Gerrymandering at Its Finest

By: 
Gerrie Schipske

Say goodbye to the 5th Council District if you live north of Spring and east of Studebaker. The city Independent Redistricting Commission is about to publish a map that cuts up the 5th and combines the upper part with Bixby Knolls and Cal Heights; other parts are put into the 4th Council District along with all of El Dorado Park.

How did this happen? In November 2018, Long Beach voters approved Measure DDD, which amended the City Charter to create a commission, comprised of residents, responsible for determining the boundaries of council districts every 10 years after the national Census. The commissioners were appointed by the mayor and City Council.

The mayor and City Council touted this proposal to establish a redistricting commission by telling voters that it would be “independent.” In the past, the City Council conducted the redistricting process and, on several occasions, drew council boundaries to fit the political needs of the incumbents or political opponents.

The strangest of all drawings, pulled the Nature Center from the 5th District to give it to the 4th so that the 4th district incumbent had more park area.

The current process is far from independent. When a current incumbent packed a commission meeting to protest her residence being removed from her council district, the commission changed its proposed map and put her back in. The City Charter mandates: “The commission shall not consider place of residence of any individual, including any incumbent or political candidate, in the creation of a map.”

When several others argued that the Long Beach Airport needed to be divided among several districts, it was. Consequently, the commission released a map that divides the 5th District north of Spring and combines it with Bixby Knolls and Cal Heights. The remainder of the district: Ranchos, Plaza, El Dorado Park Estates, Imperial Estates and El Dorado Park South are placed in the 4th District along with all of El Dorado Park.

Disclaimer: The map removes incumbent Stacy Mungo and the two announced candidates for the 2022 election, Michelle Dobson and Gerrie Schipske.

This map likely violates the City Charter that mandates: “The commission shall number each Council district such that, for as many residents as possible, the number of the council district they reside in remains the same.” The majority of the 5th District is being placed in the 4th District.

Redistricting is supposed to reflect the concept of “one person one vote,” which requires council boundaries to adequately reflect the composition of an area so that residents who have a “community of interest” are kept in the same districts. The districts are to essentially contain the same number of residents in each.

Where do these commissioners get their “expertise” to draw council boundaries? From a paid consultant hired by the city manager. Who does the city manager report to? The mayor and City Council. Who “staffs” the commission meetings? A member of the city manager’s department. Who directs the city manager’s staff? The city manager. Who hires the city manager? The mayor and City Council.

The current redistricting process is hardly independent. The commission is publishing its semi-final map Nov. 10 and will then vote to finalize it on Nov. 18.

You can attend the meetings of the Redistricting Commission online: https://longbeach.gov/redistricting. Let them know what you think.

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Comments

So sorry, but the Long Beach City Charter's redistricting commission and hired consultants that are involved, seems to be steered by the same ol' same ol' principle: "business as usual".

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