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

By George Beier

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.

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 Here’s the question: should the outdated redistricting lines from the 2000 census be used, or should Berkeley use the ‘BSDC’ lines which have not yet been approved by the voters?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.

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related, local authors are preferred, and we don’t publish anonymous pieces. Please email submissions to us. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

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  • ColorMeSkeptical

    Finally, someone suggests something practical. The city continues to waste time on this nonsensical battle, which is showing us all that both Kriss Worthington and his ilk and Tom Bates and his cohorts hate each other because they are so much alike. What is wrong with the City Council that they can’t figure this out for themselves? I don’t live in either of Beier’s Districts, or I’d vote for him! Forget City Council, and run for Mayor!

  • MarkH2

    What impact does the compromise map have on Mr. Beier’s plan to run for City Council for District 8?

  • guest

    Okay, I’ll bite. Which district is George Beier’s Berkeley House in in the various plans?

  • guest

    No negotiating with political terrorists.

    Councilmember Kriss Worthington has shown his true stripes in his histrionic attempts to block the creation of a student district. Instead of caving in to his selfish demands we should keep the people’s district map and boot him out of office,

  • FiatSlug

    There’s another compromise: no District lines at all. Every Council seat is effectively an at-large seat, including the Mayor’s seat.

    I have come to deeply distrust the idea of Council Districts because of the wrangling over District lines and the requirement that the homes of no two incumbent Councilmembers can be in the same District. The last requirement clearly puts the incumbent Councilmembers ahead of their constituents when it should be the other way around.

    In short, District lines are a monumental waste of time and energy which could be used to solve more pressing issues of importance to Berkeley’s residents.

  • George Beier

    I’m in D7 now, if the BSDC map passes I’ll be in D8.

  • guest

    Without district lines South and West Berkeley won’t have representation on the Council since rich hill-dwellers will have an easy time outspending candidates from those areas.

  • AlanTobey

    Be careful what you ask for: decades of citywide/district-free council races led to some of the most divisive slate politics this side of Chicago (except for voting by dead citizens, we think). We wound up voting for ideologies rather than people, NOT a better alternative to districts.

  • guest

    And under USDA?

  • guest

    And under the Compromise Map?

  • andrew johnson

    Districts are an enlightened approach, lead to lower overall campaign costs, which encourage citizens to run, as opposed to careerist politicians who would have the funds to run city-wide. What’s NEEDED is an independent redistricting commission, which would almost entirely remove the sitting councilmembers from the process of drawing and approving new district boundaries.

  • guest

    It needs to be a hybrid. Four districts and three at large, including the Mayor. Did you hear that? Yes, you did. It’s the sound of a seven member City Council and not nine.

  • andrew johnson

    We need some ADULT supervision in Berkeley. Is it too late to call in Debra Bowen? The political maneuvering around this issue stinks of vendettas, and retribution, and I have to wonder what the CA Secretary of State would say about what’s happening here… it’s 2014, and we still don’t have certainty on new district boundaries.

  • guest

    The notion that this should be compromised is a clear indication that Mr. Beier is buying in to Mr. Worthington’s stall tactics. Never compromise with someone who is clearly more interested in his political self preservation than he is with the actual good of the City. Mr. Beier should be a little embarrassed by the notion.
    This is not a contest between a split council and what’s best for the City. This is a fight between three council members who are on their ideological way out. We have SIX council members who understand better how to run a city and their efforts are being rewarded by a better Downtown among other things. A Downtown that Worthington, Arreguin, and Anderson are doing their best to roll back to the worst of times. They fought the Downtown Plan all the way through. They keep progress out of West Berkeley. They try to kill the nascent development that is finally starting to provide jobs (!!), affordable housing, and other fantastic community benefits, all in the name of “progressive” (that’s with a small p). SHAME!

  • Bishop George Berkeley

    Beier is in D8 under ALL of the proposed “new” maps. In other words, his personal situation doesn’t have anything to do with the ego contest between Kriss and Tom. Both Kriss and Tom would put Beier in D8, if they got their (stated) wishes.

    Beier is affected only because he is still in D7 on the 14-year-old, out-of-compliance map that everyone agrees must be replaced. One outcome of this referendum litigation would be to force us to use that map in the next election, even though it suffers from itsy-bitsy Constitutional defects like giving people unequal voting power depending on district. So Beier is affected the uncertainty: everyone who matters agrees he’s going to end up in D8 eventually, but no one knows where he’ll be in November!

    He’s not completely alone, either. Entire swaths of the Willard & Bateman neighborhoods are supposed to join D8. Once again, everyone agrees it will happen. But they refuse to agree on what to do this November. Under the circumstances, Beier’s suggestion of a miniscule compromise makes him look like the only adult in the room, in my opinion.

  • Bishop George Berkeley


  • Bishop George Berkeley

    Still D8.

  • Bishop George Berkeley

    It resolves the uncertainty. Under all of the proposed new maps, he will be in District 8. But a judge could throw that into disarray by making the City use the non-compliant map from 2000 in November, when the referendum vote occurs. In that case, he’d be back in District 7 _only_ for that election. The whole thing is absurd.

  • David D.

    Is there a map that shows the distinct difference between the two disputed maps and the compromise map? I would love to see it if so.

    I have been following this debate closely, and now more than ever it seems clear that Berkeley, for as small as it is, should either get rid of council districts altogether or institute a hybrid system with zoned and at-large representation. The current system is a bloated bureaucratic joke.

    Also, the council should most definitely shrink in size. There is no reason to have 8 reps (plus the mayor) for a city of our size when 4+1 or 6+1 would be more than enough. My hometown is twice the size of Berkeley and gets along just fine with 4 at-large reps and 1 mayor.

  • Bishop George Berkeley

    If you think Beier is “buying” a “tactic” that Worthington is selling, then you don’t know their history very well.

    It seems far more likely that Beier has realized that both sides are willing to cut off the City’s nose if they think it will spite their opposition’s face. To mangle a metaphor. But to my point: no matter which side gets to declare “victory” eventually, the City will lose along the way. The fact that Beier is trying to forge a path AWAY from the hostilities is hardly something to be embarrassed about, it seems to me.

  • John Freeman

    The fact that Beier is trying to forge a path AWAY from the hostilities is hardly something to be embarrassed about, it seems to me.

    Do you think council will try to push it through tonight to moot tomorrow’s court decision?

  • guest

    “a bloated bureaucratic joke.”
    That will be City Hall under any system

  • Bishop George Berkeley

    I’m guessing it depends on how they felt the hearing went, right? (Did Berkeleyside send anyone, BTW?) I suppose they’re reading the tea leaves of the judge’s comments, and perhaps also examining their financial investment in Remcho et al…we’ll know soon, anyway.

  • George Beier

    I can send you the maps. Email me at georgebeierjr@hotmail.com. Or call cell at 510 290 9036. Before 9, please!

  • ClayShentrup

    The elephant in the room is PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. When we speak of drawing districts to give representation to “communities of interest”, we’re effectively allowing district drawers to tell voters what community of interest they belong to. Only once per decade. This is an extremely inaccurate hack.

    Imagine we instead had, for example, two four-member districts (or even one eight-member district) and elected our representatives with something like Single Transferable Vote, which has been used in Australia’s senate since the early 1990s. Students would then have the choice to determine for themselves which community of interest to identify with.

    For example, a black gay Jewish Republican student could choose to give more support to candidates who focus on student issues, with the aim of electing a student representative. But he might actually care more about Republican issues like fiscal conservatism, or values stemming from his Jewish faith. The point is, he can decide for himself which candidates best represent him.

    Proportional representation puts control less in the hands of politicians, and more in the hands of voters. Thus is also foils Gerrymanderers.

    Clay Shentrup
    Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

  • ClayShentrup

    By this logic, proportional representation is an improvement. Say you have two proportionally elected 4-member districts. Then a candidate can win merely by being the most supported among 25% of the voters in his district. There’s also less of the career politician “be all things to all people” component. Candidates can be more sincere about what they really stand for.

    As for independent redistricting commissions, they don’t work.

    What *does* work is the Shortest Splitline Algorithm.

    Clay Shentrup
    Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

  • emraguso

    Yes, I was there. Story coming Wednesday.

  • FiatSlug

    Alan, it seems that ideologies are still at play. Regardless of which system is employed the reality is that ideologies will eventually cause disruption. In Berkeley, much of that is rooted in a generation that failed to heed the lessons of its parents and failed to live up to its own ideals of representing the people.

  • David D.

    Thanks, George. Not sure why I didn’t get a notification that you responded to my message, but I’ll send you an e-mail now.

  • guest

    Considering how spineless and ineffectual the City Council is, maybe it’s time to just put everything they do up to a public vote and get rid of the lot of them.