Op-ed: We don’t need a redistricting referendum

By Eric Panzer

Eric Panzer has been a Berkeley resident since matriculating at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. Eric is actively involved in a variety of civic issues, and has served as a permanent and temporary member of several City of Berkeley commissions.

Xan Join collected a number of signatures in late December. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

There is a campaign afoot to waste Berkeleyans’ time and tax dollars.

On Dec. 17, 2013, the Berkeley City Council adopted a long-awaited redistricting map that rebalances population across Berkeley’s City Council Districts. The vote came after two rounds of redistricting over the last three years, including a total of 17 community forums, public hearings, and Council meetings, as well as a voter-approved amendment to the City Charter. But now, a vocal minority is spearheading a referendum effort that could send Berkeley back to redistricting square one.

This referendum campaign represents an effort to short-circuit the community redistricting process and delay implementation of new City Council districts. The main impetus for this referendum is Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s support for an eleventh-hour redistricting proposal that was crafted within his own Council office. Redistricting proposals were due to the City Clerk by March 15, 2013, but Worthington’s proposal was not introduced until Sept. 10, nearly six months later. Supporters of that map evaded the public scrutiny of the formal submission process and are now threatening to drag redistricting beyond the Charter-mandated three-year deadline for its completion.

This needless referendum would also waste your money. Despite the 17 community meetings, public hearings, and Council meetings between 2011 and 2013, referendum supporters are claiming that the Council-approved map was chosen without community input. If their referendum goes to the ballot, Berkeley will need to call an otherwise-unnecessary special election that will cost a quarter-million dollars of your money. Moreover, putting this referendum on the ballot would likely mean that the 2014 election would be conducted with the now-outdated and imbalanced districts adopted in 2000, a clear violation of the principle of “one person, one vote.”

Referendum supporters will tell you that they favor a referendum because the new map isn’t “progressive” enough, but this is misinformed at best and dishonest at worst. This is fundamentally a fight over the configuration of the new campus district. The open, transparent, democratically adopted map has a campus district that is approximately 86% student-aged, while the same district in the referendum-supporters’ map is 90% student-aged. For a difference of four percentage points, supporters of the referendum want to explode the community process of the last three years, revoke the democratically adopted map, drag redistricting beyond its Charter-mandated deadline, squander a quarter-million taxpayer dollars, and make sure that the 2014 election takes place using districts that are unconstitutionally imbalanced.

In the coming weeks, you may be asked to sign a petition to put a redistricting referendum on the ballot. Just say no. Do your part to reject political schemes: Don’t lift a finger. Don’t put pen to paper. Don’t sign any redistricting referendum petition.

Eric Panzer has been involved in redistricting efforts since 2011 and has submitted multiple maps over both the previous and current rounds of redistricting. Panzer publicly endorsed the Berkeley Student District Campaign map, which was adopted by the City Council and is the subject of the current referendum campaign.

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  • guest

    The political consultant who coordinated the handing out of fake
    Democratic Party literature was the author of this piece, Eric Panzer.

    I am surprised Berkeleyside allows people to post bald-faced lies like this.

  • emraguso

    We’re certainly not in a position to factcheck every comment but we’re happy to ask Eric about this.

  • emraguso

    I checked in with Eric Panzer about this after another commenter suggested the suggestion via Whoa Mule was inaccurate. Here’s Eric’s response, for those who are interested: “I did not coordinate the distribution of any literature for Yes on Measure S. I wrote an op-ed in support of Measure S and did hand out literature on election day, but both of these things were done on a strictly volunteer basis as a private citizen. Although some of the people who distributed literature on election day received payment, I refused such payment. At no point did I occupy any formal paid or unpaid position for the Yes on Measure S campaign.”

  • guest

    Thanks for taking the time to get Eric’s on-the-record response on this and show that “Woah Mule” was spreading false information.

  • Whoa Mule

    In the complaint against the S campaign in the FCPC document linked above, a statement from Bob Offer-Westort includes the following regarding the bogus flyers;

    “The next person I spoke with was a man outside the Veterans’ Building, who identified as having been recruited directly by Dr. Coady. He told me that he hadn’t realized that the slate cards he was handing out were not actual Democratic Party slatecards, and that he’d leave, but that his supervisor was right there. He indicated that Eric Panzer of Livable Berkeley was his supervisor. I then spoke with Panzer, and told.him that he was knowingly misleading the public. I gave him a·copy of the
    actual Democratic Party slatecard. His response was that the two were “not that different.” I told him that he knew precisely what the differences were, that those differences were the point, that he was misleading voters deliberately, and that his behavior was both disgusting and disappointing. I told·him that we had spoken both with.Robin Torello of the Alameda.County Democratic Party and Ron Boyer of the Obama campaign, and that both recommended that those slate cards should not be disbibuted. He responded sarcastically, “Oh, I’m sure the Democratic Party will be all over me.”

    The resulting fine of $2,750 was a significant one for the FCPC.

  • angry_moderate

    Hearsay, none of which changes the fact that you falsely claimed that Panzer was a political consultant for the Yes on S campaign (false!) and that he coordinated the handout (false!) of fake Democratic party literature (false!).

    I wouldn’t trust statements about the issue from Bob Offer-Westort since he was an actual political consultant who was hired and paid by the No on S campaign. Conflict of interest.

  • Whoa Mule

    Panzer had plenty of time to issue a denial to the FCPC. Where is it? He has now denied that he was the supervisor of the paid pamphleteer. Did he just happen to be standing nearby?

    And, most importantly, he has not denied Offer-Westort’s contention that he knowingly distributed a fake flyer.

  • angry_moderate

    It wasn’t a “fake flyer” and he said he was a regular citizen volunteer for the organization not a “political consultant” as you claimed.

    What is your involvement with the NO ON S campaign? Do you have a conflict of interest you should be disclosing?

  • Whoa Mule

    I was not involved with the No on S campaign. I voted for Measure S because I don’t like those panhandlers sitting in deteriorated Naugahyde recliners on Shattuck.

    However, the use of election day flyers claiming to be the official slate of the Democratic or Republican party, which are actually not, I think, can reasonably be called fakes and I find this technique offensive.

    Mr. Offer-Westort’s allegation that one of the paid pamphleteers introduced Mr Panzer as his ‘supervisor’ was submitted to the FCPC several months ago. If this was a slanderous statement, Mr. Panzer’s denial is duly noted.

  • John Freeman

    Mr. Panzer’s denial is duly noted.

    Did he deny the “supervisor” story? I didn’t see that Only that he denied having a “paid or unpaid formal position” i.e., something nobody was asking about that, anyway, would have to be listed on the campaign’s financial filings. It seems like a “non-denial denial” to me.

  • EricPanzer

    This third-hand account of my being a “supervisor” is incorrect, or else an extraordinarily loose interpretation of the term “supervisor.” Either Mr. Offer-Westort misunderstood the gentleman he spoke to, or this particular gentleman misunderstood my role that day. I remember this particular gentleman, though I do not recall his name, and none of this is meant to disparage him in any way.

    He and I were both handing out literature in the vicinity of the Veterans’ Building polling station. Given that I was more practiced in campaigning near polling stations, I was told to make sure no one at our polling station violated the legal buffer area and to try to avoid and/or diffuse any confrontations. I had no special power or influence over the actions of the other people who were distributing literature in support of Measure S, and I had no involvement when it came to the content or production of the literature in question. Moreover, none of this election-day work was done in direct association with my role for Livable Berkeley—a point that I think is attributable to a bit of embellishment on the part of Mr. Offer-Westort. I did all of this on my own time, as a private citizen, without compensation.

    Flattering though it is, Mr. Offer-Westort’s account of my power and influence is greatly overstated. The level of scrutiny these minutiae are receiving is completely disproportionate and utterly irrelevant to the topic of redistricting. Y’all can continue to discuss this to your heart’s content, but I consider this conversation closed.

  • John Freeman


    I can understand why the paid canvasser described you as his supervisor. You describe yourself as, indeed, having an oversight role:

    I was told to make sure no one at our polling station violated the
    legal buffer area and to try to avoid and/or diffuse any confrontations.

    You say that you were told to “make sure” the paid canvasser did not stray into the buffer area.

    Apparently the paid canvasser understood that he was to take direction from you.

    The paid canvasser called you, a person from whom he was to take direction, a “supervisor” in order to explain why he did not
    feel free to leave even though he felt deceived by his employer.

    Of course, as you say, you were not “formally” assigned a supervisory position.

  • Jack Litewka

    The City Council’s processes (some would call it ‘railroading’) have, unfortunately, made referendums necessary in some cases. There were a number of redistricting plans offered, and at least two of them were (in my opinion) better than the one that the City Council selected. So why not have citizens of Berkeley decide on how their districts should be defined?