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Berkeley students, residents present proposals for redistricting

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Berkeley students and residents were present to view redistricting plans at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

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NOVEMBER 10, 2011

Community members and city staff met at the North Berkeley Senior Center Wednesday evening to view redistricting plans submitted by fellow Berkeley residents, including proposals from two groups of students with different intentions for student representation in city government.

Authors of the six redistricting plans presented their proposals before a group of about 40 community members and four council members — Linda Maio, Gordon Wozniak, Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguin — as well as city staff representatives, at the special meeting moderated by the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville. This was the first opportunity for the community to view the redistricting plans for Berkeley’s eight City Council districts, which are revised every 10 years to comply with census data and fluctuations in the city’s population.The city charter requires that redistricting proposals must adhere as closely as possible to the 1986 district boundaries and create districts with equal populations of about 14,073 people each and clear boundaries.

The authors of the proposals range from residents trying to preserve neighborhood boundaries to UC Berkeley students hoping to create a student district within the city.

ASUC Vice President of External Affairs Joey Freeman presented the Berkeley Student District Campaign’s proposal but acknowledged that their proposal will never be chosen because it does not comply with the city charter.

“Students have a huge role in making Berkeley what it is,” Freeman said. “Student issues are community issues … this is really a simple matter of fairness and justice.”

The group’s goal is to make a statement with their proposal and to attempt to eventually amend the city charter so that a student district could be possible by putting it on the ballot for the November 2012 election.

Another group of students representing UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College and local high schools also submitted a redistricting proposal. The group, the Maximum Participation Minimum Deviation Coalition, is made up of 10 students who interned with the City Council over the summer.

The coalition’s proposal sticks closely to the 1986 district boundaries with some necessary adjustments for population. The coalition’s proposal deviates from the population goal for each district by at most 35 people, which they said is the smallest margin of deviation of any of the proposals.

“Our main criteria was creating an equal population distribution,” said Berkeley City College student Audrey Gutierrez, who presented the coalition’s proposal at the meeting. “We tried to get as close as possible to the one person/one vote idea.”

Plans for redistricting had to be submitted to the city clerk by Sept. 30. City staff then reviewed the plans. The proposals were then made available on the city website on Nov. 3.

The first public hearing will take place at the City Council’s meeting Tuesday, where the council will be able to review the plans and ask the authors questions. By the second public hearing on Jan. 17, the council will decide which proposal they want city staff to draft into an ordinance.

The ordinance should then be adopted by the council in its first and second readings in February and March.

The final district map must be submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters by April 1 for the November 2012 election.

“Redistricting is a public process in Berkeley,” said Deputy City Clerk Mark Numainville at the beginning of the meeting. This was not always the case, however.

According to Sherry Smith, president of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville — an organization open to people of all genders over 18 that promotes political responsibility through informed and active participation — this is essentially the first time that members of the community have been encouraged to submit their own plans since the uproar that resulted from the city’s redistricting proposal in 2000.

Redistricting plans at that time were devised by the city. Many people in Berkeley felt that the city’s proposal was unfairly distributed. The League of Women Voters were involved with the referendum to repeal the districts that the city was trying to create, which prompted the city to redraft their plan.

“It’s much better to have lots and lots of options,” Maio said. “We didn’t have this variety of proposals in the past.”

Maio and Smith also agreed that software improvements have made it much easier for people to access census data and apply it to district maps themselves.

Adelyn Baxter covers city government.
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NOVEMBER 13, 2011