Potential mix with Long Beach draws redistricting ire of residents

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Potential Assembly District map draws scrutiny. Courtesy illustration

The mere prospect of sharing one or more political representatives with Long Beach and/or any part of Los Angeles County sent a throng of residents to the podium at a special meeting called by the Rossmoor Community Services District (RCSD) on Tuesday.

Following the testimony of citizens and RCSD Directors opposed to current redistricting maps, the board voted 4-0 to approve a resolution that has already been sent to the redistricting officials drawing the lines.

“We resolve that the Rossmoor Community Services District remain in an Assembly, State Senate, and Congressional District that is not shared with the City of Long Beach, and instead in Orange County based districts so that the concerns of our community and electorate can be adequately addressed,” the document states.

“The Rossmoor Community Services District has separate interests from the City of Long Beach and Los Angeles County, despite geographical closeness,” the resolution states.
The special meeting was called to inform residents of a pending change in their representative status, said Dr. Jeffrey Barke, President of the District’s board.

“The California Redistricting Committee (CRC) needs to hear from Rossmoor,” he said. “I don’t think I can even think of a scenario where it is good for us to be in a district with Long Beach,” the board President said in his opening.

A procession of speakers began with Dean Gross, a longtime conservative official from Los Alamitos, who has been keeping up with the CRC’s work.

“The assembly’s proposed district as of October 19, shows that Los Alamitos and Rossmoor will be part of Long Beach. These maps change daily. And what’s happening in the changing is that they’re getting feedback and input from citizens, from businesses who say this isn’t going to work,” said Gross, a former Los Al mayor.

“If you notice on the bottom of one map of the Senate District, again it has Cypress as part of Hawaiian Gardens, Los Alamitos area. It’s probably down into Long Beach, all the way over to San Pedro, and those portions. Also, the district includes offshore Catalina and a couple of the [other] islands,” he added.

Gross explained in detail the changes in redistricting maps and expressed bewilderment to the mixing of Orange County and L.A. county in some potential new districts.
“They are making a mess of it” that “we are going to have to live with for the next ten years,” he said.

Some area residents who spoke said they had hurried over to the hastily called meeting to offer their opinion. Almost to a person, they passionately objected to sharing any representative borders with either Long Beach or Los Angeles County.

“I haven’t gone into this as deeply as I need to, but it looks like a blatant attempt to gerrymander a conservative enclave to neutralize its votes on the part of Long Beach,” said Rossmoor resident Diane Rush. “I’m just saying anyone on the fence about redistricting, the recent past is full of red flags and we definitely don’t want to be a part of L.A. County or Long Beach.”

“And even though they’re trying to say we are actually a part of them already, and we share common needs, nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.

“When you go across the border from the 605 [Freeway], you find out that when you are in Orange County the feeling is totally different,” said Betty Chen, who has lived in Rossmoor since 1988.

Los Al resident and Congressional candidate (47th District) Emily Hibard, who’s said she is a “third generation” business owner in L.A. County, said “it is a blessing to live on this side of Orange County. I am absolutely opposed to being sucked into Long Beach and being represented by L.A. County.”

“The rules that we have to deal with in LA County are night and day,” she said.
Angie Epstein was clear and direct.

“My comments are simple and easy to understand,” said Epstein. “For those living in Orange County, we should never have an elected official representing our community that is also representing a different city, even different county…the representation we receive should be reflective of our community in Orange County,” she said.

Residents were up in arms about the latest proposed maps of marking the districts and “communities of interest” that will be represented by the various political units. The U.S. constitution mandates that officials perform a detailed census every 10 years, then use the results of various population changes to redraw representative districts.

How districts are drawn are themselves drawing more scrutiny.

In California, state law mandates that a Citizens Redistricting Commission be seated each decade, composed of 20 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and 20 who belong to neither party. According to the commission’s website (www.wedrawthelinesca.org), more than 5,000 people applied for the current selection process.

The actual selection of members from the large pool of applicants is done by lottery to keep the system as independent and impartial as possible, according to their site.

Tracy Stearns said “we moved here two years ago because we did not want to live in L.A. County. I own a business in L.A. County and we’ve been there for more than 30 years and seen exactly what representation has done for us there.”

She said L.A. and Orange counties have “different goals” and that “I just don’t think anything good can come” from common representation.

Laura Tanner ignited the group by saying “I’m a person that believes if we don’t want this, what are we going to do about it?”

Instead of sitting back, Tanner said he would put together a group to create premade emails and letters, even put stamps of them, and go out to places like “Friday Night Lights” where “thousands of people” would gather.

“A vinyl sign can be made in 24 hours, we get a table, get a chair, make a friend and sit there for four hours, get signatures and even have a laptop so they can send emails,” she said as many in room began to offer assistance.

“Let’s make it easy for them (residents who want to oppose the current boundaries),” said Tanner. “We need boots on the ground” and “to make a commitment to get on your street, knocking on your neighbor’s door,” she said.
Just to be clear, noted Director Nathan Searles, “this is not a map of annexation.” We are not becoming a part of L.A. County or Long Beach” he said, “but I do understand the concerns.”

“I too have concerns,” he said, including homelessness and the freeway.

Nevertheless, Searles said he hoped to get along with whomever represents Rossmoor in the various political subdivisions undergoing change. “We are going to have to have a cooperative relationship with our neighbors no matter what is decided,” he cautioned.

“I agree that we all need to act together and make noise,” said Director Tony DeMarco. “There’s a reason they’re doing this,” he suggested, noting the commission is “appointed” and not elected. “That’s what’s going on here and that’s just my opinion,” he said.
Director Jeffrey Rips said, “I agree with much of what has been said and I don’t have much to add.”

“We don’t want change, we want to be who we are, and for nothing else,” that’s enough.

“I think the resolution is well written and I’m supporting it,” said Rips.

“Although we are adjacent to Long Beach, we have nothing in common,” said Barke. “We have very different policy and quality of life issues,” he said.

The RCSD President said in Long Beach, there are more renters, less single-family homes contrasted to Rossmoor. He said demographics are completely different.

Free and reduced lunch prices in Long Beach are awarded to 65 percent of students, said Barke, compared to 17 percent in Los Alamitos Unified School District. “Free and reduced lunches are used in the education community as a measure of income levels,” he said.
Barke said everything from education to public safety could be affected so like-minded representation was critical. The community needs to rally quickly, he said, or be stuck in the districts as currently drawn.

“We have now until December,” he said, when the districts will get a final vote. “And then that will be final. No appeal. No change. No whining. No should have, could have, would have. Now is the time to follow Laura Tanner into battle to make sure our voices are heard,” he said.

One resident, Merida Swanson, complained about the notice of the special meeting “being incomplete,” with an incorrect time and left off one of the discussion topics.

To “regain the public trust,” the RCSD should be more transparent and improve the informational aspects of their website, she urged.

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Barke. “I struggled on our website to find a link,” he said, noting that they were looking for someone to make changes to the site.

In a related story, the Rossmoor Homeowners Association (RHA) also is sending a letter to the CRC opposing any change to representation districts.

In a letter posted on their website, the RHA said “the RHA board of directors, a 13-person panel elected by the association membership, voted a resolution on October 20, 2021, in the form of this letter to assert our opposition to any change in our Legislative district. We invite your commission to take a trip down to Rossmoor and learn something about our unique community, which is fiercely independent, bipartisan, law abiding and highly educated.”

The RHA letter was signed by the Association’s president, Art Remet, all officers and the entire board.

Potential mix with Long Beach draws redistricting ire of residents