Redistricting could shake up local political landscape

DOWNEY - New preliminary district maps released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission earlier this month are already shaking up the city's political landscape, aligning Downey with several new constituencies and congressional representatives. City officials believe the commission's first draft, unveiled June 10, offers mixed results for the city and its residents. "The city of Downey is fully contained within the proposed State Assembly and State Senate districts as well as the larger State Board of Equalization district," public information officer Shannon DeLong wrote in a city statement. "However, the first draft of the congressional district maps moves 10,700 Downey residents into a district different from their neighbors." Mayor Luis Marquez is protesting the new redistricting plan, calling on the commission to reconsider the district lines. "We asked for Downey to be in one district, but we've been split up into two congressional districts," said Marquez, who sent a letter to the redistricting commission objecting the panel's first draft. "This is very concerning that they would not keep communities of interest together. We want to be paired up with cities who have similar interests. We want the entire city of Downey kept together." According to the commission's new district maps, the majority of Downey will be located in a new congressional district, which includes the neighboring cities of Bellflower, Artesia, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, La Mirada, Montebello and Pico Rivera. The southwestern portion of Downey would join Inglewood, Bell, Cudahy and South Gate in another congressional district. While the maps do not reveal exactly which representatives will oversee these new districts, Marquez said if the proposed district boundaries are approved, the city will most likely lose Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard. "Our congressional districts would be shifted. Roybal-Allard would move to Downtown LA and the bulk of Downey would join Rep. Grace Napolitano's district," he said. "The other congressional district, which stretches from Inglewood to Downey looks similar to Rep. Maxine Waters' district." In his letter to the commission, Marquez calls the proposal unacceptable and urges commissioners to review the redistricting plan. "It violates not just the geographic integrity of the city of Downey as a whole, but also separates individual neighborhoods in Downey," wrote Marquez. "Instead of keeping the whole of Downey in one compact geographic unit with its longtime regional partners...the proposed congressional district forces 10 percent of the city into a district with constituents more than 13 miles away." In addition to the congressional changes, Downey will also join a new Assembly district that extends from Norwalk all the way to Boyle Heights, according to the draft. The district also includes portions of Bell Gardens, Commerce, Vernon, Los Angeles and Pico Rivera. "It's interesting how its drawn up. We lose Assemblyman [Charles] Calderon," Marquez said. "Assemblyman Ricardo Lara who lives in Bell Gardens would be in our district. But if this is a new district, there may be a special election." Under the new district boundaries, Downey will remain under State Senator Alan Lowenthal, who will be termed out of office next year. The district will stay relatively the same, incorporating the cities of Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Hawaiian Gardens, Bellflower, Paramount, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and Downey. Currently, the commission is collecting feedback and receiving public comments regarding the first draft, which was drawn up by the 14-member citizens panel . A second draft will be released on July 12. Marquez said he hopes residents will send letters and e-mails to the commission in support of keeping Downey together in one congressional district. "We want our residents to get involved, we want our voice to be heard. It's important to reiterate that we want to keep our communities in the same district," Marquez said. Residents can e-mail written public comments regarding the first draft until June 28 at or call 1-866-356-5217. Final district maps must be certified by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission before August 15.