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The unkindest cuts?

Stanley O. Williford | 3/7/2012, 5 p.m.

The relationship between the Los Angeles City Council's three African American members--Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry on the one side and Herb J. Wesson on the other--shows signs of combusting into an inferno that could deplete much of what political capital the city's African American community has left.


The latest debacle is over the way Parks and Perry's districts have been redrawn, but other sectors of the city also have a beef with the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission.


An earlier point of contention was over Parks and Perry not voting for, or being present, when Wesson was made president of the City Council, the first Black to achieve that status. Subsequent to that, Wesson removed the two from prime committee assignments.


Ninth District Councilwoman Perry complained in early November that some sleight of hand may have occurred concerning the redistricting maps even before the Commission had begun its task. The implication was that other council members, most notably Wesson, may have been involved with the early redrawing.


Wesson said the accusation is "absolutely untrue" that he knows nothing about any other maps.


On Sunday, Parks, councilman for the 8th District, took his complaint concerning the redrawn maps before the congregation at Crenshaw Christian Center, the largest Black church in his district. That church is one of more than 200 he said he had contacted over the redistricting issue, most by mail. Parks spoke to the congregation about 15 minutes, showing several maps on the church's big screens and explaining how the new map eviscerates his district of revenue sources and turns it into what he termed a "poverty pit." He explained that the same thing was happening in Perry's district.


He appealed to the 5,000-plus members in attendance to make their voices heard by filling up the emails and the fax machines of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 10th District Councilman Wesson. He also urged them to attend the City Council Rules Committee hearing at City Hall March 16.


For example, under the new maps, Parks' 8th District would lose Baldwin Hills, the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza and Marlton Square areas as well as USC, but pick up several poorer areas. Perry's 9th District would lose its economic engine, the downtown area, including L.A. Live and the proposed Farmers Field stadium, but also pick up more poor areas. The ninth, said Perry, is now without a middle class.


Park alleges that the redrawn maps of both his and Perry's districts are attempts to turn both their districts into Latino districts, pitting Latinos against Blacks. In other words, they are obvious attempts to ravage the Black community. Heretofore, the 8th District is the only one of the city's 15 districts with a Black majority, he said.


On the councilman's official website, he alleges that the Commission's effort is a "very obvious racially motivated assault on the Downtown/South Los Angeles districts" whose intention is to "irreversibly weaken African American influence in the city."


"There are laws established by the Voting Rights Act that undeniably protect non-White majority districts like CD8," Parks says on the website. "However, the commission has decided to only acknowledge the laws protecting the majority Latino districts of 1, 7 and 14."