L.A. council boundaries were decided in secret, activists charge
Critics of L.A.’s redistricting process took aim at City Council President Herb Wesson on Tuesday, saying recent comments made by Wesson prove that new council boundaries were decided in secret.
At a news conference, a group of community leaders from Wesson's 10th Council District handed out DVDs that included excerpts of Wesson’s remarks at a Los Angeles Baptist Ministers Conference meeting last month.
In the excerpts, Wesson says: “I did the best I could to retain assets for all of the districts. One person. Alone. Every member came to me to discuss what they wanted. ... ”
Grace Yoo, executive director of the Korean American Coalition, said the comments show that officials didn't listen to input from community members about how the lines should be drawn.
She called the series of public hearings on redistricting "a dog-and-pony show.”
Wesson told The Times on Tuesday: “I’m not going to talk about redistricting. Period. As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to move on.” In the past, both Wesson and the city attorney’s office have said that the maps are legally defensible and that the public was provided with many opportunities to weigh in.
During hearings on the new lines, Yoo and other Koreatown activists argued that the neighborhood should be moved from Wesson's district into one represented by Councilman Eric Garcetti. They said that combining Koreatown with other parts of Garcetti's district — Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown — would improve the chances of electing an Asian American candidate. Only one Asian American has ever been elected to the City Council.
But final boundaries approved by council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa kept Koreatown in Wesson’s district.
Five Koreatown residents filed a lawsuit against the city last week accusing Los Angeles officials of deciding the boundaries behind closed doors. The lawsuit alleges that certain members of the City Council and the Redistricting Commission "communicated with each other regarding how they wanted their respective districts to be drawn," and ignored the public process.
The lawsuit also says city officials illegally used race as the predominant factor to redraw the district.
Wesson, who is black, represents all or part of Koreatown, West Adams, Mid-City, the Crenshaw Boulevard corridor and other nearby neighborhoods.
The lawsuit says the boundaries were shaped with the "explicit purpose" of increasing the percentage of African American voters in the district.
-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times