A nearsighted decision

Obviously, the decision made by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, voting in favor of a redistricting map that largely preserves the status quo, estimates that during the next 10 years things will remain the same, demographically, as the last decade. This decision is 100% political and absolutely nearsighted, from the social and fiscal points of view.

The minority of the Board, led by Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley Thomas (a Latina and an African-American) argued that a county where Latinos account for 48% of the population and a third of registered voters should divide its districts so Latinos are not split up and are able to elect a second supervisor. Currently, out of five supervisors, two come from minorities and only one is Latino.

We must mention that this is not about guaranteeing a Latino gets elected. Those who point out that what matters is good representation and not the race or ethnicity of the representative are correct. However, what is at stake here are the constitutional rights of a population that has demonstrated a preference for candidates from its community not to be divided into many districts or packed into only one, so its voting power is reduced to a minimum.

From an economic viewpoint, this decision will just cost taxpayers money. It will almost surely lead to a drawn out, complicated lawsuit that could cost the county up to $20 million. At a time the county’s financial and fiscal situation is in crisis, it would have been better to look for ways to avoid the unavoidable.

Insisting that Latinos do not have the right to a cohesive vote in more than one of the county’s five districts seems like an echo from the past.

The Board of Supervisors makes decisions on vitally important issues, especially for working class populations: it manages jails, the social welfare system and the health care system. More than enough reason why the Board should be more representative and not less, as we begin the second decade of the 21st century.