L.A. city attorney backs ballot plan to double the size of the City Council in 2022
Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Monday that he will speed up his timetable for doubling the size of the City Council, saying he wants voters to take up the proposal next year instead of 2024.
Feuer, who is running for mayor, said he decided to move more aggressively on his proposal in the wake of complaints about the city’s controversial effort to redraw boundaries for its council’s 15 districts.
A 21-member citizens commission made up of political appointees submitted its proposed redistricting map to the City Council on Friday. As part of its report, the panel called for an increase in the number of council districts in future years, saying such a move would better serve the city’s neighborhoods.
Feuer said his effort to amend the City Charter and increase the council’s size would require about 320,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. Those signatures would need to be submitted in mid-June, he said.
“It’s going to take an army across the city of Los Angeles of volunteers to change the status quo,” he said. “But that’s the key theme — the status quo isn’t working for us in the city of Los Angeles.”
The commission also recommended that the next map-drawing process, set for 2031, be taken out of the hands of the City Council and assigned to an independent body.
Feuer drew a link between some of the city’s biggest problems — homelessness, rising gun violence, housing affordability — and the fact that each council member is responsible for about 260,000 constituents.
But some of his rivals were not convinced.
Mayoral candidate Mel Wilson, a San Fernando Valley-based real estate broker, said an expansion of the council would only add “more layers of bureaucracy.” A better strategy for bringing government closer to the people would be to give more authority to the city’s network of volunteer neighborhood councils, he said.
Jessica Lall, a business leader also running for mayor, said city leaders should not move forward with a council expansion plan until they have conducted a larger review of the city’s governing structure.
Councilman Kevin de León said Feuer is focusing on the wrong solution.
“At a time when we need big, bold policy solutions focused on lifting up the people of L.A., it’s a little odd that someone’s big idea is focused on creating more politicians,” he said in a statement. “We have enough politicians. What we need are experienced leaders who have the courage to address the immense challenges before us.”
Feuer announced in September that he planned to seek a ballot measure in 2024 to double the number of council districts and cut council members’ pay in half — taking their annual salary from about $224,000 to $112,000. On Monday, standing outside City Hall, Feuer said he would instead begin gathering signatures in the next few months.
Feuer said the ballot measure, if approved, would trigger a new redistricting process — one that would be truly independent and keep decisions out of the hands of council members.
Redistricting “shouldn’t be based on the self-interest of politicians,” he said.
The Redistricting Commission also recommended that the next city’s map-drawing process, set for 2031, be truly independent. California Common Cause, a watchdog group, endorsed that idea as well.
The commission’s map heads to the council for its first review on Tuesday. Supporters say it would achieve several major goals, such as ensuring the city has 5.7 council districts entirely within the San Fernando Valley, reflecting that region’s population; placing Koreatown within a single council district; and preserving Black and Latino representation in key parts of the city.
Foes of the proposed map say it would impose sweeping changes on districts represented by Council members Nithya Raman, Paul Krekorian and Bob Blumenfield, forcing a swath of neighborhoods to take on a new council member.
Raman campaigned last year on a proposal to expand the size of the council but has not yet unveiled any proposals for achieving that goal. However, she and Krekorian have repeatedly spoken out against the proposed map, saying it would disenfranchise voters who cast ballots for them last year.
Council President Nury Martinez did not weigh in on Feuer’s proposal. However, an aide said this year’s redistricting process shows that the city needs to “rethink how we move forward.”
“However, before we work on something for 2030, we need to work on what is before us,” said Martinez spokeswoman Sophie Gilchrist. “And [the council president’s] focus at this moment is fixing and finishing the current map.”
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