City officials protest state and federal redistricting

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Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal and Councilmember Lou La Monte attended a

meeting to lodge the city’s protest over the redrawing of district lines that would separate it from Santa Monica, and inland cities like Hidden Hills and Calabasas.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

Two local city council members spoke out last Thursday evening against a proposed redesign of state and congressional voting districts they say could isolate Malibu from sharing services with neighboring communities.

Appearing in Culver City at a marathon meeting of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Mayor Pro Tem Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Councilmember Lou La Monte echoed comments made last week, in which city officials expressed worry over a draft map that places Malibu in new U.S. Congressional and Senate districts, excluding it from nearby cities that experience similar issues.

“The present district lines have finally achieved community interest criteria we’re all looking for,” La Monte said. “The new proposed district lines don’t achieve the things we have now.”

Changes on the draft map, summoned from results of the last 10-year federal census, groups Malibu in a new Senate district with inland cities like Santa Clarita. As well, Malibu’s place in the new proposed Congressional district disassociates it with Hidden Hills and Calabasas, also pairing it on the Ventura County side with cities like Port Hueneme and Oxnard, away from its neighbors in western Los Angeles County.

Rosenthal, reciting a letter from the 25-member Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, decried the draft plans, stating that by dislodging Malibu from current districting criteria, it will become more difficult for the city to partner with other entities regarding public safety and other issues. Because redrawn congressional lines propose to separate Malibu from Santa Monica, it drives a wedge between both municipalities, Rosenthal said, especially within the area school district, which both cities share.

Malibu and Santa Monica, Rosenthal said, need to remain within the same districts for their “mutual and interconnected relations (and) socioeconomic, cultural interests.”

She called the draft redrawn Senate district “awkward and unmanageable,” which extends roughly 90 miles from Malibu north to the Kern County line.

The meeting at Culver City Hall invited hundreds of public speakers during a six-and-a-half hour period, all opposed to the redrawn lines. The 14-member commission is expected to release a final version of the redrawn districts by August.

Following the meeting, council member La Monte commented further.

“The real issue is that they’re cutting us off from the Westside, where most of our people live,” he said.

La Monte said it has been a cultivation of relationships begun 10 years ago, when the current district lines were drawn following the 2000 Census.

“Now they’re taking that opportunity away from us,” he said.

La Monte related to residents who came from all reaches of the county to speak at last week’s meeting.

“I thought it was very interesting that of the 200 or so speakers, I didn’t see anyone who was happy with what they did,” he said.

Several areas of the county received the most attention Thursday night, including communities from South Central Los Angeles, the South Bay and Long Beach, Pasadena and Altadena, and Thai and Korea Towns near Hollywood. Each person who approached the podium cautioned that moving the lines a mere few blocks disrupts more than a city’s Assembly or Senate representation.

“You redraw the lines and you break communities up,” one woman said.

For Malibu, La Monte’s suggestion to the commission for a new senatorial district is to combine its assembly district with the neighboring Thousand Oaks/Santa Monica Mountains district.

“I think that would make sense,” he said. “It seems logical.”

Local officials may take to formally discussing the issue sometime during the summer months, Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen said.

“Certainly, that’s an option the city could entertain,” he said. “It’s certainly of high concern to council members.”

Thorsen said it is most likely that the redrawing of the maps problem will be agendized for a future city council meeting, and would be brought up in public comment for Malibu residents. Mayor John Sibert has also previously written to the redistricting committee on the matter.

Public comment on the proposed redistricting of Los Angeles County can be submitted online at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov