December 03, 2021
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Opinion | Who Really Controls Local Politics?

Today, Raman faces a much more serious challenge: Every 10 years, the city redraws the council districts to reflect demographic changes in the most recent census. In meetings with the public, the redistricting commission is currently presenting its redrawing of the map, a vast majority of which will remain more or less the same, reflecting a relatively stagnant period in the city.

Only two of the city’s 15 districts may undergo a comprehensive change: District 2, currently represented by Paul Krekorian, and Raman’s District 4. If the City Council votes to approve the current proposal without any changes, Raman would effectively lose her base of renters as well as the members of wealthy neighborhoods and powerful homeowners association who most fervently opposed her housing policies. These residents wrote letters and submitted draft maps to the redistricting committee, asking to be cut out of the district and reconnected with adjacent “communities of interest.” Raman would still sit on the City Council, but she almost certainly would be representing constituents who had not voted for her, or for her opponent, for that matter.

It should be said that redistricting isn’t anything new, but it rarely leads to such drastic voter displacement. What’s truly bizarre is that the proposal under review does not determine which of the proposed new districts will be which — they are currently titled “2 or 4,” which means that neither Raman nor Krekorian have any idea who they will be representing.

Raman’s district could move 20 miles to the northwest into the farthest reaches of the San Fernando Valley, where she would suddenly become the councilwoman for the communities of Canoga Park, Winnetka, Reseda and Lake Balboa. Under the second option, Raman would keep a small part of Silver Lake, where she lives, but she would also be taking on the homeowner district Shadow Hills. If she gets the district in the valley, she will preside over exactly 0 percent of the people who voted for her in the election. According to analysis done by Raman’s campaign, the Shadow Hills option will include only 29 percent of her current voter base.

Either result would effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters. It would be as if you took President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada out of office, told them they would now be presiding over France and Germany, but told them they had to wait to figure out which.

How all this happened should tell you quite a bit about how politics actually works in cities and how the people in charge aren’t always the ones sitting in city hall.

For Raman, resistance came well before she won her seat. In his first go-round in the City Council, Ryu, who was first elected in 2015, proved himself adept at forging the types of insider relationships that pave the way for long political careers. Less than a month before the 2020 election, none other than Hillary Clinton came out to endorse him. (Nancy Pelosi, whose home district is