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LA City Council Redistricting Commission Holding Town Hall on LGBT Concerns Tonight

LA City Council Redistricting Commission Holding Town Hall on LGBT Concerns Tonight

by Karen Ocamb on January 31, 2012

Draft of the new LA City Council districts

Openly gay Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl is furious with how the new redistricting maps redraw his 11th Council District. Hollywood-area Councilmember Tom LaBonge isn’t too happy, either, with his 4th CD. Log Cabin/LA’s Scott Schmidt thinks the mandatory post-US census changes to accommodate demographically-based communities of interest present an opportunity to create an LGBT-specific district. The Wall’s Richard Zaldivar isn’t crazy about that idea.  And the rough and tumble over the newly drawn boundaries for the 15 LA council districts has just begun.

Tonight, Jan. 31, at 6:30pm, Arturo Vargas, the chair of the LA City Council Redistricting Commission and LACCRC Executive Director Andrew Westall will explain the redistricting process, the new maps and specifically LGBT community concerns at a town hall hosted by Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director of The Wall, Las Memorias Project and (SEUI) Local 721. The free town hall will be held at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, 1545 Wilshire Blvd., LA 90017. Space is limited so please RSVP at 323-791-9227 For more information, contact the LACCRC office at 213-922-7740 or visit the website at www.redistricting2011.lacity.org.

The drafts of the new maps, drawn up in secret, will undergo intense scrutiny in seven more hearings before being put to a vote by the city council, according to the LA Times.  The appointed redistricting panel took into consideration the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act to ensure that Latinos, African Americans and other ethnic minorities receive adequate representation and have the ability to run for elected office. The Times says the “new census data shows Los Angeles is 48.5% Latino, 28.6% white, 11.3% Asian and 9.2% black. Redistricting officials are attempting to ensure that five of the 15 council districts are heavily Latino and that three have sizable concentrations of African Americans.”

The LA Weekly illustrates part of the problem via Eastern Group Publications:

Koreatown is currently split between Council Districts 1, 4, 10 and 13. Several residents said the fact that not a single member on the city council is Asian, despite the city’s large Asian population, is evidence that the split has diluted their power and representation. The 2010 Census puts the Asian and Pacific Islander population at 15 percent.

So what about LGBT people? Longtime LGBT activist and Log Cabin Republican/LA spokesperson Scott Schmidt thinks the time is right to treat the LGBT population as a community of interest and create a specific LGBT district compromised of the gayborhood clusters outside West Hollywood, then east to Silver Lake and over the hill to Studio City. He argues that the California Supreme Court in their In re Marriage ruling declared that California’s gay and lesbian community is a suspect class, subject to strict scrutiny under the law. Therefore, “gays and lesbians should be treated no different than any other Californians or class of Californians,” Schmidt said in a press release.

Log Cabin Republican/LA Scott Schmidt's proposed LGBT 15th council district

Richard Zaldivar is not so keen on that idea. “I am opposed to creating districts with a special emphasis on electing LGBT council members because it ignores our common community of interest,” Zaldivar told me in an email. “The roots of today’s LGBT members are of a diverse background and we share many communities of interest. Therefore, we do not necessarily need one or two LGBT Los Angeles City councilmembers – we need all fifteen members of the council to be our representatives, fully knowledgeable of our needs and we need to hold them accountable for their actions or inactions.”

Rosendahl, who may be the best-known gay person in the 11th Council District he represents, wrote in an email to his constituents:

If you’re proud of the sense of community we have on the Westside, and don’t want anyone to mess with that, we need to mobilize and stop an outrageous case of gerrymandering that threatens our council district!

Later today, the Los Angeles City Redistricting Commission is poised to publish a draft proposal for redrawing of council district lines, lopping most of Westchester and part of Playa Vista from the Eleventh District and putting it in another council district.

I won’t stand for that – and I hope you won’t either.

Please join me in urging the Redistricting Commission to reject that plan and keep our Westside, coastal district whole. Please sign this petition now, and attend a public hearing 6:30 p.m., Thursday, February 2, at Westchester Senior Citizen Center, 8740 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, CA 90045 to let your voice be heard.

Meanwhile, LaBonge’s new CD 4 plan encompasses Silver Lake to Beverly Crest in the Hollywood Hills to Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley. According to an almost amusing story in the LA Times, residents in each of these areas are going, “Huh?”

What do you think? Should LGBT people get their own city council district and hence enhance the opportunity to be elected to city council and other positions? Or do you agree with Richard Zaldivar that LGBT people are everywhere and should require representation from whomever is elected for their home district – much as openly gay Bill Rosendahl resents the fairly straight coastal area and straight Tom LaBonge has a record of representing LGBT concerns in his Hollywood-area district? Tonight’s town hall is an opportunity for your voice to be heard.

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