May 22, 2022

Long Beach redistricting commission struggles to agree, adds extra meeting

View Original Notice ? Long Beach redistricting commission struggles to agree, adds extra meeting

Long Beach’s Independent Redistricting Commission this week was unable to decide on which two of the myriad proposals for City Council district boundaries should join a previously selected map as the three finalists — despite a seven-hour session on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

A final map must be certified by early December.

Once again, more than three hours of public testimony preceded Wednesday’ discussion among commissioners, who have been meeting on proposed district maps for nearly a year. On Oct. 20, when the commission selected the first map of three finalists, residents from East Long Beach dominated public comment. This week, people affiliated with Latino United took most of the speaker slots.

Members of the independent commission, created in 2018 when Long Beach voters approved a change to the City Charter that took the job away from the City Council, have been meeting for most of the year. The process accelerated when final census numbers were released last month — since current state rules require the new districts to be set by Dec. 7.

Redistricting takes place on state, county and local levels every 10 years, after the U.S. Census Bureau releases its decennial population survey.

The commission’s previously stated desire to create one council district on most of the west side came under fire on Wednesday, with public speakers saying that proposal would further dilute the potential political power of the Latino community. Currently, the west side has two districts, each represented by Latino council members, Roberto Uranga in the Seventh District and Mary Zendejas in the First District.

Instead, multiple residents asked that the commission accept the Long Beach Equity Redistricting Map pitched by nonprofit Centro Cha, which works to improve social and economic development in the Latino community.

Centro Cha Executive Director Jessica Quintana told the commission on Wednesday that the nonprofit’s map offers a more equitable representation for all the city’s minority communities. She also noted (as did many others) that Long Beach now is majority-minority, meaning no one ethnicity is a majority of the city’s overall population.

Paul Mitchell, principal for consultant Redistricting Partners Inc., said before public testimony that the one map pushed forward during the Oct. 20 meeting met the goals of uniting Cambodia Town and the historic Black neighborhoods in Central Long Beach.

But others, including former City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, said the maps proposed by Redistricting Partners would force residents in the western and northern parts of the city to bear the brunt of the redistricting, leaving the largely White districts in East Long Beach alone.

Some speakers argued for leaving district boundaries as they are, or accepting the one proposed map that unifies the most neighborhoods; that latter map unifies 93 out of 102 neighborhoods and is the one the commission voted last week to send to the next round of discussions. Once the commission chooses three proposed maps, the panel would then vote on which of those should head to a final public hearing.

Commission members, for their part, followed the public testimony by discussing amendments to the proposed map already moving forward. Two amendments — making all of South Street the boundary between what are now the Eighth and Ninth districts, and returning Wilson High School to the Third District — passed quickly.

But more changes, particularly around the Long Beach Airport and along the 710 Freeway/Los Angeles River corridor, prompted multiple requests to look at different changes — with no consensus.

Despite one vote to extend the meeting by two more hours, the commission still hadn’t finished discussing the first map before midnight came and went.

Chair Alejandra Gutierrez asked her colleagues whether the meeting should go past 1 a.m., and a motion was made to continue to 3 a.m. The motion failed.

Instead, the commission decided to continue the meeting to Wednesday, Nov. 3, allowing the panel to continue their discussion before public comment in an attempt to select the remaining finalists.

If the commission can do that next week, the choice of a final map could still take place on Wednesday, Nov. 10. That would allow a public hearing to take place Thursday, Nov. 18. Changes can be made to any map up to and during the Nov. 10 meeting, Mitchell said.

To meet the deadline for districts before the June 2022 primary, the new council district map must be certified by Dec. 7. If the commission cannot approve a map by then, redistricting would fall to the Superior Court.

To review maps and the process, go to longbeach.gov/redistricting.

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