Op-ed: It’s time to compromise on Berkeley redistricting 

Detail of the BSDC map, one of several under consideration for Berkeley.

The Berkeley City Council is engaged in a lawsuit with itself over redistricting. With leadership and compromise, we can put this matter behind us Tuesday night (tonight).

How we got here: Redistricting is required every 10 years. Since populations shift and federal law requires that each citizen be represented equally, it was necessary for Berkeley to draw new district lines. Berkeley voters also passed Measure R, which allowed “communities of interest” to be recognized. Students, for example, considered themselves one such community.

Many plans for redistricting were submitted for review. The Council favored the students’ map; called the ‘BSDC’ map. This included most of the dorms and frats/sororities but excluded the Northside co-ops.

After the deadline, Councilman Kriss Worthington submitted a map, called the “USDA” map, which added back the Northside co-ops. This map was considered by the Council, but the majority eventually picked the students’ “BSDC” map.

The referendum: Councilmembers Worthington and Jesse Arreguín led a successful signature drive to vacate the Council decision that adopted the BSDC map. The council was then faced with a choice: draw a new map or put the BSDC map on the ballot in November and let the voters decide. The Council majority chose to put the BSDC map on the November ballot.

The lawsuit: As a result, the district lines for the November election are still not known. Here’s the question: should the outdated redistricting lines from the 2000 census be used, or should Berkeley use the ‘BSDC’ lines which have not yet been approved by the voters? As it stands, prospective council candidates are uncertain what neighborhoods they may represent.

To settle the question, the City has hired an outside law firm to represent the Council’s majority’s view (the BSDC map) and named as defendants (among others) Councilmembers Max Anderson, Arreguín and Worthington. Judge Grillo will hear the case in Alameda County Superior Court on April 29 and submit his ruling by April 30.  April 30 is also the last day for the County Registrar of Voters to get the system in place for the November elections.

Why it may not be over unless we compromise: Despite the judge’s ruling, either side may appeal, or the judge may take more time. Thus, a compromise is necessary and could be settled at next Tuesday’s Council meeting.

A way out — the compromise: The Compromise Map that has been developed with input from all stakeholders differs from the BSDC map by only seven blocks. It restores four blocks of co-ops, and students still get the representation they deserve. This compromise proposal will be part of Councilman Worthington’s agenda item this week (along with other maps).

If you’d like to see this matter resolved so we don’t continue to waste taxpayer dollars, elections can be held in a timely manner, candidates and voters understand their representative areas, and we get this out of the courts, then please call or email your councilmember and urge them to accept the Compromise Map.

Read more about Berkeley redistricting in Berkeleyside’s detailed coverage.

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George Beier is a neighborhood activist and President of the Willard Neighborhood Association. Depending on how the redistricting ruling is decided, he may also be a candidate in District 8.