virtually no planning behind it."
Meet City Hall's latest rush job:
Helen Kim, the City Controller's appointed redistricting commissioner (and therefore the only real watchdog in this puppet show), says Wesson's new schedule seems "incredibly expedited."
She says it's "premature" for the president to be setting deadlines when councilmembers haven't even received the staff report -- which is supposed to detail the commission's complicated process, and many problems -- or the maps themselves.
"That would be like a court saying, I'm going to schedule my decision date before I've seen the briefs," adds Kim.
But really, why would Wesson and the council need to re-examine the maps, when they have so clearly been land-grabbing and obsessing over their mini kingdoms throughout this entire process?
Therein lies the problem. Wesson's schedule is essentially a waiver for careful consideration, acknowledging that this re-shuffling of L.A. neighborhoods has been a political puzzle from the start -- not an autonomous math problem.
Councilmembers either "already know what they want to know, or they don't want to know," opines Kim. She believes the rushed deadline "clearly shows a prejudgment and a lack of willingness" to hash this thing out in all fairness.
Wesson's excuse for the fast track, as stated in the new schedule:
"Expeditious adoption of any district changes is necessary to allow the City Attorney and Bureau of Engineering to prepare the final technical documents and ordinances necessary to implement any adopted changes in a timely manner."
But the maps don't have to be etched into law until the last day of June. So councilmembers get two weeks to chew on their intricate new voting boundaries -- and the City Attorney gets three-and-a-half months. Hmmm.
Andrew Westhall, Wesson's ex-staffer and current redistricting appointee, happens to helm the entire commission. And Wesson's own district (the fat turkey) happens to be the biggest winner of all the districts -- picking up lucrative communities like Koreatown and Baldwin Hills, despite their cries of opposition.
Meanwhile, the city, and therefore the taxpayer, is facing an avalanche of potential lawsuits -- from Asians, Latinos and various screwed-over councilmembers -- if these districts are rammed through the approval process as-is.
That's apparently of no concern to Wesson, future King of Koreatown.