Residents ask commission to end gerrymandering of local districts

Foothills residents want their legislative districts to make more sense. That’s the message the California Citizens Redistricting Commission heard at meetings last month in San Gabriel and San Fernando.

The 14-member commission is traveling the state to take public input as it prepares to remap California’s Assembly, Senate and congressional districts this year.

“We are very fragmented in our representation,” Karen Suter of La Crescenta told the commission April 30. “We would like you to resolve that for us.”

The commission was created by a 2008 voter initiative. It is tasked with ending gerrymandering by building district maps based on municipal boundaries and shared economic, geographic and demographic features of neighboring communities, as well as mandatory principles, such as making sure each district is of equal population.

Commissioners heard from more than 100 speakers at the April 29 meeting in San Gabriel and the April 30 meeting in San Fernando, getting an earful on everything from protecting the large Asian communities of the east San Gabriel Valley to freeing foothill cities from boundaries dominated by Los Angeles residents.

Several speakers focused on North Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta. Currently the area is represented primarily by state Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), state Sen. Carol Liu (D- La Cañada Flintridge), and Congressional Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). But other lawmakers, including state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Sen. Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) and Rep. David Dreier (R- San Dimas) represent slivers of local territory.

Glendale Unified School District Board member Mary Boger said eight lawmakers represent part of the school district, including two who have just a toehold.

“The frustrating thing for me is…we represent such a teeny, tiny portion of two of those assembly members’ [districts], that they are of no use to us — and we are of little or no interest to them because of that,” she said.

Bo Patatian, a political consultant who worked on Republican Sunder Ramani’s failed 2011 Assembly campaign against Gatto, focused on Donnelly’s slice of La Crescenta.

“You are charged with the daunting task of undoing many, many years of terribly selfish gerrymandering,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to realize that somebody fooled around a lot with that district.”

Mary Barrie, an open space advocate from La Cañada, told the commission that foothill communities from La Crescenta to Claremont have a lot in common.

“We share the geography and the beauty of the San Gabriels. We also share the trials and the tribulations of those mountains, the fires and the mudslides and all that,” she said.

Burbank City Councilman Dave Golonski asked that Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena stay together in one congressional distinct, as they are now with the exception that part of Burbank is in the district of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks).

The three cities, Golonski said, “work together on the airport. We have joint helicopter operations. We all own our own utilities. We are all independent cities,” Golonski said. “We don’t really see ourselves as part of Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, we fairly fiercely defend our independence from that.”

Several education officials emphasized cooperative efforts among the school districts in the tri-city area.

“Even though Burbank is often looked at as part of the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena is part of the San Gabriel Valley, that bridge of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena is really a core area,” said Ed Honowitz, a board member of the Pasadena Unified School District.

Mary Hubbard, a community activist from Calabasas, told the commission that Burbank and Glendale should not share a district with most of the rest of the San Fernando Valley.

“Those communities belong with Pasadena, and we have very little in common with them, except they have the Ikea, so we have to go there a couple of times a year.”

The commission is expected to release a final map in August.

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