Residents speak out once more on redistricting

With only one more opportunity remaining before the final vote on new district boundaries, more than 20 people spoke their mind Tuesday on an issue that has spurred conflict and concern with residents and community leaders across district lines – and an issue not on the City Council agenda.

“Voter discontent is nothing to scoff at,” said Oak Park resident Kristina Smith. “Don’t ignore the voice of the voters.”

Smith and about 100 others were in the council chambers for the City Council meeting Tuesday, and most wanted to talk about redistricting before the final vote is taken Sept. 6.

At the Aug. 23 council meeting, members voted 6-3 in favor of a new district map that bisects the Med Center neighborhood right down the middle of Stockton Boulevard, separating the UC Med Center from Oak Park in District 5 and shifting it into District 6.

The vote created an uproar among the 500 people in the audience that night.

By 6 p.m. the next evening, a “unity march” was being organized for Sept. 1 to “send a message” to City Council, according to Oak Park Neighborhood Association President Mike Boyd.

“You’ve heard the dragon roar and you didn’t listen,” Boyd said Tuesday. “Let’s talk about how we can get ourselves out of this situation and still walk away looking good. Don’t make us come to your next elections and stop you there.”

Boyd suggested changing the most recent map configuration to keep the Med Center in District 5, and then “piggyback on the already-existing committee” from the Med Center that hears neighborhood issues.

Community leaders – including pastors from Oak Park churches and Betty Williams, president of the Sacramento chapter of NAACP – addressed council members to express their disappointment with the previous vote and to ask them to change their minds.

Reading a resolution from the Northern District Baptist Association, Pastor Darryl Heath said, “As a membership of upwards of 15,000 members, we stand united in firm opposition to the proposed dismembering of District 5 in Sacramento by removing UCD Medical Center and placing it into District 6.”

The resolution demanded investigation of the six council members who voted in favor of the map and asked for “formal indictments” against the council members if “any unethical actions that violate the role of council members" is found to have occurred.

Katie Roberts, an Oak Park resident for almost 20 years, echoed other speakers’ sentiments when she told council, “It’s not too late.”

“Please pull away from the pettiness,” Roberts said. “Be visionaries and have a little class. Don’t turn to back-room politics.”

Not every commenter was opposed to the new map, however.

Robert Waste, assistant director of government and community relations for UC Davis Medical Center, told council members that the Med Center organization “remains neutral on the issue of redistricting,” despite being in the eye of the storm.

Waste thanked Councilmen Jay Schenirer and Kevin McCarty for their individual “contributions and cooperation” on local projects in association with the Med Center and said the Med Center organization is pleased to be “a positive part” of Sacramento, and the region as a whole.

Council members who voted in favor of the most recent map – Sandy Sheedy, Steve Cohn, Rob Fong, McCarty and Bonnie Pannell – appeared unmoved by public comment Tuesday, until speakers directed some sharp words to individual members.

“I’m going to be here again and again to make your life miserable,” said one resident to Sheedy.

When Oak Park resident Chris Neilson asked Pannell if she “seriously” came to the same decision as the “other sneaky six,” Mayor Kevin Johnson intervened.

“I want to remind speakers making public comment to be mindful of the two-minute time limit on comments,” Johnson said, “and to please be respectful of council members.”

Redistricting was not an item on the agenda Tuesday, so council members could not respond to questions or discuss the issue.

At the close of public comment, Johnson told the audience that redistricting is an item on the Sept. 6 agenda and council members will be “prepared for discussion” on the topic at that meeting.

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published.

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August 31, 2011 | 9:17 AM

Actually, things were already boiling for 45 minutes by the time Mr. Neilson came to make his comments. In fact, it was the speaker before him who made racial accusations against Councilmember Pannell and said she was elected to office only because of her husband. No warning was given to this individual, but one was given after Mr. Neilson spoke.

August 31, 2011 | 1:12 PM

Just to clarify, Neilson commented at 6:52PM, Johnson gave his charge to respect council members at 6:53PM when Pennell fired back at him, then 2 more speakers, then McCarty made his comments (even though he wasn’t supposed to comment), then 2 more speakers then Bonnie Parker who referenced Pannell’s late husband at 7:06…per the sequential time stamps on my photos.

August 31, 2011 | 10:54 PM

Well, I’m just going by the video of the meeting and things appeared to be pretty tense leading up to Mr. Neilson.

Great pics by the way.

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