By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
“I’m one of the no-see-’ems,” Wisley says. “I’m only a technician. I’m like the person who repairs the TV.”
It can take a lot of phone calls to reach anyone willing to hint at the process — and even then, no one wants to be quoted. One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the remapping is dominated by Democratic and Republican party honchos seeking key political goals, with individual legislators chiming in, all of it overseen by attorneys who keep the line-drawing legal, if not particularly honest.
During the remapping giddily approved during 9/11, Michael Berman of Berman & D’Agostino Campaigns in Beverly Hills — and the brother of U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles) — was the master line-drawer for California Senate and Congressional districts. Attorney Joe Ramcho of San Leandro drew lines for state Assembly districts. “He was Bob Hertzberg’s guy,” the source says. “He did all of the negotiations with all of the [Assembly] members. He was in all of the backroom deals. That information passed away with him.”
Ramcho died in a helicopter crash after the 2001 plan was adopted, the source says. Hertzberg, Berman and Brulte did not return L.A. Weekly’s phone calls.
The source concedes, “Yeah, it’s self-serving. You’d never get any [legislator] to vote for a plan that screws them. Why would they do that?”
But as the League of Women Voters and other groups now point out, having set themselves up in safe seats from which they cannot be ousted — barring some huge voter upheaval or public scandal — California legislators no longer worry much about voters. That helps to explain the California Legislature’s abysmal 21 percent approval rating.
Former Assemblyman Keith Richman of Northridge was a rarity in Sacramento, as a moderate Jewish Republican doctor holding office in the polarized 120-person Legislature, which has fewer than five moderates in either party. He says the big money flowing from highly polarized, extremely partisan special-interest groups to the legislators in “safe seats” is so alluring that “it ends up driving candidates to the extreme” partisan camps to service their big contributors.
A few years ago, Republican Richman and Democrat Canciamilla joined with Long Beach Democrat Lowenthal in a bipartisan attempt to change all that. Lowenthal, who led the push, got a bill through the Democratic-controlled Senate to end gerrymandering, only to see it killed in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Now, they’re going directly to voters.
Prop. 11 has drawn some opposition, including from the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, both of which ask whether the bipartisan panel to be created by Prop. 11 will stand up for minorities — although, in fact, federal law requires that minority voting rights be protected, and the independent panels operating in other states have ensured as much.
Lowenthal says he became outraged when the 2001 “mapmakers” — Hertzberg, Brulte, Berman, Ramcho and nameless others — quietly turned the 46th Congressional District of Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher into another disappears-at-high-tide monstrosity reaching from Palos Verdes Estates to Costa Mesa in Orange County, all to assure that incumbent Rohrabacher and other incumbents kept their jobs, regardless of party affiliation.
“It had nothing to do with making communities,” Lowenthal says. “It had all to do with making sure the incumbents were re-elected. I said, ‘I’m not voting for this.’”