On Saturday, members of Save Our Seniors Network attended a community input session on redistricting, hosted by City Councilmember Kevni de Leon. Speaking on behalf of SOS, Rev. Ray Fukumoto said, “We are part of an over 100-year-old neighborhood and one which transcends generations, race and origins. Look, all I am is just a homeboy here to protect the neighborhood I was born and raised in. From Little Tokyo to Boyle Heights, we are one family. Attacking the boundaries of Council District 14 is an attack on all of us.”

Approximately 30 people, including several of Little Tokyo’s most influential leaders, appeared at a public hearing on Aug. 21 to testify before the Los Angeles City Redistricting Commission and call for Little Tokyo to remain in Council District 14.

The hearing, where many voiced their support for Councilmember Kevin de Leon, was convened by Council District 14 at Little Tokyo Towers in conjunction with redistricting efforts held every 10 years following the U.S. Census. Redistricting is the process of adjusting the lines of voting districts in accordance with population shifts. 

For many, Saturday’s hearing called to mind the year 2012 when redistricting redrew the borders and moved Councilmember Jan Perry’s coveted 9th District in burgeoning Downtown L.A. to the south. Perry, who had represented Little Tokyo and most of the Downtown area since 2001, was replaced by Jose Huizar.

“The redistricting process has a simple goal: to ensure that each council district has about the same number of residents,” Perry stated in an August 2020 L.A. Times op-ed co-written with then-Councilmember Bernard Parks.

“In the shuffling of districts, Huizar ended up with a large swath of asset-rich Downtown, a good thing if you’re trying to rack up campaign contributions. How a line is moved can make it easier or harder for a council member to keep a district in the next election.”

Perry told The Rafu Shimpo on Monday, “I think if (Little Tokyo) could come up with a united position, that would be helpful. When I was fighting so hard to keep the community together for economic reasons, I knew I was termed out, and I know what people do. They try to collapse the district of the person who’s termed out. But I wasn’t going to sit there and see the district decimated and not say anything.

A number of community input sessions were held on Saturday, both in-person and virtually.

“Since World War II, Downtown was tied to South L.A. and that includes Little Tokyo. You can go back to the history of Bronzeville. There are many economic, historical, and legacy connections that show people’s economies are intertwined. Downtown at that time was the engine that fueled so much.

“It’s a different story now and some of that’s because of poor leadership and some of that is because the economy is rolling backwards. When I look at where we are now, I feel that we’ve slipped back to 2008, maybe before.”

De Leon’s anticipated bid for mayor raises a new question: What happens if Little Tokyo and the rest of Downtown are decimated by redistricting once again?

Among those testifying during Saturday’s workshop were the heads of Little Tokyo’s major nonprofits: Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Little Tokyo Service Center, Little Tokyo Community Council, Little Tokyo Business Association/Little Tokyo BID, Arts District Little Tokyo Neighborhood Council, and Art Share L.A. Also on hand were representatives from neighboring communities, including Boyle Heights and Skid Row.

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