Council Members Adjusting to New Districts, Voters

September 22, 1986|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Councilman Joel Wachs' district office is no longer in his district. It's in Councilman Michael Woo's district.

And the late Howard Finn's East San Fernando Valley 1st District no longer exists. But his staff still answers the phone "1st District Office." That is because Finn workers now are the staff for a new 1st District near downtown Los Angeles, although they won't get a boss until next year, when an election can be held for a new council member.

These are examples of some of the logistical problems facing San Fernando Valley council members--and their constituents--as they move from their old to their new districts in the wake of the Los Angeles City Council's redistricting.

The remapping, which went through three controversial versions, was done in response to a Justice Department suit in federal court. The suit is expected to be resolved at a hearing before U. S. District Judge James M. Ideman today.

Smooth Transition

In the meantime, council members have begun swapping files, touring unfamiliar areas, writing letters of introduction to new constituents and preparing to change signs on district offices--all in a hurried effort to adjust to their new political boundaries. So far, the transition apparently has been fairly smooth, at least compared with the bitter battles and bad feelings that developed between council members during redistricting itself.

"It's business as usual," said Councilman Ernani Bernardi, one of those council members whose territory was most drastically altered in the redistricting.

Wachs underwent the most traumatic change and said he, along with Bernardi, still is thinking about challenging the redistricting that gave him political territory that is 90% new. Wachs nonetheless has begun the transition and said it has gone well, considering the number of people affected.

186,000 New Constituents

"It's hard," he said. "I got 186,000 new constituents overnight with no lead time."

Wachs said he is working furiously to get to know his new constituents. In fact, a call to Finn's Sunland-Tujunga office was answered by Wachs himself. Wachs received a large part of the area previously represented by Finn.

Council President Pat Russell sent a letter to council members last week urging them to put the redistricting fight "behind us" and to "do your utmost in bringing about a smooth and orderly transition."

The redistricting, which took effect Sept. 12 after the council overrode Mayor Tom Bradley's veto of the new boundaries, drastically changed the council districts in the East Valley, providing new representation for about half a million residents.

Wachs' new district is largely composed of areas that had been part of the 1st District as represented by Finn. Finn's district was eliminated and its territory parceled out to other council members, and a new, predominantly Latino 1st District was created just west of downtown Los Angeles.

Bernardi also picked up a large part of Finn's old turf.

The redistricting gave three councilmen--John Ferraro, Zev Yaroslavsky and Woo--parts of the Valley for the first time. Councilman Marvin Braude's largely Westside district also moved farther into the Valley. The West Valley districts of council members Hal Bernson and Joy Picus were not changed.

"All of a sudden we have an office full of files," Wachs said, referring to projects and problems his staff inherited in the redistricting.

New Offices Planned

Council members with new districts plan to send out letters of introduction to their new constituents. Ferraro, Woo and Yaroslavsky said they plan to open up Valley offices, although no sites have been selected. Wachs plans to take over Finn's office in Sunland-Tujunga, plus open up an office in the new Van Nuys area of his district. He also is thinking about keeping open his office in Studio City--never mind that it's now in Woo's territory.

Woo said he would like that office. But he said he has no plans to kick Wachs' staff out or to remove Wachs' sign.

"We're going to be gracious," a Woo aide said. Woo, however, added, "I'll have my own signs up somewhere before too long" in Studio City.

Wachs said he might head off a dilemma by finding space for a new office in the small sliver of Studio City remaining to him.

Bernardi plans to take over Finn's office in Sylmar.

Centers Won't Change Names

The Bernardi Multipurpose Center is now in Wachs' district, and the Wachs Multipurpose Center is now in Ferraro's district. Both Ferraro and Wachs said they have no plans to change the names.

In addition to trying to figure out who belongs where, council members are getting acquainted with their new areas.

Bernardi late last week chartered a bus to tour his new district. He took his staff and members of Finn's staff, some of whom will probably be hired by Bernardi and Wachs. Bernardi said he also plans to hold a number of community meetings in the new district, although none has been scheduled yet.

Woo was given a tour last week of the Valley portions of his district.

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