Redistricting Discussion at Heart of Leaked Racist Discussion by LA City Council Members; Jessica Levinson on the Legal Implications

From the LA Times bombshell report:

Still, much of the conversation focused on the maps that had been proposed by the city’s redistricting commission. Martinez voiced frustration that the panel had proposed removing a number of economic assets from her San Fernando Valley district, including the Van Nuys Airport and the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

“If you’re going to talk about Latino districts, what kind of districts are you trying to create?” she asked. “Because you’re taking away our assets. You’re just going to create poor Latino districts with nothing?”

At one point, Cedillo said there were certain councilmembers who do not merit “rescuing” during the redistricting process. He then made clear that he was referring to Nithya Raman, who had been fighting to ensure her Hollywood Hills district was not moved to the west Valley.

“She is not our ally. She is not going to help us,” he said.

Later in the conversation, the group talked about how Koreatown — a largely Latino neighborhood — should be handled in redistricting.

Martinez said the area was in Council District 10, which was Ridley-Thomas’ district. Martinez then noted that Raman “wants a play for K-Town” but said that would not happen because she didn’t want “beef” with Ridley-Thomas.

Martinez said that giving Raman what could amount to a safer council district would not be good for Martinez and her allies.

“It serves us to not give her all of K-Town,” Martinez said, referring to Raman. “Because if you do, that solidifies her renters’ district and that is not a good thing for any of us. You have to keep her on the fence.”

The group then questioned whether Shatto Place, a small street, and Lafayette Park are in Koreatown.

“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said of that section of Koreatown, employing stereotypes long used against Oaxacans in Mexico and in the United States.

“I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”

KCRW Press Play:

The question now is whether or not the councilmembers were drawing district lines in a way that discriminates on the basis of race, says Levinson.

“Typically, it’s really really difficult to show that district lines are drawn on the basis of race, and you just have effects. In this case, we actually had them on audio really explicitly talking about how to draw lines to improve and or diminish different racial groups in their voting power. Now, this is only three members. Obviously, it’s not a majority. But I think this is where I see the legal red flags.”

She adds that lawsuits could be filed under the Federal Voting Rights Act, the California Voting Rights Act, and the California Fair Maps Act.

“How that fares and what ultimately happens? I don’t know. But I know that we have comments here that we typically don’t have audio of this level of explicitly saying, ‘Let’s help this race. Let’s hurt this race.’”

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