Council members consider possibility of postponing redistricting decision

UC Berkeley student government leaders presented their redistricting proposal to the Berkeley City Council during a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night, garnering some support from certain council members who are considering delaying action on the proposals until after the 2012 election.

By postponing a redistricting decision, the council would allow the students to submit a charter amendment for the November 2012 ballot to make their proposal compliant with city code, and thus be considered among the five other proposals submitted to the council. The charter requires that proposals closely adhere to the 1986 district boundaries and that districts be drawn to result in a nearly equal population in each district.

The Student District proposal — submitted by members of the ASUC — purposefully does not comply with the city charter, with the intention to encourage discussion about the current constraints on district boundaries, which are re-evaluated every 10 years to accommodate changes in the city’s census data.

“For redistricting to be fair, we want to go to the ballot in 2012 to rework some of those rules, reverse the gerrymandering of the 1986 lines and allow for the creation of a student super majority district,” ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman said at the meeting. “Over the past 25 years, demographics have changed, communities have changed, and we need to recognize that reality.”

Once the public hearing was closed, debate arose amongst council members as to when they should make their redistricting decision.

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak motioned to delay any decision until after the city’s November 2012 election, in order to allow for the charter amendment to be voted on.

Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington vocally opposed the motion, which they said would disenfranchise thousands of voters who could be drawn out of their districts immediately after already electing a council member in their original district.

“It is critical that we redistrict in 2012,” said Arreguin, who said residents in his and Wozniak’s districts could experience this potential issue due to population changes.

In the end, the motion failed with Councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Darryl Moore and  Susan Wengraf abstaining, Mayor Tom Bates, Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Wozniak voting yes and Worthington and Arreguin voting no.

After the meeting, Freeman said he and the other student district advocates were surprised that the council seriously discussed the possibility of holding off on redistricting until the charter amendment can be voted on.

“We’re glad to see that the council is talking about it,” Freeman said. “Now it seems likely that they’ll bring it up again at the next public hearing.”

The next step for redistricting will be for the proposal authors to hand in any technical corrections they have for their plan to city hall by Dec. 2, after which city staff will review the corrections and plans again before the next public hearing on Jan. 17.

“I don’t expect many people will come in with little changes to their plans,” Maio said after the meeting. “I think they know what they want.”

As of now, the final proposal is still set to be adopted by the council Feb. 28 and submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters by April 1.

Adelyn Baxter covers city government.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • jackterrier

    We should have a voice!!!

  • Bruce Love

    Was any city council member able to give a straight-faced explanation about why considering a student district would necessitate disenfranchising voters in 2012?   Or did they not even bother?

    • jackterrier

      Why not go ask them yourself? The meetings are open to the public! Your just another out-of-town troll.

      • Bruce Love

        No, actually I live in Berkeley.  It’s a rhetorical question, fool.

        The best excuse any of the delay supporters have yet come up with is that if they go ahead and redistrict for Nov. of 2012 — and then also change the charter to support a so-called student district (or two) — that maybe some who vote in 2012 will then find themselves in a very different district where they didn’t vote.   It’s a dumb excuse.

        The ones who are supporting delay and trying to make it happen are part of the conservative majority that stands to lose the most if redistricting takes place for 2012.  

        Conversely, what they are trying to set up here will amount to (1) delaying redistricting, thus disenfranchising voters in order to protect conservative districts;  (2) later rejecting student districts and instead doing — late — what should have been done for the 2012 vote.

        If you want student empowerment — think more in terms of a return to some or all at-large council seats.   Students had a lot of power when all seats were at-large, before there were districts at all.   That’s part of why districts were created in the first place.   Its ironic that today’s students think they can win power within district election rules.

      • Bruce Love

        And, just to be crystal clear here … I am saying that some members of council are playing the student district advocates like a cheap fiddle, in order to undermine a progressive block that contains a lot of students.