BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Last year it was the decennial U.S. Census, this year it’s the redistricting that follows. All levels of government from local to federal will go through this highly charged, politically loaded process. This piece will focus on the new way of redistricting being implemented for the first time in California on the state level. Local redistricting will commence a little bit later. Armenian representatives in other states are no doubt working their legislatures to secure optimal outcomes for our communities there.
By way of full disclosure, I will note that I had applied, ultimately unsuccessfully, to serve on California’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) and am currently working on ANCA’s efforts in this field in California.
Redistricting is directly responsible for who has the best shot at being elected to office, how much money goes to schools, what jobs are created in low-income neighborhoods, where affordable housing is developed, and which communities are appropriately represented in the halls of government.
Other communities are already at work, preparing their cases to present to the CRC during a series of hearings it will hold around the state to solicit input from people and organizations. What must guide their final maps of districts (congressional, state senate, assembly, and board of equalization) is that each type contains the same number of residents (e.g. with 40 state senate seats and about 37 million residents in California, each district must include around 930,000 people). This whole process of hearings, analysis, processing of public input and Census data must be complete by August 15, 2011.
Various community organizations with interests in redistricting— be it community or good government based —have come together and formed “Redistricting CA”, describing itself as “an Alliance of non-profit organizations funded by The James Irvine Foundation to ensure the 2011 redistricting is fair and inclusive.” They have already put on a press conference directed to minority communities’ media and a conference to prepare those who are interested in working on achieving good representation. There website is http://www.redistrictingca.org.
What do we, as Armenian communities, want out of this process? Do we want densely Armenian populated districts or districts in which we have a significant enough presence to be one of the key players in determining who gets elected (this question I’m told, is shortened as “packed or cracked” in the jargon of this field). At first glance, the first choice may seem desirable in our LA area, ghetto, communities. Yet it also allows spoilers to be fielded as has already happened repeatedly in Glendale to undercut otherwise viable Armenian city council candidates. How do we address the needs of our medium sized, non-ghetto communities—San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento? Or, even more challenging, where will the Armenians living in scattered in sparse, small, communities be represented? These and other questions must be answered then our needs, concerns, and detailed proposals presented to the CRC.
Get busy thinking about this. It only happens once a decade, and will have significant impacts.
Two follow-up notes:
1. Last week, in my discussion of Los Angeles City Council elections, I neglected to mention that Paul Krekorian is running for reelection to the 2nd Council District seat. You’ll recall he’d run for and won the election for an incomplete term to this seat. He has only one competitor and is expected to win, though it always pays to be sure, by voting. Even the LA Times which endorsed against Paul previously, wrote very positively of him in endorsing him this time.
2. My piece from a month ago, “Off to a Bad Start,” seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. You’ll remember the Azerbaijani hit piece written in response. Now, a piece appearing (at least) online in the OC Weekly’s blogs was just brought to my attention. In it, the author, Gustavo Arellano, takes me to task over my critique of Turkish cooking lessons being another manifestation of usurpation of pre-Turkish-occupation peoples’ culture. It’s interesting, not just for the overall content, but in particular the reference to the Pacifica Institute. I’d mentioned this Turkish front group in June of 2008, and I’m aware that some investigative reporting about it has been done, with results pending. While there’s no smoking gun, it seems to be connected to the Gulen movement. Check it out here.
Garen yegparian (February 9, 2011)