At a press conference outside Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced a proposal for the City Council to put forth a new ballot measure next year to amend the city charter moving Council redistricting powers from City Councilmembers to an independent redistricting committee.
While many LA political leaders have called for such a commission in the past, including Feuer and current LA Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, little to nothing was done.
However, on Sunday, audio from an October 2021 of then-City Council President Nury Martinez, City Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera discussing Council redistricting was leaked.
While much of the outcry was focused on the racist language used by Martinez and others, the audio also shed light on the insider and arbitrary ways they planned to redivide/redistrict the city to be in their favor. At one point, discussion moved to whether Councilman Mike Bonin’s district would include Los Angeles International Airport following redistricting, leading to Martinez recalling telling someone asking about it to “Go get the airport from his little brother , that little b—- Bonin.”
The blatant discussion in having districts created to their favor infuriated many, with the issue even being a significant part of the Mayoral debate Tuesday night.
“What’s happened is completely unacceptable and those that did it need to be held accountable,” Caruso said at Tuesday’s debate. “But I think there’s more than we need to talk about. They went into a back room to carve up the city for their own special interest for themselves. The system is broken, and it’s full of corruption.”
Feuer calls for independent redistricting committee
This led Feuer to bring back a previous proposal of installing an independent redistricting committee, through ballot approval by the City Council and a special election by the people of Los Angeles next year. Under his proposal, Los Angeles would then contract with LA County and use their independent redistricting commission process. Commissioners under the proposal would also not be chosen or influenced by city officials, nor would City Councilmembers or the Mayor be allowed to veto their decisions.
“It should be clear to everyone by now that if you leave in the hands of elected officials the power to determine their own political districts, this is a recipe for conflict of interest and is an invitation to backroom deals,” Feuer said at the press conference on Wednesday. “We need to act with urgency right now. We have an emergency in our city. We need to begin to heal. We need to restore faith in the redistricting process, in city government, in city leadership.”
While many acknowledged the need for such a commission has been needed in the city for quite some time, most commentators said the proposal was met quite positively by lawmakers and Angelinos alike.
“Feuer said what many had wanted for a long time,” Shawn McDonald, a policy advisor based in Long Beach told the Globe Wednesday. “As those four in the tapes proved, districting line drawing can be very sketchy and is gerrymandering on the city level. An independent commission would move that away and redraw the lines more fairly. There’s a lot to factor in, and City Councilmembers have proven they are not up to the task.”
“I have to say though, this is a strange time for LA. You have die-hard conservatives siding with Mike Bonin and Joe Biden, die-hard liberals and Latinos wanting Martinez and de Leon out, and everyone now agreeing with Mike Feuer. This shows you just how hard this scandal hit LA this week, and as these resignations and this redistricting proposal now show, along with the Mayoral election coming up, LA will be very much different politically next year.”
As of Wednesday night, Martinez has resigned from the City Council while de Leon and Cedillo still have not.