Council majority pushes redistricting decisions to March

Many of the speakers who came to Tuesday night's council meeting oppose a redistricting ordinance adopted in December. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Many of the speakers who came to Tuesday night’s council meeting oppose a redistricting ordinance adopted in December. Photo: Emilie Raguso

In a 6-3 vote, a Berkeley City Council majority ruled Tuesday night to wait until at least March 11 to make a decision on whether to repeal the city’s recently adopted redistricting ordinance or put the new district lines to the voters in November.

Council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Max Anderson pushed on Tuesday night for council to rescind the ordinance, which was approved in December, in favor of an alternative map. But others on the dais said they wanted more time before taking any additional steps.

Detractors of the new ordinance led a successful signature-gathering campaign in January to force council to repeal the ordinance and adopt a new map, or put it before the voters later this year. New district lines are required to balance the population as much as possible across the city’s eight council districts. The adopted map does that, but some say it unfairly cuts out many “progressive” voices from District 7, which is represented by Worthington. 

A push to include more student-aged voters in District 7 has galvanized the redistricting effort. The district has had a student super-majority for the past decade, and the adopted map increased that majority to 86%.

But many who oppose the new map, including Worthington, say it cuts out student co-ops and many Cal dorm residents, who represent a broader range of viewpoints and should be part of any student district in the city of Berkeley.

“I think the fact that about 15% of the voters of Berkeley signed these referendum petitions during the single month that’s the hardest to get signatures in Berkeley is an amazing testament to how bad of a plan this was,” said Worthington.

Community members have organized Berkeley's new redistricting ordinance, but whether they represent a majority of the city's voters has been contested by their opponents. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Community members have organized Berkeley’s new redistricting ordinance, but whether they represent a majority of the city’s voters has been contested by their opponents. Photo: Emilie Raguso

About 17 members of the public who spoke Tuesday night — along with Worthington, Arreguín and Anderson — took issue with the adopted map. Many said the successful referendum effort is a sign that Berkeley residents disapprove of the newly adopted district lines. Some called for the issue to come before the voters, while others supported the adoption by council of an alternative “compromise” redistricting map.

Some city officials, however, called into question exactly what the referendum meant. Councilwoman Linda Maio said the effort had been fraught with misleading information, and therefore wasn’t a true measure of a broad public will. Councilman Gordon Wozniak said the referendum was primarily a sign that the issue should come before all the city’s voters to get a true sense of what the community wants.

There was some concern expressed by members of the public that, if redistricting does come to a public vote, it would appear on the June ballot while many students are away. Mayor Tom Bates assured those in attendance that the ordinance would not come up until the November election, if a compromise cannot be reached before then.

Worthington said the easiest way forward would be for the council to rescind its earlier vote and approve a map created by an intern in his office, known as the United Student District Amendment, that includes Cal’s north-side co-ops, many dorms and International House.

Whether council will consider that map, or any others, will not be determined until at least March 11, however.

“We still have an opportunity for compromise between now and the 11th,” said Bates.

The mayor also said council may need to hold some of its discussions about redistricting during closed session due to the possibility of a lawsuit related to the redistricting ordinance. He said previously that council may need to take up the matter before a judge to determine which district lines would be used for elections later this year.

Related:
Berkeley redistricting referendum effort prevails (02.03.14)
Long-time Berkeley progressives back referendum drive (02.03.14)
Redistricting opponents secure signatures to secure vote (01.22.14)
Op-ed: We don’t need a redistricting referendum (01.10.14)
Tight deadline to get redistricting referendum on ballot (01.03.14)
Redistricting map splits council, community (12.18.13)
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)

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  • guest

    Seems like it would make more sense to ask the question directly to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai and other students who worked on the campaign. Was Panzer the sole creator of the map submitted by the ASUC or was he simply working as a consultant helping them with the somewhat confusing process of creating and submitting a map that met all the requirements?

    Several Berkeley council gadflies are currently trying to discredit the ASUC map by suggesting that Panzer was the sole creator of the map. It would be nice to hear the answer from the mouths of the horses involved.

  • guest

    Soto-Vigil is not an “ex-staffer.” He is Worthington’s Chief Aide, and in many ways, Kriss’s protegé. Has been for years. He runs Kriss’s office and he personally ran the referendum campaign.

    His map was the sole contribution to the redistricting process from representatives of the Council Minority. Now, Anthony is saying it wasn’t a serious proposal. And Council Minority declined to submit a serious proposal because…

    Talk about changing stories…

  • guest

    Hunziker is Wozniak’s Chief Aide. She also submitted a student district map.

    It’s pretty surprising to hear that Kristin would say something like that in public, since it contradicts public comments by ASUC members. I have an e-mail in to her seeking clarification.

  • guest

    “Stop right there. That isn’t what was said earlier. Earlier “guest” said the map lacked a student district. That is the smear “guest” is accused of.”

    Soto-Vigil said in public that “simple boundaries and keeping communities of interest together were his key goals.” Soto-Vigil’s map does not include the Northside co-ops, nor the greeks and many of the dorms on the Southside in District 7, so in March 2013, he clearly did not consider UC students to be a “community of interest.” Soto-Vigil’s map still splits the student vote across 4, 6, 7, and 8, just like the original 1986 boundaries that disenfranchised the student vote.

    This is just what happened.

  • John Freeman

    “guest”, Soto-Vigil’s map includes majority-student districts.

    Still, you are right that a much better map would include greeks as well as northside dorms and coops and International House and even try to get the number of students in the district to be as high as possible.

    That’d be the USDA map.

    The map brought forward less than 3 months after the last minute BSDC submission by ASUC. The map drawn to correct BSDC’s nearly inexplicable relegation of northside students to district 6, a “hills homeowner district”.

    And what’s with that BSDC map? The BSDC map that — very conveniently for the Council “moderates” — just happened to exclude traditionally progressive student voters from not just 7 but from anything even close to a “student district”.

    I wonder why the BSDC map did that, don’t you? Why the BSDC map so systematically excludes from any “student district” the student precincts that helped swing the 2006 election against George Beier and in favor of Kriss Worthington? Maybe we should ask BSDC “technical adviser” Eric Panzer.

  • guest

    “The map drawn to correct BSDC’s nearly inexplicable relegation of northside students to district 6, a ‘hills homeowner district.'”

    If it’s inexplicable, why did the map submitted by Kriss’s office do the same thing? Perhaps Kriss and Alejandro could explicate it to you.

  • guest

    “guest”, Soto-Vigil’s map includes majority-student districts.”

    Earlier, you said Soto-Vigil’s District 7 was a “student supermajority.” Perhaps you can provide some numbers.

    “Why the BSDC map so systematically excludes from any “student district” the student precincts that helped swing the 2006 election against George Beier and in favor of Kriss Worthington?”

    I think you’d have a pretty difficult time substantiating the claim that it was specifically voters in the Northside co-ops that were responsible for electing Kriss over George in 2006, since the co-ops are in the same precinct as the entirety of the UC campus, several seminaries, and many large apartment buildings: 202410. If you have some method of sussing out only co-op votes from the 308 cast in that precinct, I’d be interested in seeing it.

    Interestingly, Tom Bates beat Kriss in 202410 in 2012. Maybe the co-ops aren’t as reliably “progressive” as you suspect. Maybe you could also show how it was only Mormon seminary students in 202410 who swung that precinct in Bates’s favor in 2012.

  • John Freeman

    For context: we’re talking about how the BSDC map moves northside students entirely out of any student district and why that points up an interesting anti-progressive bias in the map. I guess this can get slightly wonky but here you go:

    I think you’d have a pretty difficult time substantiating

    It’s no trouble at all.

    substantiating the claim that it was specifically voters in the Northside co-ops that were responsible for electing Kriss over George in 2006 I think you’d have a pretty difficult time substantiating the claim that it was specifically voters in the Northside co-ops that were responsible for electing Kriss over George in 2006, since the co-ops are in the same precinct as the entirety of the UC campus, several seminaries, and many large apartment buildings: 202410.

    In 2006 that precinct cast 308 votes. Worthington got 51%, Beier 25%. Kriss’ margin here was critical in the final results.

    You oddly mention that the main campus and the seminary campus are also in the district but I’m not sure why. Residents (mostly students) are concentrated in the north in coops, dorms, and large apartment buildings. Not too many people live in the Campanile or the theological library.

    Interestingly, Tom Bates beat Kriss in 202410 in 2012. Maybe the co-ops aren’t as reliably “progressive” as you suspect.

    Actually, the progressives ran a slate of three mutually endorsing candidates in 2012 — hoping for an instant run-off election. This slate won the precinct.

    City-wide, the instant run-off strategy failed but in the precinct we’re talking about, the progressive slate defeated Bates. In the individual counts Worthington came in second to Bates and third place went to (non-slate member) UC professor. A roughly 60% majority in this district voted against Bates.

    Maybe you could also show how it was only Mormon seminary students in 202410 who swung that precinct in Bates’s favor in 2012.

    Bates seems to have lost that district to the instant run-off strategy but the instant run-off strategy failed because Bates got more than 50% city-wide.

  • councilmaven

    The matter should be put to the voters so we can get past this and move on to substantive issues. All of the proposed “student” districts are quite similar and of no particular import to most Berkeley voters except those who either love or unlove Councilmember Worthington. If you unlove Worthington, vote for the Council-sponsored district lines. If you love Worthington, vote against the Council-sponsored lines. If you don’t care, vote for the Council plan so the City can move forward with City business. Basically, the so-called Student District is a sham since District 7 is already a student district and could anoint a student as councilperson at any time.

  • AnthonySanchez

    All Council should not be submitting maps, regardless.

    Don’t worry, we’ll take away that power this fall.