As the dust settles, City Council adjusts to new districts
With one last vote Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council approved a map that seals council district boundaries for the next 10 years, but the work of redistricting isn’t finished just yet.
“The new map goes into effect Oct. 6, which is only 30 days after the final council vote,” said Scott Mende, principal planner with the Community Development Department. “After that, each council member has a different group of constituents.”
New district lines for the city and new constituents for council members will have a ripple effect throughout city administration, and Mende said city staff has a lot of work to do to be prepared for it.
The first step, Mende said, is a “massive outreach” to council members and all affected departments – such as the budget office, planning department and parks department – to help department staff know what impacts will come from the map changes.
“Council members usually take a strong interest in what goes on in their district,” Mende said. “They’ll want to know what they are going to be seeing, as far as projects that have been started or are still in planning stages (in each district).”
Staff from the city’s Neighborhood Services department will meet with neighborhood associations and community activists to discuss the new district maps, and the new map information will be posted in the newspaper and on the city website.
Although each of the city’s eight council districts will change in one way or another, the council member who will see the most dramatic changes to his district is Steve Cohn.
“I’m losing half of my (current) district and gaining a different half,” Cohn said Tuesday. “I clearly have the most significant changes happening to my District, so I’m starting (my transition) right away.”
With the new map boundaries, Cohn’s District 3 will now include a portion of what was Councilwoman Angelique Ashby’s District 1, including the railyards and the River District.
Cohn said he is planning to do a community event with Ashby sometime in the next 30 days and a district tour to meet new constituents and become more familiar with the projects under way in the areas new to his district.
“I’ll be doing something similar with (Councilwoman) Sandy Sheedy,” Cohn said, “but in reverse. Instead of gaining something from her district, I am giving up a portion of my district to her.”
Sheedy is already familiar with the Ben Ali and Hagginwood neighborhoods, which the new map puts in her district, Cohn said, however “Swanston Estates will be new to her,” so he’s planning to “show her around” and introduce her to the residents in that neighborhood.
Cohn is also organizing town hall-style meetings with Councilmen Kevin McCarty and Rob Fong to discuss district changes that affect them.
Ashby has the biggest changes to her district in terms of population adjustments – her district loses nearly 45,000 people – but the boundary line movement is not as drastic as Cohn’s or Rob Fong’s districts.
“The question for me,” Ashby said Tuesday, “is, ‘How do I let people in the new District 1 know they are still in District 1, and how do I let the people that were in District 1 know that they are now in District 3 or District 4?”
Ashby said she plans to use her strong social media presence – including platforms such as Facebook, Yahoo Groups, email lists and her personal website – to reach out to constituents.
Still, Ashby said, “there is no substitute“ for her and her staff to go out into the community, take the new council members around, make introductions, and get in touch with people who are in leadership roles in the community.
“We’ve done a lot of work in the last year,” Ashby said. “I want to very carefully hand that off.”
Ashby said she has “no doubt that my colleagues will see things through,” but she plans to stay engaged with all communities during the transition period because, “I would never just turn around and walk away.”
Mende said he and his staff are ready to assist council members during the transition period.
“If (council members) want us to send out information for them, we’ll do that. Or, if they ask for tools or access to tools to help them get the word out, we’ll do that,” Mende said. “We’re available to help them in whatever ways they deem appropriate.”
Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.