DOWNEY - Downey will remain whole in each new legislative and congressional district, according to preliminary final maps released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission last Friday.The newly proposed district maps, which link the city with several communities to the west and northeast, are drawing both praise and sharp criticism from city officials this week who agree the new districts will ultimately alter Downey's political landscape. The 14-member redistricting commission, responsible for redrawing California's congressional, state assembly, state senate and board of equalization districts, kept the city of Downey intact in each proposed district generally shifting Downey into new geographic constituencies. Mayor Luis Marquez, who urged commissioners last month to review their initial draft maps, praised the commission for revising the district lines and keeping Downey residents together. "We had one goal going into this, that our city doesn't get cut up and we accomplished our goal," said Marquez. "We wanted the maps to go eastward, but we're very proud that our residents are all in one congressional district." According to the preliminary final maps, Downey will join the new 32nd state senate district, which will include the cities of Montebello, Commerce, Pico Rivera, Whittier, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, Bellflower, Norwalk, Artesia, Cerritos, Lakewood, Buena Park, and Hawaiian Gardens. Once adopted, the large state senate district will differ from the region's current electoral district, which aligns Downey with such cities as Long Beach, Signal Hill, Paramount, Lynwood and South Gate. Nonetheless, State Senator Alan Lowenthal will continue representing Downey until he's termed out of office next year. Subsequently, State Senator Ron Calderon of Montebello will represent Downey until the 2014 midterm elections. After years of being represented by two different assembly members, the new local state assembly district will undergo several geographical changes, consolidating Downey into just one assembly district. Similar to the commission's early drafts, the new 58th assembly district will cascade down from Montebello into Cerritos, grouping Downey with the cities of Commerce, Bell Gardens, Pico Rivera, Bellflower, and Artesia. Next year, the city will likely lose Assemblyman Charles Calderon, but Assemblyman Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens may seek reelection in the new assembly district. Last month, the commission's first round of draft maps placed the majority of Downey into a large congressional district with Bellflower, Artesia, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, La Mirada, Montebello and Pico Rivera, but the final redistricting maps, place the city in a congressional district very similar geographically to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's current 34th district, which stretches from Los Angeles to Bellflower. The new 40th congressional district will include the cities of Commerce, Maywood, Bell, Huntington Park, Bell Gardens, Paramount, Bellflower, Cudahy, portions of East Los Angeles, and the unincorporated community of Florence-Graham. Councilman Mario Guerra, who sent a letter to Sacramento last month protesting the commission's varying drafts, remains adamant that the new district boundaries appear gerrymandered, influenced by special interest groups. "Downey staying whole is a good thing ‚àí Downey should have one voice," Guerra said Wednesday. "But where are the communities of interest? "South Central, Maywood, Cudahy, Bell, East Los Angeles, Florence-Graham...I don't mean to sound elitist, but they have different issues than we have. Downey got the shaft and citizens need to know that." While Guerra said the city has no plans to legally challenge the final maps, he urged residents to stay vigilant and scrutinize the district maps themselves. "Somehow the political process got involved…all three maps are different. Why can't all three follow the interests of the community," said Guerra. "I was very disappointed when I saw these maps - our citizens got shafted." After the commission released the final district maps on July 29, Roybal-Allard promptly announced her intentions to seek reelection to Congress in the newly-drawn congressional district. "I am thrilled that this district includes the southeast communities I have proudly represented for many years," said Roybal-Allard in a released statement. "I look forward to running for re-election and asking my constituents to grant me the honor of continuing the level of constituent service and representation that they have come to expect from me and my office." Marquez said the congresswoman called him last week to inform him of her decision to seek reelection. He believes she will continue to be a strong advocate for the city going forward. "We keep our congresswoman and that's a good thing for the city of Downey," he said. "We've built a great relationship over the years." Final district maps must be certified by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission on or before August 15. The new district lines will not go into effect until November 2012. This is the first time in the history of California that an independent citizens commission has drawn district boundaries. According to a press release, issued by the redistricting commission last Friday, over 2,700 members of the public spoke at 34 commission hearings around the state and close to 20,000 comments were received in writing. To submit a public comment or view the preliminary final maps online, visit wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
********** Published: August 04, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 16