Last Wednesday we had our first public hearing on Districting. If you recall, last week we passed a resolution to initiate the districting process. So this week we discussed definitions of what are "communities of interest" and demographics of the districts.
Our main order of business was to discuss the make up of districts. Our consensus was that all districts should:
- Have nearly equal population
- Be drawn in a manner compliant with Federal Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause (no gerrymandering)
- Not be drawn with race as the predominate factor
- Take into consideration communities of interest
- Consider protecting community character as much as possible
- Be compact and contiguous
- Follow visible natural and man-made geographical and topographical features as much as possible
- Mitigate north-south infrastructure barriers, like the rail corridor, I-5 and El Camino Real; several Council Members suggested east-west districts that may bisect these barriers for better governance
- Include commercial interests and public facilities to the extent feasible
The idea is that if we have districts that have somewhat balanced needs, then we may have council members that have a systemic incentive to support citywide projects, despite going to districting. Here is the City's FAQ if you'd like to learn more about districting and communities of interest. And please sign up for Districting information and emails on the City Updates page.
Public Outreach Plan
One of my comments that was included in the motion last week was to have the City Manager come back with a plan and a team to manage the districting process. My experience has shown that when there are clear accountabilities, processes that demand quick action are more effective. So I was very pleased with the team headed by former interim Parks and Recreation Director, Jim O'Grady, as well as the City Clerk, City Attorney, special legal counsel, demographer, Risk Management, Staff Communications IT and City Planning. If you have questions, please contact Jim O'Grady at email@example.com.
Staff also provided a communications plan, using our contract communicator. Unfortunately, the $8,500 needed for basic communication of districting comes on top of the $40,000 budgeted for one of our communications consultants. This is covered by the $150,000 that we funded last week. Reviewing the proposal, my hope is the City Manager will more carefully manage some of the tasks that cause higher overhead and don't provide a direct return on investment. In my mind, every dollar counts.
We did approve an additional $34,500 a number of additional outreach tools, including a fact sheet, direct mail postcards, signage, and maps, once finalized.
Our next public hearing is on Wednesday, September 20, 6 PM at City Hall, where we will receive more public input for the demographer. Please join us and share your thoughts about what is important for the demographer to consider as we move to districts!
And here is the link to key districting information: