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Mayor Garcia Proposes Mayor-Chosen, Council-Approved Advisory-Only "Redistricting Comm'n," Could Allow Council To Continue District Gerrymandering


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(June 11. 2018, 12:15 p.m.) -- Mayor Robert Garcia has proposed that the City Council schedule a special citywide November 2018 election -- with an initial cost estimate of from $470,000-$650,000 -- for up to five City Charter amendments.

One of the proposed Charter Amendments (covered in this article; other articles here and to follow) proposes to create a "Redistricting Commission" - chosen by the Mayor, approved by the Council, with "advisory only" powers -- that would effectively allow the Council to continue to re-draw (and gerrymander) Council district lines.

It stems from a Nov. 7, 2017 Council agenda item, brought by Councilman Al Austin, joined by Councilmembers Suzie Price, Daryl Supernaw and Dee Andrews, that asked the Mayor to convene a meeting of the Charter Amendment Committee (comprised of the full Council) within 60-90 days and ask the City Clerk and City Attorney "to develop framework options for the Committee to consider" (carried 7-0, Uranga, Andrews absent.)

The Council specified 60-90 day deadline came and went four to five months ago (until after incumbents were re-elected and Measure M had passed) and the item now scheduled for June 12 discussion doesn't meet the Council voted terms. Instead of "framework options" for Council and public discussion, there's only one draft visible on the Garcia-agendized item.

[Scroll down for further]


The Garcia-advanced draft would let the Mayor choose an unspecified number of LB residents (with no specific qualifications or residence areas indicated) subject to Council approval to create a Redistricting Commission with only advisory powers on how the Council draws Council district lines. In substance, it is a Redistricting Commission basically in name-only without the power to prevent the type of Council district-line gerrymandering that has previously impacted LB neighborhoods.

[June 12, 2018 draft text]

Section ___ COMMISSION CREATED. A Citizens' Redistricting Commission is hereby created to advise the City Council on the drawing of City Council electoral district boundaries.

Section ___- ORGANIZATION.

(a) The Citizens' Redistricting Commission shall be composed of residents of the City of Long Beach. Each member shall be appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council. No member shall hold elective office in the City or be an employee of the City, during their term on the Commission.

(b) Members shall be appointed at the time the redistricting ordinance is required to be considered, and shall serve until the redistricting ordinance is adopted.

Section ___ - POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE COMMISSION.

The Commission shall have the following powers and duties:

(a) To review United States decennial census data and related demographic information, hold public hearings and seek public input, and render recommendations to the City Council for the adjustment of boundaries to City Council electoral districts to ensure that electoral districts so formed shall each contain, as nearly as practicable, equal portions of the total population of the City. All districts shall be redrawn in conformance with requirements of Federal and State law and, to the extent feasible, shall keep neighborhoods and communities intact, utilize natural boundaries or street lines, and be geographically compact.

(b) No recommendation shall be made by the Commission except upon the affirmative vote of a majority of members of the Commission. Failure of the Commission to make a recommendation in any year within the time prescribed shall be deemed to mean a recommendation that no change be made. Each recommendation shall be made in writing. Before it submits any such recommendation to the City Council, the Commission shall conduct at least one public hearing on the matter. When such recommendation has been submitted to the City Council, it shall not thereafter be amended by the Commission unless referred back from the City Council.

(c) To perform such other duties as may be established by this Charter or the City Council...

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Mayor Garcia's agendizing memo for the item states in pertinent part: "FISCAL IMPACT [all caps in original]: Discussion of proposed amendments has no fiscal impact."

Responding to LBREPORT.com's inquiry, City Clerk Monique de la Garza said the estimated cost for putting one measure on the November ballot would be roughly $470,000, and that sum would increase by $45,000 for each additional measure. That would cost LB taxpayers $650,000 if the Council calls a November 2018 special election for all five of the Charter Amendments sought by Garcia and Doud

City Clerk de la Garza says the estimate she received from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk for putting one citywide measure [Measure M] on the June 5, 2018 ballot was approximately $525,000.

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Amnesia File

A few months after taking office, Mayor Bob Foster proposed a package of Charter Amendments, one of which was creation of a Redistricting Commission. On January 7 and 9, 2007, the Council (sitting as the Charter Amendment Committee) discussed the items, asked the City Attorney to prepare a draft of the measures, discussed the item further January 16, 2007 and on Jan. 23 approved putting it on the ballot.

Reduced to its essentials, the Foster-proposed Redistricting Commission would have nearly removed Council district line-drawing from Councilmembers and given it to a 9-member Commission (one from each Council district) nominated and chosen by the votes of citywide electeds: the Mayor, City Attorney, City Auditor and City Prosecutor...with the Mayor given two votes (instead of one for the others) in the selection process. On Jan. 23, 2007, before voting to approve putting the measure on the May 2007 ballot, Councilmembers added verbiage specifying that proposed redistricting maps come back to the Council for possible additional changes.

The Council bundled the Redistricting Commission with an "Independent Salary Commission" (to set Councilmembers salary) and an "Ethics Commission" (Proposition B). It was on the same ballot as a Term Limits-weakening proposal (Proposition C) that would have allowed the Mayor/Council three terms (12 years) instead of two terms (8 years), eerily similar to what Mayor Garcia is proposing now.

On May 1, 2007, LB voters rejected the a Redistricting Commission/Salary Commission/Ethics Commission measure (Proposition B) by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. LB voters also rejected the Term Limits-weakening proposal (Proposition C) by a more than 2 to 1 margins...but approved a term-limits bypass procedure (Proposition D) by just under 2 to 1 that allowed an incumbent who finished first or second in an April initial election to have his/her name printed on the ballot in a June runoff..

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Roughly 18 months later on a statewide level, California voters passed Proposition 11 (Nov. 2008), authorizing a "CA Citizens Redistricting Commission." Over 30,000 individuals applied to be on the Commission; the State Auditor narrowed pool to about 5,000 and a three-member panel of auditors conducted interviews to create a pool of 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 applicants from neither major party, which was submitted to the state legislature.

The Assembly speaker, the president pro tempore of State Senate, and minority party leaders in the Assembly and the Senate jointly reduced the pools to 12 members in each pool; the State Auditor randomly drew three Democrats, three Republicans, and two applicants from neither major party to become Commissioners...and these eight then selected six commissioners from the remaining applicants.

In 2011, city staff brought new redistricting maps to the City Council that ignited divisive public and Council debate over issues that included whether to split Bixby Knolls (as Los Cerritos was previously split) between the 7th and 8th Council districts, continue to split the Wrigley neighborhood between the 6th and 7th Council districts with no serious attention to considerable current gerrymandered district lines.)


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