DOWNEY - After weeks of debate and discussion, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission released several visualizations of both state legislative and congressional districts last week, prompting angst among city officials who believe the new preliminary maps isolate Downey from its traditional regional partners.Opting not to release a second round of draft maps, the redistricting commission instead unveiled detailed visualizations of proposed districts in order to gather more public feedback before the final district maps are released next week. As opposed to the first round of draft maps, the new visualizations keep the city of Downey intact in each proposed congressional, state assembly, state senate and board of equalization district. Mayor Luis Marquez who urged commissioners to review the first round of draft maps, praised the commission for reconsidering the district lines. "My mayoral theme has been One Downey, and I'm pleased that the Redistricting Commission, in continuing its very important work, has listened to residents' concerns and revised the previous congressional maps in order to keep Downey whole," said Marquez in a released statement. According to the preliminary maps, Downey could join a large state senate district, which would include the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Hacienda Heights, Whittier, La Habra, La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, Bellflower, Norwalk, Artesia, Cerritos, Lakewood, and Hawaiian Gardens. If approved, the new state senate jurisdiction would differ from the region's current electoral district, which aligns Downey with such cities as Long Beach, Signal Hill, Paramount, Lynwood and South Gate. The local state assembly district could undergo several geographical changes as well as the commission has provided two possible redistricting options. The first district option stretches from Montebello to Hawaiian Gardens, grouping Downey with the cities of Commerce, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Norwalk, Artesia, and Cerritos. A second district option, however, adds the city of Pico Rivera and removes the cities of Norwalk and Hawaiian Gardens. Both options would consolidate Downey into just one assembly district after years of being represented by two separate assembly members. City officials support the apparent changes to the state senate and assembly maps, but Marquez and Councilman Mario Guerra are protesting the new congressional visualizations, which put Downey in a district with Huntington Park, Maywood, Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Commerce, Bellflower, Paramount and portions of Los Angeles. "It is unusual that the new maps do not appear to respect the larger cooperative relationships and communities of interest long established in the Southeast Los Angeles area," Marquez said. According to the recent visualizations, Downey would remain in a congressional district very similar geographically to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's current district, which cascades down from Los Angeles into Bellflower. The commission's first round of draft maps, however, placed the majority of Downey into a larger congressional district with Bellflower, Artesia, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, La Mirada, Montebello and Pico Rivera. In a recent letter to the redistricting commission, Guerra questioned the newly proposed congressional districts, encouraging the commissioners to align Downey with its traditional neighbors and regional partners in Southeast Los Angeles. "Downey does not have common interest with cities on the path to Los Angeles," Guerra wrote on Tuesday. "Issues and needs are very different and from a historical perspective, takes us away from cities we have partnered with in the past for regional issues. "Yet all three newly proposed options have cities drawn West towards Los Angeles. At a simple glance, the figures of the three new maps look so elongated and distorted, that it is hard to find how such drastic changes have occurred," he wrote. Guerra ended his letter asking the commission not to link Downey with cities leading west into Los Angeles. "Our communities of interest in culture, business, family bonds and demographics are to our South and East," Guerra wrote. "Please consider redrawing your maps to reflect the maps before July 14." Guerra's letter to the redistricting commission is just the latest objection sent into the 14-member commission responsible for redrawing California's House of Representatives districts, 40 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts, and four Board of Equalization districts. Last month, the City Council submitted several letters to the commission requesting Downey remain whole in each electoral district. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, set to review the visualizations over the weekend, will ultimately release final district maps on July 29. The electoral maps must be adopted by the commission on or before August 15. To submit a public comment or review the updated district visualizations, visit wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
********** Published: July 21, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 14