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Friday March 2, 2012

Changing Gears

The redistricting of 2011 is nearing an end.  The lawsuits have all lost, the referendum is an orphan, and Dreier has finally told the world something everyone has known for about a year – he’s not running for re-election.  This is our 174th Redistricting Report, and the first time there are just two state redistricting articles.

But just in the nick of time, a new kind of redistricting effort is going full-steam.  In California we have a very aggressive voting rights act called the CVRA.  This law broadly disallows the continued use of at-large elections in areas where there is racially polarized voting.  In Federal voting rights act cases there is a high bar to reach in proving that an election system is disenfranchising minority voters – but the CVRA seems to lower that bar significantly while making it easier and more profitable for plaintiffs to sue.  A sleeper since it’s signing in 2002, the CVRA now has the potential to completely reshape local government.

Just this week:

:: Compton settled a major lawsuit by agreeing to a June ballot measure in which voters can convert the at-large election to districts.  If that measure fails they will have to try again in November.  In addition the plaintiffs can still take legal action if the lines are not to their liking – and the city will pay all the plaintiff’s legal bills.   The Compton case is particularly interesting because a couple African American board members were claiming that they were also Latino and therefore the board did not have a problem electing Latinos.  It is unclear what changed, but chalk this one up as a win for the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights.

:: Former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico used the CVRA to push the Twin Rivers Unified School District into a ballot measure for districted elections.  Twin Rivers currently has districts, but the Torrico ballot measure would require that trustees are elected just from the districts in which they reside, rather than having each community’s vote diluted by the at-large system.

:: In a Madera case the courts pushed back a bit, finding that the County Offices of Education didn't have to pay plaintiff’s legal fees after they successfully proved an underlying district's violation of CVRA. This fear that County Offices of Education have pushed some of these obscure agencies (really, can you name any member of any County Board of Ed??  Ok insiders… anyone besides John Scribner.) into aggressively pursuing conversions to districted elections.  This may still be a concern for many that don’t want to see their districts sued, but the decision in Madera could reduce the County anxiety over CVRA.

:: The city of Santa Clara, with 19% Latino and 38% Asian population, says no to a change to districts, despite threats of being sued by the same group that won in Compton.    This got a “Not a good move” tweet from Republican redistricting consultant @MattRexroad who knows a thing or two about the CVRA after working with a number of agencies on conversions.

The final impact of the CVRA is truly unknown.  Redistricting Partners is currently working on 20+ CVRA projects around the state, and there are likely more than 50 agencies looking into their vulnerability or converting. The law has been litigated and settled with a number of different types of agencies, and each case has resulted in a change to districted elections, many with million-dollar payouts to plaintiff's attorneys.  There has not been a case taken all the way to the State Supreme Court and it is unclear which agency is going to endure a couple year’s bad press and millions in legal bills to get it there. 


Time for Another Ballot Measure About Redistricting
If I had a nickel for every time I wrote that headline...It will soon be time for another state election. In California, as recent history demonstrates, that has meant another opportunity to vote on redistricting. In 2008 and 2010, Californians voted to create an independent redistricting commission. Per the responsibility given to them by the voters, this 14-member commission drew state and federal legislative district lines. Then a predictable thing happened: at least one party didn't like those lines.

David Dreier was thrown into Dem seat
Of all the retirements that have rocked California’s Capitol Hill delegation, GOP Rep. David Dreier’s was the least surprising. Redistricting had thrown the powerful House Rules Committee chairman into Democratic territory and left him with no good options for where to seek reelection. Over the last year, the Dreier had done little prepare for a bid, raising just $121,000 — a paltry sum for a gavel-holder who has served in the House since 1981. “This is no huge surprise,” said Matt Rexroad, a Sacramento-based GOP consultant. “No one knew where he could conceivably be running,” said Paul Mitchell, a California Democratic redistricting consultant. “He sure couldn’t be running in the seat he’s currently residing in.”


Herb Wesson sets new hearings on L.A. City Council redistricting
The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson announced Tuesday three public hearings on proposed new council district boundaries, which were approved last week by a 21-member Redistricting Commission. The council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee will take up the proposed maps on Friday before holding three hearings next week -– one in San Pedro on Monday, one in Van Nuys on Tuesday and one downtown at City Hall on Wednesday, March 7.

West Hills Joins Chatsworth on District 12 Redistricting Map
Chatsworth Patch
The city's 21-member Redistricting Commission has released it's final maps after hearing citizen testimony at a series of public hearings. Despite objections from some members of the West Hills community, that entire neighborhood, including all of the Chatsworth Nature Preserve, has been moved from Dennis Zine's District 3 into Mitch Engander's District 12. Previously, only a piece of West Hills was in District 12. The Commission will hold a concluding business session today at 4 p.m., at the Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan St., Second Floor.

New Redistricting Map Splits Up Historic Filipinotown
L.A. Beez
The Los Angeles City Council's Redistricting Commission will meet for the final time on Wednesday and it is expected the 21-member panel will approve its latest revised map that splits up part of Historic Filipinotown (HiFi). Throughout most of this redistricting process, the panel had kept Historic Filipinotown in council district 13 untouched but it's latest map revealed last week splits a part of Historic Filipinotown to Council District 1. In a last ditch effort, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) officials tried to gather Filipinos to speak in last Wednesday's redistricting commission meeting at City Hall. No Filipinos showed up.

L.A. City Redistricting: Council President Herb Wesson Tries to Ram New Districts Through Approval Process
L.A. Weekly
If only all L.A. City Hall decisions could be treated with this kind of urgency.

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.

Redistricting upsetting to school children, parents
Santa Rosa’s Press Gazette
The Santa Rosa County school district is looking to level out class sizes by redistricting parts of school districts. But that change is bringing in frustration for many parents—and grandparents. Gary Nelson, whose grandson is in Hobbs Middle School will have to transfer his grandson to King Middle School because of the change starting next school year. His grandson, who entered Hobbs Middle School this year, will have to shift to King Middle School at the beginning of his 7th grade year in August.

Helen Kim Takes on L.A.'s Old Guard
L.A. Weekly
Helen Kim was not used to feeling like the dumbest kid in class. A graduate of Harvard and of Yale Law School, a top litigator — yet she felt as if everyone on the Los Angeles City Redistricting Commission had done their homework except her. She felt like the only one asking questions."Either they were a lot better prepared than I was," she says, "or they knew which way they were gonna vote." Every 10 years, state and local governments redraw voting district boundaries to ensure that each citizen's vote carries equal weight.

Consultants warn Glendale Community College of lawsuits over election process
Glendale News-Press
In the fourth presentation in as many months, election consultants again warned Glendale Community College officials this week that examples of racially polarized voting in their at-large election process could leave them vulnerable to a lawsuit alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act. “The base analysis from the first presentation and the memo I believe still hold true — that there is enough evidence of racially polarized voting for the board to be concerned,” said Paul Mitchell, of the consulting firm Redistricting Partners. “Really, the next phase of discussion on that is to discuss the level of concern you have with your attorney.”

L.A. Redistricting: Fighting for a Black Future
The long-simmering fight amongst the three black members of the council -- council president Herb Wesson, Jan Perry and Bernard Parks, who represent the 10th, 9th and 8th districts, respectively -- has reached a boiling point. These three districts together pretty much account for the black population left in the city limits, notably the 8th, which includes Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills. It's impossible to go into all the details, but the redistricting commission, heavily influenced by Wesson, recently approved new boundaries that, among other things, would cut vote-rich Leimert Park out of the 8th and dollar-rich downtown out of the 9th.

LAUSD redistricting commission forwards map to LA City Council
The recommended 2012 map for redistricted LAUSD board boundaries was approved by commissioners Wednesday night and heads to the L.A. City Clerk's office today. The 15-member volunteer commissioners approved the final report for the recommended map at what was their last meeting as a commission, with a 12 to 3 vote. Commissioners Mark Lewis, Jimmie Woods Gray and Dermot Givens voted no. All three no-voting commissioners have expressed unease at the process under which the Redistricting Commission came to the final map. Woods Gray has said she was concerned about inadequate public outreach and involvement, and also the fact that the selected map does not accurately reflect the commission's work.

Councilman Lashes Out at Redistricting Panel, Mayor Over District Boundaries
Mar Vista Patch
In response to new proposed City Council district boundaries, Councilman Bernard Parks released a sharply worded statement yesterday, calling the new district maps a "racially motivated assault" on South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, which began meeting last fall, voted 12-5 Wednesday to approve final boundaries for City Council districts that will last until after the 2020 census. The maps are a recommendation to the City Council, which has final say and will begin debating the district boundaries in committee tomorrow. The maps are slated for a final vote on March 16.

Loss of Lewis and Dreier could impact region
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
The Inland Empire's loss of two longtime members of Congress may mean a slowdown in federal funding and projects for the region. Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, and David Dreier, R-San Dimas, have both announced they will not seek re-election after each spending more than 30 years representing their Southern California districts in Congress. "It is a significant blow to the region and its influence in Washington," said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. Dreier spent 32 years representing most of the San Gabriel Valley and parts of San Bernardino County. Lewis represented the Inland Empire for 33 years.

Map Puts Neighborhood Back In Council District 4
Larchmont Chronicle
New boundaries are a victory for residents who asked to unify the area's 15 neighborhoods.  City Council District Four has regained its original neighborhoods and added a few. It’s a victory for residents who asked to be in a unified Council District. The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission released its adjusted map in February, which places almost all of the Greater Wilshire area in Council District Four with Councilman Tom LaBonge.

Final District Maps Sent to City Council
Beverly Press
The Los Angeles City Council will begin its deliberations over the proposed redistricting maps on Friday, when the council’s Rules and Election Committee holds the first hearing at city hall on the new boundaries. There will also be three public hearings held on March 5, 6 and 7 to allow for additional input. The deadline for revisions is March 8, and the full city council is expected to review the new boundaries on March 16. Ed Johnson, press deputy to City Council President Herb Wesson, 10th District, said the council president is eager to begin the evaluation process, and added that Wesson is not making any comments on the new maps until the deliberations occur.

Proposed L.A. council district changes draw new warning
The Los Angeles Times
Four members of Los Angeles city's redistricting commission are warning that new proposed boundaries for City Council districts would deprive Asian Americans of “any reasonable possibility” of winning a council seat. On Wednesday, the commission voted 12 to 5 to forward the new boundaries for the 15 council districts to the City Council. But as part of that vote, four of the five dissenters signed a so-called minority report saying race was improperly used as the “predominant” factor for drawing certain council districts -– a situation that would leave the proposal vulnerable to a legal challenge.

Compton plans ballot measure on switching to voting by district
The Los Angeles Times
Responding to long-standing complaints that Latinos are grossly underrepresented in local government, the city of Compton has agreed to settle a voting rights lawsuit with a plan that could change how officials are elected. The suit was aimed at making it easier for Latinos, who now account for nearly two-thirds of the city's 96,000 residents, to gain greater clout at City Hall, where all council members and most of the top city leaders are black. This imbalance has been the subject of much debate over the years as Compton's Latino population has grown and its black population has declined, part of a larger trend that has been reducing African American political clout across L.A. County.

The anachronistic politics of at-large voting
Our Weekly
Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) looks partially like an experimental yard for bomb explosions and a thriving, healthy and renovated school in the modern age. In this convoluted scenario, what is striking, however, is that no work seems to be getting done amid the stripped buildings, barricaded web netting and cracked concrete. The Los Angeles Community College District Board (LACCD) recently decided to pull the plug on all college renovations in progress under its authority. Three contractors were alleged to be fraudulent, so the board put all its rebuilding contractors on pause.


David Dreier was thrown into Dem seat
Of all the retirements that have rocked California’s Capitol Hill delegation, GOP Rep. David Dreier’s was the least surprising. Redistricting had thrown the powerful House Rules Committee chairman into Democratic territory and left him with no good options for where to seek reelection. Over the last year, the Dreier had done little prepare for a bid, raising just $121,000 — paltry sum for a gavel-holder who has served in the House since 1981. “This is no huge surprise,” said Matt Rexroad, a Sacramento-based GOP consultant. “No one knew where he could conceivably be running,” said Paul Mitchell, a California Democratic redistricting consultant. “He sure couldn’t be running in the seat he’s currently residing in.”

Dreier bows to reality of redistricting
The Orange County Register
Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, said on the House floor Wednesday that he will not seek another term. He becomes the latest lawmaker to decide to retire after newly drawn district boundaries in his home state dimmed his re-election prospects. Dreier, R-San Dimas, is the sixth California House member to announce a planned exit from Congress at the end of the term. The departures open the way for new faces but will also deprive the state of decades of seniority that helped line up billions of dollars in federal aid and projects.
Republican Rep. David Dreier announces he will not seek reelection
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Rep. David Dreier, who has been representing the San Gabriel Valley and parts of San Bernardino County for nearly three decades in the House of Representatives, announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection. The Rules Committee chairman made the announcement on the House floor. "I take the unusual step of announcing this from the floor of Congress for two reasons," Dreier said. "First, this is where my fellow Californians sent me to represent them. "Second, I am a proud institutionalist, and I believe that this institution is as great as it has ever been."

Calif. GOP must develop wide appeal for Congress
Daily Republic
With the March 12 candidate filing deadline for California’s June primary election fast approaching, it’s time to offer the state’s Republican Party some unsolicited, but still very sound advice: Find candidates for Congress who are willing to abandon a few of the GOP’s longtime staples in order to become appealing and relevant to the large mass of California voters. This state’s congressional Republicans have lived in fear ever since the nonpartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission last August adopted maps that will govern the upcoming primary.

San Gabriel Valley leaders react to Dreier's retirement
Pasadena Star-News
San Gabriel Valley political leaders past and present Wednesday praised the 31-year career of Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, who will leave Congress at the end of this year. His colleagues referred to Dreier as a champion of bipartisan politics and noted his ability to work with those whose political views often ran counter to his and his constituents'. "In these hyper-partisan times, lawmakers who are willing to cross the aisle are hard to find," Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said. "David's willingness to buck that trend on local issues like the Gold Line Foothill Extension and water cleanup in the San Gabriel Basin made him a great legislator to work with."

Another senior lawmaker to retire: Is California losing clout in Congress?
Alaska Dispatch
Republican David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, added his name Tuesday to the list of veteran California lawmakers who are retiring from Congress, causing some in California to fret about the state’s lost clout on Capitol Hill. But others, pointing to changes in Congress and a spirited anti-pork atmosphere pervading Washington, say those concerns are overblown. Congressman Dreier, the most powerful of the six California representatives who are retiring, cited the historically low public approval rating for Congress as among the reasons he would not seek reelection.

Chavez meets with voters, talks new district boundaries
The Coast News
State Assembly candidate Rocky Chavez is on the campaign trail to meet voters and let them know where the boundaries of the new 76th District lie. To illustrate that the new district stretches from Camp Pendleton, to Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Encinitas, reusable shopping bags emblazoned with a district map were handed out to voters at the Carlsbad Village Cruise the Art Scene on Feb. 23. The reusable bags, which also feature photos of public artwork and Chavez’s campaign website, Facebook and Twitter addresses, were also handed out at the Carlsbad Village

Wolk, Eye On Re-Election, Criticizes Canal, Child Care Cuts
Martinez News-Gazette
2011's redistricting of congressional, state senate, state assembly and state Board of Equalization districts heralds big changes for Martinez's representation at the state and federal level. After the November election, Martinez will lie in the newly redrawn District 3, which will encompass West Sacramento, Winters, Vacaville, Fairfield, Napa and Napa Valley, Vallejo and Davis. The southern boundary of District 3 extends to take in Martinez, including Alhambra Valley, Franklin Canyon, Crockett, Port Costa and the Carquinez Shoreline Regional Park, and all of Pleasant Hill.

Local man runs for Congress
Atascadero News
San Luis Obispo resident Matt Boutté, 26, will announce his candidacy for California’s new 24th District on Wednesday, March 7. He will face off against Lois Capps, Abel Maldonado and Chris Mitchum. Tom Watson decided not to run. The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 5. Boutté was raised in San Luis Obispo. He attended Sinsheimer Elementary School, San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly. He’s now a law student at Geogetown University in Washington, D.C. But right after high school and long before heading East, he was a tutor and swimming coach.

Races for state Senate line up
Tough fights are brewing in the two state Senate districts that encompass the Santa Clarita Valley after both Republicans currently serving those districts have announced they are not seeking re-election. Partly due to redistricting that took effect last month, new faces are emerging. Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, is running for the Senate seat in 21st District, the seat currently held by Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster. Runner announced last month she will not seek re-election. Knight said Thursday he plans, if elected, to preserve and enhance the policies championed by Runner.