EDITOR’S NOTE: David Lehrer of Community Advocates Inc., who writes the Wide Angle column for the Jewish Journal’s website, has posted this article sharply criticizing key Jewish groups for supporting efforts to redraw Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors districts to create two Latino seats. He notes that the Latino population increased only 3.2 percent in the last decade and disputes the contention that “ethnic representation should prevail and trump all other concerns.“
DANCE WITH WHO BRUNG YOU
By David A. Lehrer
That Zev Yaroslavsky is the most important local elected
Jewish official is beyond dispute. For over three decades he has been a voice
of reason and courage for, to and in the Jewish community.
That three significant Jewish agencies would lend support to an effort to
undermine Supervisor Yaroslavsky and his constituents is beyond comprehension.
Yet last week, in the middle of the fight over redrawing the county’s
supervisorial districts for the next decade, three major Jewish organizations
(American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, and Jewish Federation of
Greater Los Angeles) unquestioningly bought the MALDEF/Gloria Molina/ACLU line
of argument that the Latino community was insufficiently represented in
electoral politics, business and media. The three organizations and their
Latino colleagues issued a joint statement that they had came to a
“consensus” that the logic of ethnic representation should prevail
and trump all other concerns that normally effect the decisions on where to
draw district lines (e.g. population balance, contiguity of cities, varying
communities of interest, etc.).
Yesterday’s vote of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors fortunately
rejected the push by Supervisor Molina and her allies to create a second
majority Latino district ostensibly to comply with the Federal Voting Rights
Act. The rationale for the Molina plan was that the failure to endorse it would
“limit the rights of Latino voters.” The days’ long debate was held
with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over the Board if it didn’t acquiesce to
the proposed gerrymander and with occasional assertions of racism hurled at
those who dissented from the Molina position.
It has been a contentious debate with the contiguity and strength of the Third
Supervisorial district (presently represented by Zev Yaroslavsky) in some
jeopardy. The Molina plan would have stretched the new Third from Sylmar to
Huntington Park (presently the Third is most of north central LA) with much of
the Jewish community divided between three districts. Additionally, it would
have added to the isolation of the Asian-Pacific Islander community (a seldom
discussed side effect).
An often ignored fact is that the Latino percentage of the county’s population
has only increased by 3.2% over the past decade and the plan that was adopted
on Tuesday was essentially what MALDEF had requested and the court had ordered
Apparently, at the conclusion of a day-long retreat last week, Latino and
Jewish “leaders” issued a five point statement–four of the
statements are the kind of milquetoast that is the usual fare at gatherings of
this type (oppose anti-Semitism and anti-Latino sentiment, stand together to
face and prevent vitriolic rhetoric, etc.)–only the one on “fair
representation” of Latinos has ramifications in the real world.
It is a measure of the paucity of Jewish institutional leadership in LA that
these three major organizations would, either unwittingly or purposefully, sign
on to a statement that undercuts the single most prominent local political
leader in the Jewish community at a time when he was in a nasty confrontation
to preserve the demographic and geographic integrity of the district in which a
plurality, if not the vast majority, of LA’s Jewish population resides.
Their sin is compounded by their endorsing a worldview that is anathema to the
Jewish community’s interests–that proportional ethnic and racial
representation is the measure of fairness.
YOU CAN READ SUPERVISOR YAROSLAVSKY’S TAKE ON THE VOTE TUESDAY HERE.