With a court-imposed deadline just hours away, a bitterly divided Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected today to adopt a redistricting plan that would place liberal Supervisor Ed Edelman in a new, predominantly Latino district.
Edelman broke his silence Tuesday to angrily denounce the plan, which he said is being pushed by the board’s conservative majority. The board, after meeting behind closed doors, delayed a vote on a plan until this morning.
Conservative Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Deane Dana said they expect the plan to be approved by a 3-2 vote. “The idea is to maintain our majority,” Dana said.
The board’s third conservative, Pete Schabarum, would not say how he will vote, but remarked, “Mr. Edelman has been a target of mine for years.”
Supervisors face a deadline of 3 p.m. today to submit a new redistricting plan to a federal judge, who ruled that current supervisorial district boundaries discriminate against Latinos.
The plan under consideration Tuesday would expose Edelman, a 16-year board veteran, to a strong challenge from a Latino. It also would change the political representation for many of the county’s 8 1/2 million residents.
Edelman said he was hopeful of persuading his colleagues to approve an alternate plan that would expand the board from five seats to seven. “What they’re doing is preserving the conservative majority at any cost,” Edelman said angrily. “This is a sham. I can probably win (in the new Latino district). It’s not going to lead to a Hispanic victory.”
U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon has scheduled a July 5 hearing to decide whether to accept the plan. He has said that if the plan fails to correct the violations of the federal Voting Rights Act, he will redraw district lines himself after consulting with plaintiffs in the case.
The plaintiffs--the U.S. Justice Department, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union--have until the July 5 hearing to respond to the plan.
Kenyon earlier this month ruled that the five Anglo supervisors intentionally discriminated against Latinos by drawing district boundaries in 1981 in a way that weakened the political influence of the county’s 3 million Latinos. The supervisors, who have spent $4 million fighting the case, are appealing the ruling.
Under the conservatives’ proposal, a new Latino district, bearing the designation of Edelman’s 3rd District, would stretch from El Sereno and Lincoln Heights through downtown Los Angeles, east to El Monte and San Gabriel and southwest to Montebello and Pico Rivera.
Edelman referred to the new district as “octopus-shaped” because it would have tentacles reaching out from the Latino core around downtown Los Angeles into a number of neighborhoods. For example, Edelman said his Westwood home would be linked to the new district by a long “finger.”
Supervisors refused to make the map public.
Edelman complained that his colleagues sprung the map on him without warning at a closed-door meeting Tuesday.
“They’re doing a job on Ed,” said Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who said he will stick with his fellow liberal in opposing any plan that places Edelman at political risk.
Edelman said he favors carving out a Latino district from Schabarum’s 1st District, noting that Schabarum is retiring. The conservative supervisors fear that such a move would tip the balance of power on the board.
Dana said the supervisors delayed a vote until today “because we’re still making minor adjustments.”
Edelman’s district currently runs from heavily Latino East Los Angeles to affluent Bel-Air and includes portions of the San Fernando Valley.
Under the board’s plan, Edelman would lose parts of the affluent and liberal Westside that form a large part of his political base. Those neighborhoods would be added to Dana and Hahn’s districts.
In such a new district, Edelman could face a strong challenge from a Latino. Los Angeles City Council members Richard Alatorre and Gloria Molina and U.S. Rep. Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente) have expressed interest in running for supervisor in a new Latino district.
Under the plan, Antonovich would pick up San Fernando Valley neighborhoods from Edelman. Dana’s district would extend into a small portion of the Valley for the first time.
The plaintiffs have asked Kenyon to throw out results of the June election for two supervisorial seats and schedule a November election in the new 1st and 3rd districts. If the judge agrees, filing for the seats would be reopened.