Berkeley redistricting map splits council, community

This Berkeley Student District Campaign map was approved by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night. Image: City of Berkeley

The Berkeley Student District Campaign map was approved Tuesday night. (Click to view larger.) Image: City of Berkeley

What some described as a historic move by the Berkeley City Council to approve a new student-majority district centered around Telegraph Avenue was decried by others Tuesday night as political “gerrymandering” aimed at splitting the city’s progressive voice and excluding some of the most active students from the mix.

The council voted 6-3, on second reading, to adopt a new redistricting map, with council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Max Anderson voting against the proposal.

The fate of Worthington’s district, District 7, has been the focus of most of the outcry about the city’s new redistricting map. Much of the discussion since July has revolved around whether the city would adopt a map that’s been part of the public dialogue since April, or one submitted in July after the submission process had officially ended. The newer map was created by Stefan Elgstrand, an intern in Worthington’s office.

The earlier map, via the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC), has District 7 concentrated mostly on the south side of campus, while Elgstrand’s map, the United Student District Amendment (USDA), includes parts of northside, with fewer blocks included south of campus.

“We have no choice but to go forward with a referendum,” Elgstrand told the council during public comment Tuesday night. He said the BSDC map excludes too many students, many of whom live in Cal co-op houses, several dorms and International House.

Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office created an alternate vision of a student district that adds Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops.

An intern in Councilman Worthington’s office created an alternate vision of a student district that adds Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops. Click to view larger.

The city’s population must be split as evenly as possible among the eight council districts, which results in about 14,000 residents per district. As a result, the student-aged population, estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 people, will necessarily be divided. The ultimate question for city officials has been how to make the cuts.

By the numbers, the difference between the two maps is not significant. The BSDC map includes 86% student-aged voters, and the USDA map includes 90%. But supporters of the USDA map have said the real problem is that too many of the most progressive and diverse students — some of whom currently live in District 7 — are slated to be excluded.

Emotions ran high among council members discussing the maps Tuesday night.

Councilman Max Anderson said he saw the new map as “part of a continuum” of political maneuvering by the council majority aimed to concentrate power while shutting down the efforts of Arreguín and Worthington, whom Anderson described as “the two progressives” on the council. Anderson said the movement started with the 2010 election, and described what he saw as an influx of hefty campaign contributions from Berkeley’s “commercial interests” and an increase in “partisan politics.”

“This is the same rodeo,” he said. “There may be different bulls and different broncos being ridden, but the direction this is moving in is in the same path.”

Accusations flew in both directions.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak claimed that Worthington had, in 2011, tried to “torpedo the whole Student District Campaign,” and had previously proposed a map that did not include the co-ops, which have been the focus of so much of the discussion over the past few months.

“He seems to change his argument depending on what year he’s in,” Wozniak said of Worthington.

Worthington bristled at Wozniak’s suggestions, saying he himself was the first member of the council to “address the issue of student districts,” and that he had never tried to “torpedo” one of them.

“There’s a clear record in emails and a paper trail,” he said, calling Wozniak’s statements “provably false.”

“I was actually the first person to say we should do what turned into Measure R,” Worthington said. “Nobody else can show you a document. They weren’t even thinking about this back then.”

A lengthy discussion about the maps took place earlier this month when a council majority approved the BSDC map on first reading. Tuesday night, adoption of the map was up for “second reading.” In most instances, once agenda items have gotten to this point in the legal process, there’s little debate or discussion on them. But this was not the case Tuesday night.

Some officials and community members testified that the council should reconsider its previous vote and, instead, approve Elgstrand’s USDA map. Supporters of this map said it does a better job protecting the progressive voice and keeping neighborhood groups like Halcyon and Le Conte together. Some questioned the legitimacy of the public process surrounding the BSDC map.

“It has been divisive and built on lies and misinformation,” said one student, Matthew Lewis, who said he is involved with the Residence Hall Assembly, an organization representing Cal dorms. “It is not a good map. It divides students and it divides neighborhoods, and therefore it is bad for both.”

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, said, in fact, the adopted BSDC map does a better job keeping Willard neighbors together in a single district. Beier — who ran against Worthington in District 7 in 2010 — also said he believed issues south of campus — related to crime, lighting and public safety — would be able to be addressed better under the BSDC map. Though he said he thought either map would be a step forward.

Most of the public speakers both Tuesday night and earlier this month told council they supported Elgstrand’s map, and some council members had expressed concern that a map meant to unify students was in fact dividing them. But Cal student Safeena Mecklai, ASUC external affairs vice president, told the council Tuesday that, despite the public testimony, the campus is “not particularly divided.”

“When the BSDC map passed, students were excited,” Mecklai said. “It’s a very small number of students who are supporting the referendum.”

The clock begins ticking Thursday, when the city clerk ratifies the council’s vote, for those who wish to pursue a referendum. They will have 30 days to collect 5,275 signatures to challenge the council’s decision. Some have noted that the group may face an uphill battle if students are the target audience, as many may be leaving for winter break when the semester ends Dec. 20.

If they succeed, the county registrar would need to verify the signatures, which could be relatively quick — if a random sample comes back as legitimate — or longer — if there are problems with the sample, which would trigger a more thorough examination.

Assuming the signatures are sufficient, the referendum would automatically suspend the council’s decision on the BSDC map, which would revert council boundaries to the existing districts. The council would then decide whether to revoke its vote, or put the issue to the voters. If the item goes onto the ballot, that could take place in June or November 2014, depending on how long the signature verification process takes.

According to Elgstrand, more information about the referendum effort will be forthcoming this week.

Read more about the redistricting process on Berkeleyside.

Related:
Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms (12.04.13)
Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps (09.12.13)
Redistricting meeting sheds light on past process (08.09.13)
Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal (07.08.13)
Berkeley council to consider two city redistricting maps (05.08.13)
Redistricting plans focus on student-majority district (04.26.13)
Berkeley could face most dramatic redistricting in 27 years (01.11.13)
City defers redistricting, plans charter amendment (01.18.12)
Cal students file redistricting proposal with the city (09.30.11)

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • re the city-wide electorate

    Hey, not so fast:

    twice now you’ve claimed that the several wide electoral victories that undermine your analysis can be ascribed solely to proponents’ spending

    No, I did not. I named spending as one of several factors relevant to two particular campaigns.

    In the case of Measure R in 2010 (the Downtown Area Plan) I point out to you that progressives were split, the Sierra Club endorsement was a big deal, there was very little by way of organized opposition, and along with those factors, the Yes campaign spent heavily.

    In the case of Bates, I mentioned how the ballot was heavy with council-majority district races, how Kriss described his own campaign as an attempt to nudge Bates as much as to get elected, and, along with that, that indeed Bates’ campaign spent a remarkable amount of money that year.

    You ought to allow here that progressives can pick and choose their battles and their goals and their tactics and strategies.

    There was very little point in fighting Measure R very hard because of the progressive splits on it and because of the Sierra Club endorsement. At the same time, while the downtown plan is consequential, it is far from the last opportunity to revisit the problematic issues it creates. The passage of Measure R didn’t settle certain disputes so much as shift where the disputes will be played out. The perceived threats, rightly or wrongly, were not as imminent as those posed two years later by Measure T.

    Similarly, what were the stakes of Kriss’ mayoral run? Had he won he’d have been a minority-faction mayor. He would have greatly diluted (into a much larger constiuency) his district 7 constituency, interns, and staff. He’d have lost momentum on longer term district 7 issues he works on. There is even a progressive argument to be made that Bates is very desirable as Mayor because of his standing in D party and among politicians of the region and state … IF he could be better kept in check by a stronger progressive presence on the rest of council. If you read Kriss’ mayoral run as a relatively inexpensive play to put some pressure on Bates from the left it makes a lot more sense.

    And now look here at measures S and T which you bring up. I haven’t checked the figures but I take your word that the Yes campaigns were the big spenders here (as would be expected). Yet S and T were issues over which progressive networks became quite active and the No campaigns prevailed. Fantastic. Money is a factor yet is not determinative — I never said otherwise.

    So when it’s a result you like, it’s the majority refusing to be hoodwinked by a deep-pocketed minority. When it’s a result you don’t like, it’s the pernicious influence of money on low-information voters.

    You disappoint me because you normally seem like a more thoughtful commenter rather than one who would distort my words that way.

    You’ve further claimed that having members of the council majority on the ballot increased turnout among their supporters in 2012, which explains Bates’ huge margin of victory over Worthington. But this was the same electorate that narrowly defeated Measures S & T.

    Which supports my thesis. S and T were measures which progressives, though outspent, fought hard. The mayoral race was not a sharply unifying issue but S and T were.

    You’re pointedly ignoring the obvious conclusion that many voters supported Bates and still voted against S & T.

    Not at all. I think if that’s what happened that it supports my view. As I’ve said from the very start in this thread, the highly contentious ballot measures are a much better proxy for how representative the council is than the mayoral race that year.

    I can introduce you to people in West Berkeley who voted against Measure T and voted for Darryl Moore and Tom Bates.

    And?

    Incidentally, no one in District 2 thought that the 2012 race would be competitive.

    Yes, I know and don’t think I’ve said otherwise. I think District 5 looked potentially competitive to people not able to see private polling numbers.

    Moore is very popular in his district and has won all of his races handily. In fact, when you look at the actual numbers, your turnout explanation falls apart completely. In 2008, 5,591 people voted in the District 2 election. In 2012, it was 5,753, an increase of less than 3% that is probably mostly explained by population growth. In District 5, 2008 turnout was 8,212, *declining* 3% to 7,943 in 2012.

    You’re making the wrong comparison. In 2012, 13,286 votes were cast for the winning candidates in the races for districts 2, 5, and 6 (council majority seats); 3,119 voters came out to re-elect a progressive in district 3.

    I’m saying that that 10,000 vote difference among voters who cast ballots on council races represents a significant advantage for Bates (and it is an artifact of which seats were up that year). It’s not alone determinative, just like money, but it is one of several reasons why not to regard the mayoral race as a “proxy for council majority vs. council minority”.

    So, again, you’re pretty blatantly cherry-picking results

    Now that we’ve walked through some of your more egregious mis-characterizations of what I said maybe you can rethink that a bit. Thanks.

    The reality, as you’ve made clear with your wide-ranging comments, is that Berkeley’s electorate is multi-faceted and heterogenous, with many cross-cutting issues and shifting alliances.

    Indeed. Neither the “majority” or “minority” faction is unified or stable in composition in the long run. Yet that really evades the question we set out to discuss which is how well the council we get from district elections reflects the tendencies of the majority when issues are put to city-wide vote.

    Which is why, when speculating whether or not the city-wide electorate tends to prefer the Council majority or the Council minority, it would be best simply to look at voters’ expressed preference when they were offered a clear choice between the two.

    To which purpose you cite the 2012 mayoral race and now you have been shown many reasons why that particular race is a poor choice.

  • tor_berg

    “You’re making the wrong comparison. In 2012, 13,286 votes were cast for the winning candidates in the races for districts 2, 5, and 6 (council majority seats); 3,119 voters came out to re-elect a progressive in district 3.

    I’m saying that that 10,000 vote difference among voters who cast ballots on council races represents a significant advantage for Bates (and it is an artifact of which seats were up that year). It’s not alone determinative, just like money, but it is one of several reasons why not to regard the mayoral race as a “proxy for council majority vs. council minority”.

    Please. This is exactly the cherry-picking I’m talking about. Winning candidates in 2, 5, and 6 garnered 13,286 votes. Losing candidates in those races garnered 6,270 votes. Add District 3 and you have 15,307 votes for members of the council majority and their allies and 9,389 for their opponents, a difference of fewer than 6,000 votes and certainly a lot less than Bates’s 17,000-vote margin of victory. If you’re going to allege a turnout advantage, you have to include ALL the turnout.

    Similarly, you claim that Measure R doesn’t count because Anderson supported it, making it not a “cleanly partisan” issue. You fail to mention that Vice Mayor Maio did not support Measure S. So why is Measure S a “cleanly partisan” issue, whatever that is?

    I’m still trying to figure out who exactly this oppressed majority is. You insist on calling them “progressives,” but the issues you’ve called out aren’t necessarily what most people would consider politically progressive. Much of the opposition to the council majority’s positions on development issues come from the neighborhood associations, certainly the most conservative constituency in Berkeley. A preference for the status quo is, by definition, small-c conservatism. And we haven’t even gotten to city finances, where opposition to the mayor and his allies comes exclusively from the right. So it really looks like you’re using “progressive” to mean “things I like,” which is inaccurate and likely lends to your misperception.

    Finally, if you’d prefer not to look at the 2012 mayoral race, that’s fine. Bates won by 25 points over conservative candidate Shirley Dean in 2008. He beat conservative candidate Zelda Bronstein by 31 points in 2006. He was originally elected in 2002 as the progressive alternative to Shirley Dean, winning by almost 13 points. Far from being thwarted by an uncooperative electorate, Bates has been largely successful in pursuing his environmental, education, and development priorities. For anyone familiar with Bates’ career. I think it would be difficult to argue that sit/lie represented any kind priority for him, or that its defeat represented some kind of popular revolt against his agenda in general. His mayoralty has been repeatedly endorsed by strong majorities over ten years in numerous electoral contexts. He’s clearly very popular here. As evidenced by our long conversation, you have to construct a pretty circuitous and tendentious argument to show he’s not.

  • George Beier

    It’s right here in the article, last paragraph. If the ref succeeds, we go back to the old lines. The next vote could take place in June or Nov, depending on how fast the council acts.

    We can always change the lines if we don’t like them in 2020. And, of course, once councilmembers move or retire we can get rid of the mandated “dog legs” which are responsible for some of the goofier district lines.

    The ref endangers a historic opportunity to finally get a student district. Don’t sign it!

  • emraguso

    Looks like there’s a meeting for those interested in the referendum effort on Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/events/1437796076433073

  • re the city-wide electorate

    a difference of fewer than 6,000 votes and certainly a lot less than Bates’s 17,000-vote margin of victory.

    The exact count doesn’t matter. You seem to agree to an advantage of at least several thousand likely Bates voters in the turn-out for council seat races. Three majority seats were up compared to just one minority seat, a ballot accident that conveys those “several thousand” advantage to Bates. It’s one of a list of reasons not to treat that race as a proxy for council majority vs. minority.

    Similarly, you claim that Measure R doesn’t count because Anderson supported it,

    Not quite. I’m saying that progressives were notably split on that measure and Anderson’s vote is part of the evidence.

    You fail to mention that Vice Mayor Maio did not support Measure S.

    Apples and oranges. Anderson came out in favor of Measure R. Maio declined to take a position on Measure S.

    Both sides of Measure R obtained support from some progressives. Support for S among “moderates” (the council majority side) was enthusiastic and one-sided.

    I’m still trying to figure out who exactly this oppressed majority is. You insist on calling them “progressives,”

    I’m calling the council minority “progressives” and as well many of their supporters. I’m arguing that their views on contentious issues are closer to the views demonstrated by the majority of Berkeley voters.

    I’m not trying to slap the label “progressive” on the majority of Berkeley voters. That’d be different.

    Much of the opposition to the council majority’s positions on development issues come from the neighborhood associations, certainly the most conservative constituency in Berkeley.

    I’m not sure which development-related fights you are referring to. Whichever they are, is there a roughly consistent alignment of sides in those fights with votes on matters that come before council? How does it work out?

    Bates won by 25 points over conservative candidate Shirley Dean in 2008.

    Not sure I see the relevance.

    He was originally elected in 2002 as the progressive alternative to Shirley Dean,

    Yes, there’s a certain amount of resentment about how he then turned out to act once in office. Kriss helped to get him into office, back then.

    As evidenced by our long conversation, you have to construct a pretty circuitous and tendentious argument to show he’s not.

    Again, you disappoint me. I have not argued as to Bates’ popularity in that way. What a ridiculous thing you’ve said.

    I have argued against interpreting the outcome or margin of the 2012 race as a proxy for council majority vs. minority. I’ve argued that the ballot measures tell a clearer story of how the values of the electorate align with the council factions.

  • guest

    “I’m arguing that their views on contentious issues are closer to the views demonstrated by the majority of Berkeley voters.”

    Based on what, exactly? The causes they champion tend to fail at the polls. The causes they oppose tend to pass by a reasonable margin.

    Hard to argue that the views of the “progressive” minority represent the majority when the majority of voters don’t vote the way they do.

  • re the city-wide electorate

    The causes they champion tend to fail at the polls. The causes they oppose tend to pass by a reasonable margin.

    As we’ve been discussing, it’s really the other way ’round.

  • guest

    Zelda Bronstein would say that she was the progressive and Bates was the conservative – just as Kriss says that he is the progressive and Bates is the conservative.

    Maybe we should relabel the councilmembers who call themselves “the progressives” and instead call them “those who are as progressive as Zelda Bronstein.”

  • guest

    “Kriss described his own campaign as an attempt to nudge Bates as much as to get elected”

    When he first ran for city council against Carla Woodworth, Kriss told me that he was running an “educational” campaign meant to make Carla more progressive and did not expect or want to get elected.

    You are often going to be misled if you take all of Kriss’s statements at face value, as if he were honest.

  • guest

    Yeah, it’s really not though. Other than a few minority examples, the city votes along with the council majority.

  • anonomousie

    GREAT! Lot’s of people there….also, I have one question. People keep bring up that Kriss doesn’t live in Berkeley, when in fact he does. I don’t think he pays much attention to BS, but isn’t that slander? Just curious.