Residents discuss redistricting issues

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A group of nearly 40 residents and city staffers held an in-depth discussion on the city’s redistricting process Monday night at the Ethel Hart Senior Center. Residents explored a range of topics, including the role of race in the process.

The city redesigns its City Council districts every 10 years by using U.S. Census data. The 2010 Census data that the city will use is expected to be released in April.

The new districts must be drawn up and finished six months after the Census data is available, according to the city’s charter. The city’s deadline for the 2011 redistricting process will be Sept. 27.

At Monday night’s redistricting forum, hosted by the Area 1 Neighborhood Advisory Group, residents asked city staffers questions on how the new council districts will be determined.

City staffers explained that racial distribution plays a role in the redistricting process. The city follows the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which “prohibits minority vote dilution,” according to a redistricting guide published by the NAACP, the Asian American Justice Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Resident Priscilla Barnes asked city staff, “What would be an example of disenfranchisement in the city?”

“Splitting up Meadowview,” responded Scot Mende, the city’s new growth manager. “Suppose you have an African-American community and you manage to elect an African-American councilmember in that district. Now you split it up … They no longer have the voting power to elect someone of color.”

Barnes questioned the relevance of analyzing race in the redistricting process at the city level.

“Yes, it’s relevant,” said resident George Raya. “Otherwise you have an all-white council … There has to be a representative from everybody.”

Barnes said after the meeting that she thinks applying race to redistricting in the city “assumes separation” of people by ethnicity.

Meanwhile, in April, the City Council will establish a 13-member citizens’ committee to advise the redistricting process. The citizens’ group will hold its first meeting on April 25, Mende said. The committee’s meetings will be open to the public.


View Central City Districts in a larger map

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

  • Kathleen Haley

    Hi Dale, Thanks much. The city’s comprehensive map of District 1 shows a slice of District 1 all the way out to 16th and N. Cohn’s district begins at that line, heading east. I checked the city’s maps several times before I made my own because District 1 is so large.

  • Dale Kooyman

    Great reporting on a complex issue. Clarification, the little balloon is on the very SE tip of Ashby’s district (formerly Tretheway). The rest of it is all to the north and west extending out through Natomas. In the 2000 census there was disagreement as to leaving that much of the downtown in District 1, but council made the final decision, which chopped the central city into three districts with little regard for the homogeneity of its neighborhoods–a factor that was to be considered.

  • deb belt

    Thanks for the update. I was wondering about the timeline for this — September will be here in a flash.

    • Kathleen Haley

      Thanks very much, Deb.


  • “Yes, it’s relevant,” said resident George Raya. “Otherwise you have an all-white council … There has to be a representative from everybody.”

    However, that all-white council would be in competitive districts, reflective of actual neighborhoods, and that all-white council would at least have to answer to the voters. These aspects of the Voting Rights Act were badly thought out and have led to bizarely shaped districts and the worst kind of political gerrymandering. Priscilla Barnes is correct.


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