It is a rare opportunity to be directly involved with the evolution of democracy. Our move to by-district elections (though forced upon us), has given us that chance and I am proud of the leadership that Mayor Blakespear, Councilmember Mosca and myself have shown throughout this process. We listened, evaluated, fact-checked and got into the weeds with the districts and made a sound decision that will benefit the city for years to come. Yesterday evening we voted 3-2 (Muir and Kranz voting no) to adopt Map 16 for as a first reading. This is one of the two maps I crafted, based largely upon Map 14 submitted by the public (see below), my own experience walking precincts, and most fairly represents the values of our community and the goals of our districting process.
What is interesting is that we had a very good communication and outreach plan for districting; better than most projects that our city does, in my opinion. However, we only had 11 people (including myself and one staff member) submit maps and only 22 maps to chose from. In Poway, another city of about our size that has recently undergone this process, they had over 100 maps!
What this tells me reflects a sentiment that I have often heard throughout the districting process: Our residents want our Council to demonstrate the leadership necessary to ensure districts that best accommodate the core of our original communities, good governance and multiple Council Members have a stake in important areas in our city, like our business districts, coast, lagoon and watersheds. And almost everyone I asked, wanted to continue to directly elect our mayor, if we were forced to move to districts.
The Mapping Process
To fulfill that duty, I tracked every map carefully and spent hours myself evaluating the online mapping tool and options. We all know the devil is in the detail and most people who know me well know that I geek out on projects like this. As many people know, I also love walking neighborhoods and walked almost every polling precinct in the city during my last election. So I am intimately familiar with the hills, valleys, gated communities, rural roads and busy streets of our city. Many of the maps, all submitted anonymously, had great ideas. As we were nearing the end of the map submission period, I realized that one map, 14 was great, but needed some slight tweaking to be right for our city.
I recreated Map 14, adjusting the Cardiff boundary back so that the Olivenhain Meeting Hall was in Olivenhain and made sure the boundaries between District 1 and 2 on the coast were more regular. This has the benefit of giving two Council Members a stake in the development of the North Coast 101 Streetscape, three in the rail corridor, four in El Camino Real, four on Encinitas Blvd (a much undervalued commercial corridor connecting the coast to El Camino Real), two on the Escondido Creek/San Elijo Lagoon watershed, while best retaining the core communities. The reality it that New Encinitas is very large, and Cardiff and Olivenhain, very small, so retaining our existing communities (even with five districts) was not possible. This map became Map 15.
Just to be sure the Council had all options for discussion, I used Map 14/15 as a basis for Map 16, which put all Council Members in different districts, which was one of the goals of the districting process, the Council approved unanimously on August 30. That was Map 16. Because Cardiff is too small to be it's own district with its current community boundaries, it has to take census blocks from the east and north to be population balanced as required by federal law. It offers the same governance benefits of Map 14/15, except it has three Council Members with a stake in Encinitas Blvd and El Camino Real rather than four.
On October 30, we had a special City Council meeting entirely dedicated to choosing a districting map and schedule of elections. We actually added this special meeting to allow any maps at that time could have been changed, tweaked or created. According to state law, maps needed to be published for seven days before the 4th public hearing, so October 30 was our last chance. No Council Member made any changes to any map or offered an alternative.
We specifically selected a process where the maps would be anonymous in order to focus on the content and not the author. I informed my Council Members yesterday that I was the author of the two maps and was able to engage with members of the public in a meaningful way about the merits of the 22 map submitted by the public and demographer. Our job was to chose the best map, regardless of the author, that fulfills the goals of the districting process. Map 16 does just that.
On November 15 we will have our final hearing to stay within the safe harbor of the California Voting Rights Act. If we approve the second reading of the ordinance, Districts 3 and 4 will be up in 2018, and Districts 1 & 2 up for re-election in 2020. Until re-election, all City Council Members remain at-large.