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Future Uncertain for New Council Remap Plan

September 03, 1986|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

The latest Los Angeles City Council redistricting plan was unveiled Tuesday at a stormy committee hearing, and the leading opponent predicted it will be approved by the council.

But a potentially big obstacle lay ahead. A top adviser to Mayor Tom Bradley said she will urge the mayor to veto the new plan.

"I have every intention of trying to dissuade him from supporting the plan," said Dodo Meyer, Bradley's administrative assistant in the San Fernando Valley, where the plan would have the most impact.

Meyer made her comment after a Charter and Elections Committee hearing in which some constituents denounced the plan, others praised it, and Councilman Joel Wachs--one of the big losers if the plan is adopted--called it a "fraud, a sham, an outrage."

Impact on Valley

Meyer said she would urge the mayor to veto the plan because "of what it does to the Valley. They (supporters) tell you there are going to be eight (council) seats in the Valley. But four will live here (in the Valley) instead of (the present) five."

A press spokesman for Bradley said the mayor had not seen the plan and therefore would have no comment.

Wachs, opposing the plan that would eliminate 91% of his district and force him to run in a largely new area, conceded in an interview that supporters appear to have the eight votes needed for the council to approve it. Ten of the 14 council votes would be needed to override a mayoral veto.

The plan is scheduled for a preliminary council vote today.

But Wachs and Councilman Ernani Bernardi, appearing at a public meeting attended by about 140 people Tuesday night in Van Nuys, threatened to file a lawsuit to block the latest proposal if lobbying attempts fail.

"If there are any legal grounds available, absolutely we'll sue," Wachs said in an interview.

"I'll also be involved (in any suit)," Bernardi added later. "I've told the Justice Department that this thing isn't over."

The two council members stressed, however, that a decision to file suit rests on a review by lawyers of possible Brown Act violations.

The statements by Meyer, Wachs and Bernardi indicated that the future of the new proposal is uncertain.

During Tuesday's hearing before the Charter and Elections Committee, the plan won key support from a Latino legal and political rights group.

"We're very encouraged by this plan," said Richard Fajardo, lead counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Fajardo said the plan not only would allow for the election of a second Latino to the council next year, but would open the door to the election of a third Latino to the council in future years--the first from the Valley.

The Latino group is an intervenor in the U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that led to the council's redistricting. The suit sought to increase Latino representation on the council. Currently, there is only one Latino on the council--Richard Alatorre--even though Latinos make up a fourth of the city's population.

In an effort to settle the lawsuit, the council redrew its district lines to create a predominantly Latino district near downtown. But the redistricting plan approved July 31 also set up a face-off between Councilmen John Ferraro and Michael Woo in the same Hollywood-Wilshire district.

Ferraro and Woo began drafting a new plan to take advantage of the vacancy created by the death Aug. 12 of Councilman Howard Finn, and that plan was the one presented at the council committee meeting on Tuesday.

Latino District Intact

Their plan would leave the new, predominantly Latino district near downtown intact, while eliminating Finn's northeast San Fernando Valley district and parceling out the territory to Bernardi and Wachs.

It also would meet a demand by the Justice Department and the Mexican-American group for a special election in the new Latino district. Currently, that district--the 13th--is not scheduled to have an election until 1989. The Ferraro-Woo proposal calls for renumbering the district, making it the 1st. Because of the vacancy in the 1st, an election could be held in April.

The plan also would boost the Latino population in a new northeast Valley district represented by Bernardi to 44% of the district's total population, based on the 1980 census. "The (Latino) population is probably larger than that," Fajardo said, citing growth that has occurred there since the 1980 census.

Bernardi's current 7th district is 23% Latino, while the neighboring 1st district--Finn's old district--is 40% Latino.

Meyer complained that Tuesday morning's committee hearing was "not what the mayor requested." She said the one-hour hearing did not give people unable to get off work an opportunity to speak out. "If they were really sincere, they would have had a public hearing in the evening," she said.

Meetings Called

Bradley last week called for hearings on the new plan. Meyer said the mayor acted on her advice after she received numerous calls from residents in Finn's old district complaining about the redistricting.

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