Oakland’s redistricting commission missed its deadline but still aims to pick a final map

Since October, Oakland’s Independent Redistricting Commission has held more than two dozen meetings to discuss the pros and cons of various potential changes to the city’s district boundaries, which determine city council and school board representation. In the weeks leading up to the December 31 deadline for the commission to choose a final map, meetings began to last until seven o’clock. Dozens of residents and representatives of unions and community groups called late into the night to discuss how to redraw the lines, and the commission received more than 1,000 pages of comments.

But the commission missed the December 31 deadline.

Still need to choose a final map, the commission will meet tomorrow, January 19th. All Oakland residents can participate. But if this is your first time entering the city redistricting debate, be prepared to do your homework.

The process of developing new district maps is complex and involved a large number of consultants incorporating new decennial census data, among other considerations. Many residents and groups have shared their desires and concerns along the way. Of course, the final decision rests with the commissioners.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why Missed Deadline Matters

Oakland voters approved a ballot measure in 2014 that amended the city charter by removing the power to draw district maps from the city council and giving it to an independent redistricting commission.

The amendment required the commission to choose a final map by Dec. 31, 2021 — which it did not — and according to a legal opinion from City Attorney Barbara Parker, the deadline cannot be extended.

What shall we do now? According to the city charter, the city attorney is required to ask a state judge to set new district boundaries. This map would be used in the next election or until the Redistricting Commission adopts a different plan to replace it.

Parker filed a motion in Alameda County Superior Court on Jan. 7 seeking this, while stressing that the court-ordered card is meant to be “temporary.” “There is still time for the commission to adopt a plan well before the next municipal election,” Parker wrote. The actual deadline for the commission to adopt a new map will likely be April 17, by which time the county registrar needs to know how Oakland will proceed.

What’s at stake?

In a nutshell, redistricting is about representation. Oakland uses a district-based system of elections in which residents can vote for who will represent their geographic part of the city.

Your representative on the city council is responsible for drafting and passing new legislation to address issues affecting the entire city. But a big part of what council members do is provide services to residents in their neighborhoods.

It is understood that there are many different communities in Oakland that have special needs or face specific types of issues. And because many of these communities, such as racial and ethnic groups, people who speak the same language, or people with similar income levels, are often lumped together in a particular area of ​​the city, dividing it into two or several redefined groups. municipal districts could have the effect of diluting their political strength.

For this reason, federal and state laws such as California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001 have recognized the importance of ensuring that electoral maps do not disempower minority communities.

Commissars have narrowed down to a single map, but are still fine-tuning its boundaries

The curators looked at 11 different maps during the redrawing process, each named using a different letter of the alphabet, from A to K. Each of these maps was, in turn, refined into several versions , with numbers being added with each new release. .

On December 13, the commission voted to reject all but one map: the F3 map.

You may have heard that earlier in the process there was a map that would have created a “hill district” of Oakland. This card was discarded. F3’s district lines aren’t much different from the boundaries Oakland currently uses for elections, with most districts covering both the whiter, wealthier hill areas as well as the flat parts of the city where more people live. working class and people of color. But there are key differences between F3 and the current electoral map we use, and commissioners and residents are still weighing what changes they would like to see.

What are the main points of agreement or disagreement?

Top priorities identified by some residents and commissioners include not dividing Fruitvale into two separate districts, which would dilute the voting power of Latinx voters. Others want to make sure Lake Merritt is split between two council districts (D2 and D3) so that this resource-rich, problem-prone part of Oakland gets plenty of attention.

Most commissioners and many members of the public stressed that district boundaries, especially D3, D6 and D7, should be drawn in such a way as not to dilute the strength of black voters.

There was also widespread support to ensure that Asian communities from Chinatown to areas east of Lake Merritt are all included in District 2.

Residents who live around Dimond Park were upset that some proposals would have split their neighborhoods into multiple wards.

Other questions proved more divisive: where should the Colosseum end? Should this massive (half-city owned) property stay in District 7 or be moved to District 6? Should the Brooklyn Basin stay in District 2 or move to District 3?

The changes each commissioner wants to the F3 map have been posted online for the public to review, along with the reasons why they want to see those changes.

What happens if the commission freezes again?

The commission can only adopt a final map by a qualified majority vote, or at least nine of its 12 members.

If they can’t agree by early February, City Attorney Parker wrote in her motion to a state judge that she will move forward with the process asking the court to impose a new map to the city for use in the November elections. But it won’t be a random map: Parker wrote that she “will move that the court adopt the plan which has the support of the greatest number of commissioners at that time.”

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