County supervisors reject second Latino district. Do you agree?
The 4-1 vote, which took place late Tuesday, pits Latino activists and Supervisor Gloria Molina against the rest of the board. They are expected to accuse supervisors of repeating past mistakes by protecting white incumbents at the expense of the voting rights of Latinos.
In the past, federal courts have agreed with Latino activists and ruled that white county supervisors systematically split growing Latino neighborhoods to protect incumbents and prevent the emergence of a Latino challenger. The voting rights lawsuit cost $14 million and the county was forced to adopt new maps, which led to the election of Molina, the first elected nonwhite supervisor since the late 19th century.
In the end, Mark Ridley-Thomas, a black supervisor who had been allied with Molina, switched sides and supported a plan by Supervisor Don Knabe. That plan largely preserves the five existing districts. Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, a possible L.A. mayoral candidate, and Michael D. Antonovich also backed Knabe's plan.
"Given the Latinos' long history of discrimination and political exclusion, this board has a duty under the Voting Rights Act to draw district lines that do not perpetuate that exclusion," Molina said.
Plans to create a new district with a majority of potential voters who are Latino would have placed one white incumbent -- either Knabe or Yaroslavsky -- in a dramatically new district. That drew loud protests from their constituents.
"I'm white, I'm a Republican, I live in Cerritos, and yes, I'm running for reelection. But the bare suggestion that I can only provide an outstanding level of service for the people who look like me is frankly insulting," said Knabe, who has represented his coastal and southeastern district since 1996.
What is your opinion about the vote? Should the supervisors have voted differently to create a second Latino district? Weigh in using the comment button above.
-- Rong-Gong Lin II and Jason Song
Photo: People hold signs and show support for one of the redistricting proposals at a meeting Tuesday. Hundreds of speakers gave emotional testimony on creating a second Latino-majority district. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times