BLACK INFLUENCE WOULD RISE DRAMATICALLY IN NEW L.A.
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 4, 2002 -- A little-noticed report by the Los Angeles Times on the ethnic makeup of post-secession Los Angeles shows that the African-American population in the new Los Angeles would increase by 43.5 percent if both Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley are allowed to become new cities, and by 35 percent if only the Valley secedes, an American Reporter analysis shows (see the Linux Public Broadcasting Network for a streaming video interview about the story).
The Nov. 5 ballot measure here is hotly contested.
A huge increase in the African-American percentage of the population in the new Los Angeles would be a remarkable overnight gain for blacks, especially since it would be achieved without the growing pains of new migration and other social changes. It would be certainly be mirrored in new clout at City Hall, and could result in a gain of as many as two city council seats, other reports suggest.
But the Times data is not consistent with its own reporting on the demographics of secession, nor does it jibe with a report by UCLA professor Eugene Grigsby on blacks' role in the new city that was commissioned by Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke.
The Times data show that the Grigsby report, which was reported in the paper but did not subsequently get published, is statistically flawed. Burke voted against Hollywood secession but is neutral on Valley secession. That report took voter rolls and used them bas the basis for comparison, but council, assembly, state senate and supervisorial districts are all based on population, not registered voters.
Clearly, such an increase could dramatically reshape the Los Angeles City Council and help African-Americans balance the huge 65 percent gain since 1990 in the city's Latino population. Those gains have cut the percentage of African-Americans in the present Los Angeles by half in just 10 years and reduced the political clout the community once enjoyed.
One measure of the black community's diminished influence was the firing of black LAPD Chief of Police Bernard C. Parks, a move undertaken by Mayor James Hahn despite ferocious opposition from the city's African-American voters, many of whom helped put Hahn in office. That may be one of the reasons Parks has long resisted being pushed by Hahn into taking a position against secession.
Now, Hahn - aided primarily by wealthy developers who have shunned South Central and Watts and poured millions into the anti-independence movement - appears to be asking black voters to accept a reduction in their influence on city government rather than increase it enormously through granting cityhood to the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.
The Times has not yet told the black community of such implications, which contradict much of the editorial opinion so far offered by the paper in the escalating debate over cityhood for the Valley and Hollywood.
Hollywood was not included in the Times' calculations but was examined separately by the American Reporter.
Blacks in Hollywood are now roughly 4.1 percent of the population, or 7,503 African-Americans, according to 1997 U.S. Census data provided to the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) by cityhood proponents. The figure is based on 1997 Los Angeles County estimates gathered by scholars at California State University at Northridge.
Thus, when the small number of African-Americans in the proposed Hollywood city's population of 183,000 is figured into the mix together with Valley independence, the corresponding gain for blacks in the newly-downsized City of Los Angeles rises by 43.51 percent.
If Hollywood and the Valley both break away, there will be 336,926 African-Americans in the new Los Angeles population of 2,159,203, or 15.60%. The 4.73 percentage points of gain represents an increase of 43.51 percent from the 10.87 percent proportion blacks enjoyed in the former city.
The Times report breaks down for the first time the ethnic makeup of the two new cities. It has not been widely examined but appears to based on legitimate data, and can be viewed as a graphic on the Internet at http://www.ekay.com/free-hollywood/newlamap.gif.
Currently, the Times says, blacks comprise 401,695 individuals in the present city, or 10.87 percent of its population of 3,694,323.
However, according to the Times numbers, if Valley cityhood is approved and Hollywood cityhood is not, African-Americans will number 344,429 in the new Los Angeles, or 14.70 percent. That is a 3.83 percentage-point gain from the current 10.87 percent, or a substantial 35.24 percent increase.
Councilman Nate Holden remarked at a recent City Council meeting hearing secession issues that such a gain "might be worth it" to the city's black community despite any risks associated with independence.
Since it is a gain that does not require any new migration to achieve it, the Times' numbers seem to conclusively demonstrate that the major beneficiaries of secession would be the new Los Angeles' African-American community.
Proportion of African-Americans
Change (+ or -)
NEW L.A. (minus SFV only)
+ 35.24 %*
NEW L.A. (minus both Hwd and SFV)
+ 43.5 %**
* Net gain of 3.83 % represents 35 % increase from current 10.87 %
Sources: Los Angeles Times: Census 2000, LAFCO, Eonomic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley; Hollywood VOTE: California State University at Northridge, based on 1997 Los Angeles County estimates.