Page One

UC students have own idea to reconfigure districts 7,8

By John GeluardiDaily Planet staff
Wednesday August 15, 2001

The Associated Students of the University of California held a news conference Tuesday after submitting a redistricting plan that could elect the first student to the City Council and shift the city’s balance of power in the progressives’ favor. 

“We have seen our electoral strength diluted with major pockets of our community divided among no less than five districts,” Vice President of External Affairs Josh Fryday said in a letter that accompanied the plan. “The division has limited the student voice on key issues from housing to transportation.” 

The plan, submitted by four representatives of the ASUC, calls for a major reconfiguration of districts 7 and 8. Under the plan both districts, which are to the south of campus, would be tilted 90 degrees to the east putting District 8 in the southeastern corner of the city and District 7 immediately to the south of campus.  

The result would be that 71 percent of the registered voters in District 7 would be under the age of 24, Fryday said. 

“For the first time we would be able to put a student on the City Council who would represent student issues such as housing, transportation and safety,” Fryday said, speaking on the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center steps. “When these issues came up, we would have someone backing students at all times.” 

The City Charter requires the boundaries of the eight districts be adjusted every 10 years so there are an equal number of residents in each. According to the 2000 Census, two districts showed a drop of nearly 3,000 residents. District 8 lost 1,600 people and District 7 lost 1,300. The charter requires the city adopt a redistricting plan that puts 12,850 residents in each district by the end of December. 

The City Clerk will be accepting redistricting plans from the public until 5 p.m. today. City staff will also submit a plan. The City Council will consider all submissions and is scheduled to hear public comment on redistricting plans on Sept. 13 and 25. The council is expected to adopt a redistricting plan on Oct. 2. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the ASUC had submitted the only plan. 

The new configuration would have District 7 bounded by Hearst Avenue in the north, Oxford and Elllsworth streets to the west and Parker and Derby streets to the south. District 8 would be bounded to the north by Parker and Derby streets, to the west by Elllsworth Street and Shattuck Avenue and the City of Oakland to the south. The plan would absorb all of the sororities, fraternities and other student housing currently in District 8, into District 7. 

Working against the student plan is the City Charter, which mandates the districts not be significantly altered in shape. The students argue that the major reconfiguration they are calling for is allowed under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which makes it illegal to break up communities of interest such as seniors, Socioeconomic groups and, the ASUC argues, students. 

The plan would also shake up the political makeup of districts 7 and 8. Currently District 8, represented by Councilmember Polly Armstrong, is considered a moderate district. District 7, represented by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, is considered to be progressive. 

Both councilmembers handily won their districts in 1998. Worthington took 61 percent of the vote and Armstrong took 58 percent. 

If the ASUC plan is adopted, Worthington would suddenly reside in the more moderate District 8 and Armstrong’s district would be reconfigured to contain a larger portion of District 7, which is traditionally progressive.  

A possible result is that Worthington would have to face Armstrong in the 2002 council race. The two councilmembers are considered by most council watchers to be opposites politically and neither could be mistaken as timid. 

Worthington is running for the state Assembly in 2002 but said if he lost, he would look forward to campaigning against Armstrong in a newly formed District 8. 

“I think it would be a fascinating race,” said Worthington, who was observing the press conference. “It would certainly be an entertaining and colorful race given our history.” 

Later, during a telephone interview, Armstrong responded to Worthington’s comments simply by saying “I don’t find Mr. Worthington at all entertaining.” 

If Armstrong lost to Worthington or another progressive opponent, and assuming a student elected to the council would be progressive, the power balance on the council could shift left increasing the number of progressives on the council from five to six and reducing the moderates to three. 

Armstrong said she has served her district well and is not worried about any potential reconfiguration. “I’ve done a good job for the last six years and I would have to say I would do well in District 8 no matter what it looks likes,” she said. 

Armstrong said that people forget that a large percentage of her district is made up of students and that she worked hard for them to organize the Class Pass program, which allows students to ride AC Transit anywhere the system goes, once they pay a mandatory one-time fee of about $18 per semester.