LOS ANGELES - While the racist language heard in the leaked recording of Los Angeles City councilmembers has been the focus of most of the attention since its release, the context of the recorded conversation — redistricting the City Council — also has many concerned. Now, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer is calling for a special election to remove council influence from the process.
Feurer is calling on council members to get a ballot measure in front of voters in the spring to make that happen. Feuer wants the city to contract with Los Angeles County, and use the county's independent redistricting commission to help create new council maps ahead of the 2024 election.
Currently, the City's redistricting commissioners are council appointed, and the comission's proposed redistricting lines can be adjusted by council members. That's what appears to be behind the October 2021 meeting between former Council President Nury Martinez and council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon
"We urgently need to act to begin to heal the divisions in our city and restore public confidence in the way council boundaries are drawn," Feuer said. "I'm proposing an open and transparent process, free from involvement by elected officials… Leaving the power to draw their own district lines in the hands of the politicians who can benefit from how those lines are drawn is an enormous conflict of interest. It must end immediately."
Former council member and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bernard Parks remembers how his district changed in 2012, proof he said, the back-door dealing did not start with these councilmembers.
"I even had a council member say, ‘Do you want the airport… Westchester,’ when the bulk of my district is East of La Cienega," Parks said.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta also announced on Wednesday that his office is launching a formal investigation into Los Angeles’ redistricting process.
"It could lead to criminality if that’s where the facts and the law dictate," he said. "There’s certainly the potential for civil liability based on civil rights and voting rights laws here in the state of California."
While the California DOJ has completed the initial preliminary review, Bonta said his office has a good basis for the investigation and is working around the clock to take "gather the facts and take action as necessary."
Permanently changing the way the City redraws districts would need an amendment to the city charter. Council members went a step further to say the redistricting drama could usher in a complete rethinking of the number of districts and therefore the number of council members serving the public's interests.