How Local Independent Commissions Are Changing California Redistricting

Long Beach is home to one of the busiest ports in the U.S., a city-owned airport, the birthplace of rapper Snoop Dogg and, of course, the beach. 

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It’s also home to many different communities: a Cal State campus, young professionals and senior citizens downtown in need of affordable housing, a 45% Hispanic population and the largest Cambodian community outside of the Southeast Asian nation. 

How these communities are grouped into new election districts could reorder the city’s priorities. For decades, the Long Beach City Council drew its own districts. But this year, redistricting is in the hands of a new independent commission, aimed at preventing council members from drawing maps to their own political advantage. 

The new commission is hearing from residents, including environmental justice advocate Theral Golden, who spoke about Long Beach’s “kill zone” — also known as the “diesel death zone,” or “asthma alley.” 

Golden and others argued that because the corridor north of the port is currently divided into four council districts, residents can’t be as effective in fighting port-caused pollution.

“We are looking for something that will give someone who will represent us in a manner in which we can solve some problems,” Golden told the commission in June.  

California has a dozen new local independent commissions in this round of redistricting, a process that will create districts for elections from 2022 to 2030 based on the 2020 Census, the once-a-decade nationwide population count. 

These new panels are coming up with districts that in some places have never been redrawn, or have not been altered significantly, despite changing populations. Taking redistricting power away from office holders could mean changes in representation and city priorities.

This local movement was preceded by a state-level independent commission created by voters in 2008. That commission is busy holding public hearings and working on new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that, in some areas, could impact who is elected. It is getting the lion’s share of attention. 

But the city and county commissions demonstrate, again, that all politics is local.   

Reforming redistricting’s ‘wild, wild West’ 

The new local independent redistricting commissions were authorized by the 2019 Fair MAPS Act, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a way to prevent political gerrymandering. 

The push in Long Beach for an independent panel came mostly from the city’s Cambodian community, whose political power was diluted when it was split into four council districts by the city council’s last redrawing in 2011.  

Despite that division, in December 2020, Suely Saro, a community advocate born in a refugee camp in Thailand, became the first Cambodian American on the Long Beach City Council and one of a few in the nation.

In 2018, a community group, Equity for Cambodians, teamed up with California Common Cause, a government reform group that pushed for the Fair MAPS Act, to lobby for the new commission. Later that year, voters changed the city charter to create the panel.

Click here to read the full story at CalMatters.com

Comments

  1. I have a GREAT IDEA,,,Lets GROUP the COMMUNIST DEMOSHITS into 1 BIG GROUP AND WE CAN MAKE IT IN RUSSIA OR CHINA where their POLICIES MOST CLOSELY MATCH THEIR OWN….LETS SHIP EVERY SINGLE ONE OUT….BYE BYE COMMUNISTS SCUMBAG

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