By Steven Piper
During last Tuesday’s Long Beach City Council meeting, a divided council discussed four proposed maps for the redistricting process.
“Tonight we are asking for direction on which maps we release [to the public],” said Tom Modica, director of Government Affairs and Strategic Initiatives. “And whether there is another scenario that you’d like to see created.”
Seventh District Councilmember James Johnson proposed an altered version of one of the four maps offered to the council by city staff. “For those who say we shouldn’t change, I would say, I think it’s important to respect the United States Constitution, which says all of us should represent approximately equal amounts of people!
“I’m going to make a substitute substitute motion, which would unify the Bixby Neighborhoods up to San Antonio,” Johnson said. The motion calls for shifting neighborhoods on the east side of Atlantic Avenue and bordered by Bixby Road to the South and San Antonio Drive to the North from the eighth district to the seventh district. According to Johnson, the move would unify the greater Bixby area.
Outgoing Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich said she took offense to the motion. According to redistricting map four, the seventh district stands to gain the section bordered by Bixby Road to the south, Carson Street on the north, Atlantic Avenue on the west, and orange on the eastern side, which would add 1,339 people to the seventh district.
Johnson’s modification would include the area bounded by Carson Street to the south, San Antonio Drive on the north, Atlantic Avenue to the west, and Orange Avenue on the east, which houses an additional 2,043. Gabelich emphasized that moving 3,382 residents from the eighth district to the seventh goes against the city’s criteria of making the least amount of change necessary.
The alteration would also move the most active area of Bixby Knolls— where the First Fridays event has been hosted— into the seventh district.
“We have scheduled a community meeting for those folks that were here and those folks that couldn’t come,” Gabelich said. “If you have an opinion on this, and I invite you, Mr. Johnson, it will be June 28 at 6:30pm at the Expo Building.”
By a five-to-four vote, it was decided that Johnson’s proposed map would be presented to the public. Voting yes were Councilmembers Garcia, Lowenthal, DeLong, Andrews, and Johnson. Voting no were Councilmembers O’Donnell, Schipske, Gabelich, and Neal.
As Gabelich is about to be termed out, the proposed changes could substantially alter the constituency that the upcoming eighth district councilmember will represent. Furthermore, the changes do not affect 2012 Eighth District Councilmember candidate Mike Kowal’s eligibility to run for the position.
The council will reconvene on July 5 to discuss the options, modify maps, and hear public comment.