By Alfredo Santana
LOS ANGELES — A dramatic shift in representation for Southeast Los Angeles cities on the county Board of Supervisors took place Dec. 15 after the first independent Citizen Redistricting Commission approved new boundary lines and moved the area under the umbrella of Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn.
The realignment places Commerce, Cudahy, Bell, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, Pico Rivera, South Gate, Vernon and Whittier into Hahn’s Fourth District for the next 10 years and removes those cities from the First and Second districts.
Hahn released a statement indicating the changes will pose challenges to her duties while she committed to continue supporting pending projects.
“This new map will mean big changes,” Hahn said. “Millions of residents have a new supervisor and supervisors have new constituents. There are going to be challenges, but I have no doubt that my colleagues and I will work to make sure communities get a warm handoff and no projects or issues fall through the cracks during this transition.”
The new supervisorial boundaries mean that Hahn will have to work with municipal leaders and organizations to encourage communities heavily composed of Latinos to get full vaccinations and boosters against COVID-19 in a region that lags behind suburban and more white enclaves.
Similarly, Hahn will need to devise programs and allocate funds to help poorer residents bounce back from the weakening economic and health injuries dealt by the pandemic.
As health experts forecast a new wave of transmissions due to the more aggressive Omicron variant, area leaders said Hahn’s record of getting along with constituents as a former Los Angeles city councilwoman and in Congress will help address inequities in health and labor nobody wants to repeat.
Cudahy Vice Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar said everyone in her city enjoyed the relationship with First District Supervisor Hilda Solis, because she pushed the Biden administration to set up the vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles and, together with Gov. Gavin Newsom, spearheaded a program to bring mobile vaccination units to the elderly and sick at home.
Nonetheless, the abrupt reshuffling caught Alcantar and many residents by surprise.
“It was a very sudden change,” Alcantar said. “There is no transition period. It’s already a challenge having to explain residents asking for Solis’ programs about the changes,”
Alcantar said she looks forward to working with the new supervisor in programs that close the gap of social inequities and bring protection to environmental hazards like the Long Beach Freeway Corridor, and the Delta Air Lines jet dump of 15,000 gallons of jet fuel over working class neighborhoods in January 2020.
She cited the lack of COVID-19 testing at the pandemic’s outset and the slow vaccination outreach for area residents as examples of lax medical services Hahn should focus on to ensure local clinics and hospitals provide good services consistently.
“When the vaccines were rolled out, we were at a disadvantage,” Alcantar said. “We weren’t tested and didn’t get the vaccine.
“Hilda Solis’ partnership allowed us to get vaccines to our communities.”
In a statement, Solis said farewell to her former constituents and said it was the privilege of a lifetime to represent these communities.
“I’ve had the honor of connecting with a constituency that has experienced decades of underinvestment in an effort to drive regional, systemic changes and close the equity gaps that have hurt [Southeast Los Angeles] unjustly for so long,” Solis said.
Through seven years of work, Solis highlighted the opening of the Bell Health Center, reintroducing a motion to build a Southeast Cultural Center and efforts to fight entrenched environmental pollution plaguing the region such as the Exide Technologies, the Long Beach Freeway and the Central Metal scrap recycling plant in Huntington Park.
She took credit for reigniting the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative and engaging philanthropic organizations to invest in nonprofit projects and civic engagement, in equity to bring COVID-19 testing and vaccines to all residents and programs that offered rent relief, sustenance and legal assistance to residents and small businesses throughout the last 22 months.
Lynwood City Councilwoman Marisela Santana said she has followed Hahn’s trajectory since she represented San Pedro and Watts on the Los Angeles City Council, and her record speaks of a woman able to reach out to new constituents to listen them and provide resources to improve communities.
“We look forward to work with Janice Hahn,” Santana said. “She is a champion for whoever she serves. She follows in her father’s footsteps,” referring to former county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.
Santana recalled that she was the public relations specialist for the city of Lynwood when Hahn served in the House of Representatives representing Lynwood, and noticed the federal support the supervisor provided for local projects.
“I do believe Hahn will assume all the great work Hilda Solis graciously started,” Santana added. “I believe she is one of those leaders that will pick up the baton and run with it.”
The difficulty to redrawing the supervisorial maps based on political equity, fairness and tied to economic interests of neighboring communities prompted the 14-member independent citizen commission to request the Board of Supervisors consider a ballot measure to expand the number of representatives on the board.
Hahn supported the idea, but Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger are against it.