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Politics

Gays, Asians Fight for Own City Districts in Los Angeles Redistricting Battle

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Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM

click to enlarge But who will represent the Gayshians? - JASON IN HOLLYWOOD
Redistricting is so hot this season! California's doing it; L.A. County 's doing it; and, because the city charter requires we do it once per decade, L.A. proper is jumping on the redistricting train in 2012, too.

Literally. Tomorrow at 9 a.m., the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission will "embark on a city bus tour" that will allow them to observe, in natural habitat, "various communities' district lines and to explore what changes, if any, are feasible," according to their presser.

Aw! As if the puzzle pieces weren't carved out months ago, behind closed doors.

But that isn't stopping L.A. communities from fighting for unity/homogeny. Like in the state- and countywide redistricting battles, race has come to the forefront of the argument -- with some minorities insisting that in order to be fairly represented by their local politicians, the lines of their official districts need to represent the natural lines of their neighborhoods.

Since Latinos already have heavy representation at City Hall -- the mayor included -- they've sort of stood aside for this one. (Unlike in the county redistricting debates, where they're actually threatening to sue for civil-rights violations.)

In their place, the Asians of Koreatown have swarmed the L.A. city redistricting meetings, swords drawn. Via Eastern Group Publications:

Koreatown is currently split between Council Districts 1, 4, 10 and 13. Several residents said the fact that not a single member on the city council is Asian, despite the city's large Asian population, is evidence that the split has diluted their power and representation. The 2010 Census puts the Asian and Pacific Islander population at 15 percent.

A man who identified himself as a representative of the Little Bangladesh Improvement Association, a community located within Koreatown, also asked the commission to unite Little Bangladesh, currently split between two districts, as well.

There's almost a creepy tinge of segregation to arguments like these, but technically, Koreatown activists are right -- if Asians make up 15 percent of L.A., it's only fair that they see an Asian face on the City Council. (That is, if you believe that voters are best represented by a member of their own race.)

The Jewish Journal, in an article last fall projecting its own fears of losing Jewish representation on the council, noted that "in the history of Los Angeles, only one city council member has ever been elected from the Asian-American community -- Mike Woo." (In contrast to a boatload of Jewish councilmembers, even though L.A. has fewer Jews than Asians.) Interestingly, the Journal tried to venn-diagram the worries of the two communities:

As the Jewish base narrows in Los Angeles, and Asian-Americans continue to seek political representation, conversations between the two groups would be in order. Both Jews and Asian-Americans will need to reach out to other groups and win elections in districts without a secure majority of their own group. But, so far, neither group understands how similar its problems and worries are to the problems of the other group. Jews and African-Americans made history together in Los Angeles during the Bradley era, and there are serious efforts afoot to prevent electoral competition from obstructing a positive relationship between Jews and Latinos. An exploration of the potential for mutual benefit between Jews and Asian-Americans could well pay dividends that have not been fully appreciated until now.

Weird. And to pile on, a somewhat motley crew of gay-leaning neighborhoods on the outskirts of SoCal's gayest city -- West Hollywood -- are putting their foot down and demanding that they, too, get their own district.

Weirdest part of that fight is that it's being led by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group (oxymoron, right?) behind the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Deep breath in. Patch reports that the gay district "would comprise Silver Lake, western Hollywood and Studio City -- areas that historically have had a higher concentration of gay residents than other parts of the city.

In the words of WeHo activist and Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Scott Schmidt:

"Grouping together communities with common interests is one of the guidelines for redistricting. Creating a gay district would help make sure gay interests are represented. ... When you divide the gays into three council districts, no one is going to look after their issues completely."

Needless to say, that cheesy tour bus of redistricting commissioners will get an earful at its stops in Koreatown and Studio City tomorrow -- though probably in vain.

So uh, remind us again why we don't we just all sleep with each other and make a bunch of L.A. mutts? Seems like the easy (and fun) way past all this bickering.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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