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The city of Sacramento will have new district boundaries by the end of the month, but the lines won’t be familiar to anyone who has followed the process so far.
In a 6-3 vote, the City Council passed a motion Tuesday to use a new map submitted by Councilman Steve Cohn as the ‘base map’ for new district boundaries – much to the surprise of advisory committee members, meeting attendees and Mayor Kevin Johnson.
“I am extremely disappointed and sad,” Johnson said. “This is the worst-case scenario. It’s the council putting self-interest above all else, and that is disappointing.”
The map – which Cohn named “Neighborhoods Together 2.0” – was submitted just minutes before the council meeting was set to begin Tuesday.
Cohn said he felt the new map was necessary because it addressed concerns that the previous maps did not, including keeping districts more compact and cohesive and allowing for better representation of communities of interest.
Although the agenda item on redistricting included opportunity for public comment, the new map wasn’t introduced until after public comment had concluded.
The goal of the new map, as described by Cohn, is to “keep neighborhoods together,” and it is intended to address concerns expressed about the previous maps submitted by he and Sheedy at the July 26 council meeting.
One of those concerns was that the population deviation in the merged Cohn/Sheedy map released Friday was 11.9 percent, exceeding the city-mandated maximum of 10 percent. The total population deviation of the new map is 9.92 percent.
Another concern expressed to the council was the division of Latino communities across multiple districts thereby “diluting their voting power,” according to Eric Guerra, a representative of the Latino Redistricting Working Group and the president of the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association.
“What this map does that no other map does,” Cohn said, “is provide Latino representation greater than 30 percent in four council districts.”
“I think it’d be undershooting (for the Latino community) to look at only one (council) seat when you could be looking at four seats,” Cohn added.
Discussion of the merits of the new map became heated as council members argued about what district the UC Davis Medical Center and the surrounding neighborhood, including Sacramento High School, belongs in.
Councilman Jay Schenirer noted that, although the Med Center neighborhood has historically been part of District 5, the 2.0 map assigns it to District 6.
“For the past 40 years they’ve been in District 5,” Schenirer said. “I’d like to know what is the rationale for moving it?”
Cohn said the primary effort of the new map is to keep neighborhoods together, but added that moving the neighborhood into District 6 compensates for the addition of the railyards to District 3.
“District 3, with the railyards in it, has potential for growth,” Cohn said, “but District 6 doesn’t have that same potential.”
Schenirer stood his ground, saying “we could argue how long that growth would take,” and told Cohn that the council should “put the Med Center neighborhood back with Oak Park, where it’s been for 40 years.”
The council passed a motion to accept the new map without the adjustment of shifting the Med Center neighborhood back to Oak Park and District 5.
Although Councilwoman Angelique Ashby ultimately voted against it, she initially expressed her support of the new base map, saying that a new map being added by the council – even at this late date – does not contradict the work of the advisory committee.
“I’m offended by the notion that if we don’t take one of the four maps submitted by the advisory committee, that we are somehow being less than transparent,” Ashby said. “This is a process: the community submitted maps, the committee vetted them, and now (the council) looks at them.”
Ashby said it has always been the prerogative of the council to make refinements to any map as part of the redistricting process and in addition to the work of the advisory committee.
Councilman Rob Fong agreed, saying, “I don’t think there’s any disrespect to the advisory committee here.”
Fong said everything the council has done is a “derivative” of the advisory committee’s work, and having refinements done by the council was something the council had always considered.
“I don’t know that there are any perfect solutions for any district,” Fong said. “This process is like having a lot of Jell-O in a big sack. Wherever you push or pull, it’s going to affect all the other districts.”
Johnson was visibly upset by the submission of yet another new map.
“It’s clear that politics took over the process,” Johnson said. “I do not think elected officials should choose their voters. We throw the word transparency around a lot, but I don’t think anything we’ve done here has been transparent. There’s no way the public is fooled by it.”
“We get a map at 5:55 p.m. today, and we’re supposed to vote on it today without the public weighing in on it at all?”Johnson said. “I think it’s ridiculous, and I think our priorities are upside-down.”
Johnson and Schenirer voted against the proposed new map, along with councilwoman Ashby who disagreed with the way the new map shifted large portions of neighborhoods from her district into a new district.
City staff will prepare an ordinance based on the new map for the council to adopt at the earliest opportunity, according to city clerk, Shirley Concolino.
The new map is expected to be passed for publication on Aug. 23 and adopted by the end of the month.
Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.
Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this article after it was published.