Malibu faces new redistricting controversy

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is at odds over how to draw new supervisory districts, which must be approved by Oct. 31. Malibu Mayor John Sibert says some of the proposals could be disastrous.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

Malibu city officials are sounding the alarm over another redistricting controversy, this time at the county level. Just as new legislative maps were approved Aug. 15 at the state and national levels, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is required to redraw the boundaries for the county’s five supervisory districts by Oct. 31, following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents Malibu, last week on his Web site condemned proposals by fellow supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas as “a bald-faced gerrymandering that is completely unnecessary.”

The proposals involve major changes to the current maps that would result in the county’s second Latino-majority district. Molina and Ridley-Thomas’ proposals will come to a vote at the board’s Sept. 6 meeting at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration downtown. Malibu Mayor John Sibert, city Councilmember Lou La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal plan to attend.

Both proposals would divide the San Fernando Valley’s three districts for the first time. Malibu and other North Bay cities would be grouped with port cities in the South Bay, such as San Pedro and Long Beach. Sibert said this would be disastrous, because those areas do not share the transportation corridor formed by the Pacific Coast Highway, and the 101, 10 and 405 freeways.

“We need to keep the communities of interest together, and that is not South Bay and the Port of Los Angeles,” Sibert said.

Sibert added there were political implications for Malibu and its relationship to county officials. Sibert noted that under the new map, Malibu would be represented by Supervisor Don Knabe should he win reelection in 2012. Knabe was the chief of staff for former Supervisor Deane Dana when the county famously butted heads with Malibu in the 1980s over building a sewer system, which led to Malibu incorporating into a city in 1991.

Sibert said it could be difficult working with Knabe given that history. “If we ended up getting [Knabe] again, that would certainly not be good for Malibu,” Sibert said. “Maybe leopards do change their spots, I don’t know. But I know in the last twenty years, first under Ed Edelman and then with Yaroslavsky, a lot of good things have been done. And we’ve developed some really good relationships with the county and the county staff, and I don’t want to see that broken up.”

The proposals by Molina and Ridley-Thomas come after the 2010 U.S. Census found the county’s Latino population rose to 48 percent by 2010, up from 45 percent in 2000. Latinos now account for one-third of the county’s eligible voters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Molina, who became the county’s first-ever Latina supervisor shortly after a 1990 federal court ruling found consistent discrimination against Latino voters in the county’s supervisory redistricting in previous decades, has said the census results demand better representation for Latinos.

Knabe and fellow Republican Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich are opposed to the proposals, and Knabe has submitted an alternate plan that would accommodate demographic changes but leaves the boundaries relatively the same.

But Latino advocacy groups say not redrawing the lines to include a second Latino-majority district would be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act, which states that designated minorities must have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing.

Steven A. Ochoa, national redistricting coordinator for the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told the Los Angeles Times the county could be courting a lawsuit if it does not create the new district.

“Is it worth the cost of a potential lawsuit to dilute the Latino vote in L.A. County?” Ochoa told the Los Angeles Times.

But Yaroslavsky, in the post on his Web site, wrote that the Federal Voting Rights Act only required 50 percent majorities for minority groups in districts when non-minorities consistently vote against minority candidates.

“The notion that non-minorities won’t vote for a minority candidate in L.A. County is antiquated,” Yaroslavsky wrote.

The new boundaries must be approved by four of the five supervisors by Oct. 31. But the opposition from Yaroslavsky, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, raises questions over whether that is possible. If the supervisors cannot come to an agreement by Oct. 31, a three-person panel comprised of elected officials District Attorney Steve Cooley, Sheriff Lee Baca and Assessor John R. Noguez would redraw the boundaries.

“The issues over how they divide up the rest of the county, and whether or not there’s fair representation for various ethnic groups, that shouldn’t be driving us to this kind of long skinny district with not a lot of connection,” Sibert said.