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Conspiracy buzz flies around redistricting panel

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, November 18th, 2010 at 5:13 pm in redistricting.

The absence of a single individual from the City of Los Angeles in the 36-member pool of potential panelists on the California Redistricting Commission is fueling considerable speculation.

Los Angeles is California’s largest city. How could a panel charged with drawing political boundaries fail to include a single person from the state’s biggest city?

The theory, first mentioned by blogger Greg Lucas and repeated up and down the state today, is that the California legislative leaders intentionally struck all Los Angeles residents from the list of 60 eligible panelists in order to form the basis of future lawsuit in which the claim would be made that California’s largest city had been disenfranchised.

Wow, that’s pretty Machiavellian for a group of people whose budget was a record 100 days late.

By way of background, the State Auditor’s Office whittled down the initial 30,000 applicants to 60. (Click here to read the full FAQ’s on the commission.) The four legislative leaders could strike 24 names from the pool. That would leave 36 people from which the final 14-member board would be comprised: Eight through a lottery style drawing held this morning and the final six would be selected by those who won the random draw.

Sources in the Democratic and Republican parties tell me it’s nonsense.

For one, the GOP has publicly endorsed the creation of the independent redistricting commission, which will draw new political boundaries for state, board of equalization and congressional districts. (That does not mean some of its members are happy about it, though. Previous redistricting plans were adopted for the benefit of incumbents in both parties.)

And second, Nathan Barankin with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s says the legal case for “disenfranchisement” exists with or without Los Angeles residents.

“The bottom line, this commission will be comprised of 14 people,” he said. “Throughout history, the lines have been drawn by 120 people elected to the Legislature. There is no way, mathematically, that a group of 14 people can provide the same level of representation to the public as the 120-member state Legislature.”

The 36-member pool does include 10 people from Los Angeles County but no one from the city proper.

As specified in the voter-approved ballot measure, the top leader from each of hte two major parties in the Legislature were permitted a total 0f 24 strikes without cause. They made their decisons behind closed doors but Barankin said Steinberg selected people he consiered as the “best of the best,” rather than choosing people to eliminate.

And who are these people eliminated by legislative strike?

Only two were from Los Angeles: Leland T. Saito and Josefa Salinas.

Interestingly, one of the East Bay applicants still in the pool is Maria Blanco of El Cerrito. She told one of my colleagues that she is moving — guess where? — to Los Angeles later this year.

Problem solved.

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