Criticism of LAUSD Redistricting Maps Continues

Board Member Kayser wants to keep feeder schools together.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

A committee composed of Los Angeles City Council members met twice this week to hear stakeholders’ reactions to redrawn district maps for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.

Proposed revisions to the maps had to be submitted by today, April 12, to the Rules, Elections & InterGovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Council President Herb Wesson (CD-9), according to an adoption schedule memo.

In February, the now disbanded LAUSD Redistricting Commission approved the proposed maps (Map C v 1) on a 12 to 3 vote.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Criticismo Crece Sobre los Nuevos Límites de los Distritos de LAUSD

The council committee and full city council is expected to take action on the maps on April 20, according to the memo.

Former Commissioner Mark Lewis, a Bennett Kayser appointee, voted against the proposed map, and at Monday’s special meeting of the commission he said the commission did not participate in the creation of the map under consideration. It was presented to them at the last minute, he said.

“We purposely made sure that we weren’t drawing any snakes, as people have identified the curious lines. We purposely made sure that we kept communities intact … neighborhood councils together … school feeder zones—and our work is not reflected in the map you have before you,” he said.

Lewis has submitted a “Minority Report” detailing what he says are violations of the city charter — keeping neighborhoods and communities intact, conforming to high school attendance zones, and having geographically compact districts — and other grievances about the process.

A second committee meeting on the maps was held yesterday, April 11, after EGP went to print.

Under the new maps, Eastside schools—from Montecito Heights to unincorporated East LA—are consolidated in District 2, represented by Board President Monica Garcia. The new District 2 map gives Garcia a large swath of the Northeast LA-area (Montecito Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, Elysian Park), Chinatown, all of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, downtown LA, Koreatown, Westlake, Pico Union and University Park.

District 5, represented by Board Member Bennett Kayser, now includes Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Mount Washington, Glassell Park, Silver Lake, and parts of Atwater Village, Los Feliz and Hollywood. The district then narrows dramatically as it slithers through Larchmont,  Hancock Park, Mid Wilshire, Koreatown, Arlington Heights, Pico Union, South LA, before widening out again to include Vernon, Maywood, Bell, Cudahy, South Gate, Walnut Park, Huntington Park.

During Monday’s meeting at City Hall, several Westlake and Pico Union residents spoke out against the map saying the new boundaries slice through their communities and take away their ability to elect a representative by diluting the Latino population.

Sylvia Sosa told the committee members she has two children, one at Belmont High School, the other at the Roybal Learning Center.

“When you take away our ability to elect a representative, what you are really saying is that you are not listening,” Sosa said in Spanish. She said the new map also separates her family from their community of interest because it puts her son’s schools in District 2 but they live in District 5.

Vivian Albitures, who identified herself as the mother of seven and grandmother of two, asked the commission to approve the maps submitted by MALDEF, instead of those from the redistricting committee.

Eliminate the “little snake” from District 5, said South Central resident Angela Alvarez.

Ivan Carrillo, a staff member to Assemblymember Ricardo Lara who represents the Southeast Cities, spoke against the maps saying Southeast communities should be combined with other communities of interest. He said the proposed boundaries proposed for District 5 diminish the Latino vote.

“Currently 55 percent of the voting population in District 5 is composed of Latino communities, if the proposal were to go into effect the population would drop to 48 percent,” he said.

A handful of East Los Angeles stakeholders said they do not want Garfield, located in unincorporated East L.A., and Roosevelt, located in Boyle Heights, to be in the same district.

Veronica Ramirez, an East LA parent and education activist, told EGP she is not opposed to Garfield and Roosevelt being in the same district per se, she just does not want Garfield to be in Monica Garcia’s district.

Guadalupe Garcia addressed the commission with her two children in tow. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Ramirez said Garcia has not supported the community’s wishes, and she’d rather keep the recently elected Kayser as her representative. She questioned Garcia’s political motives, which she says come at the expense of the community.

Kayser opposes changes to his district’s boundaries. He said feeder schools should be kept together.

“A dozen years ago I represented the 13th City Council District on the elected Charter Reform Commission and I purport the language that said high school attendance area need to be respected as part of the redistricting process,” Kayser told EGP. This map doesn’t do that, he said.

He wants Marshall High School and two of its feeder schools to stay in his district along with the numerous other Marshall feeder schools. Under this map, Marshall and the two schools now go to Steve Zimmer’s District 4, he said.

Kayser agreed with some of the speakers saying splitting feeder schools would affect the level of service and philosophy of the district. An example of this might be his limited ability to help fund field trips for certain schools with his discretionary funds, he explained.

He said Atwater Village and Los Feliz should not be split in two, and he wants to keep Griffith Park in his district because there is a Zoo Magnet School located there and he’d like to do a project that uses the LA River as an outdoor classroom.

Kayser didn’t have anything specific to say about Eastside schools, but said he would be fighting to keep the district as it currently is “if it weren’t a federal requirement” to update the maps based on population changes reflected in the Census.

Elected last May, he’s been working to develop relationships with communities and schools, and “this is like having the rug pulled out from under you,” he said.

He said he will not go to court over the maps, no matter the outcome, but he would still like to see his “C” shaped district opened up.

Kayser and his chief of staff, Sarah Bradshaw, say his district looks like a textbox example of gerrymandering, where a district takes on a strange shape like a Salamander.

Image from the Minority Report submitted to the full LAUSD Redistricting Commission on February 29 by Commissioners Mark Lewis, Jimmie Woods Gray and Dermot Givens.

He says Map A, rejected by the Redistricting Commission, is a better option. That map had three Latino majority districts, one African American district and an Asian district, he said.

I’d like “to see the maps that people saw during the public hearings considered versus maps that nobody saw,” he said.

The City Attorney’s Office has expressed concern over the map, saying District 5 specifically could be legally challenged.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Council President and Committee Chair Wesson said it’s impossible to please everybody; the question now is whether the maps are legally solid.

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April 12, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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