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Redistricting lines explained

Mike O’Malley,Dave Blake
Saturday October 20, 2001


We’ll start responding to the empty exaggerations and invective in David Tabb’s “art of gerrymandering” letter to the Planet (10/16) by clearing up one easy point: The “O’Malley” in the “O’Malley/Blake” redistricting proposal is Mike, not his wife Becky. He’s the tall one, with the beard. He spoke for our plan at Council, so that’s one fact it shouldn’t have been hard for Tabb to get straight. 

Gerrymandering: Tabb tries to damn us with this accusation while evading any discussion of the odd line-drawing that actually constitutes gerrymandering. That may be because the most gerrymandered proposal submitted was the one he co-authored with District 8 Councilmember Polly Armstrong’s Planning Commissioner, MaryAnn McCamant. (For all Tabb’s complaints about dishonesty, he might have mentioned his role in this process.) Tabb is District 5 Councilmember Miriam Hawley’s Planning Commissioner. 

Tabb’s plan was to take the Bateman neighborhood around Alta Bates Hospital (south of Russell from College to Telegraph) out of District 7 (which needed more population, not less), annexing the entire neighborhood to District 8. We argued successfully to the Council that this plan was a gerrymander, drastically distorting for political advantage the district lines defined in the 1986 District Elections Initiative. Bateman neighbors agreed with us, and came to Council to speak for our plan and against Tabb’s. 

Our plan, in contrast, was designed “to preserve the Districts to the extent possible,” as the Charter states. We tried to make every change just one block off the lines; we moved eight scattered blocks (out of 1,100 in the entire city) to districts two blocks away. Tabb’s plan moved 23 blocks of Bateman as much as six blocks away into District 8. 

Defending student interests that Tabb claims we betrayed: perhaps we should have tried harder. The students called for creating a student super-majority district, one that would be heavily favored to unseat the incumbent and elect a student. Tabb proposed moving the single-family-home South end of District 7 into District 8, making District 7 (currently represented by a progressive) into a 65 percent student district; the progressive councilmembers could have moved the student-dense North end of 7 into District 8, making District 8 (currently represented by a conservative) a 65 percent student district. Instead, they chose to make both districts 50 percent student. It’s a telling sign of how conservatives feel about the student vote that it is this act of fairness that makes them howl. 

Procedural issues: Tabb’s accusations of secrecy, conspiracy, and last-minute underhandedness are red herrings. Our plan was delivered to Council on Aug. 15, and was available on the Internet soon after. Councilmembers requested a few changes. So what? Councilmembers change proposals all the time – it’s their job. The amendment Vice Mayor Shirek proposed at the second public hearing on Oct. 2 made minor refinements to our plan, moving one block back into District 1 and five border Bateman blocks back into District 7. Eight other blocks shifted minimally to balance the population differences caused by those changes. The measure was not voted on at the public hearing, but was continued so that the proposed changes could be documented by staff before the actual vote a week later.  

Sour Grapes: This term is outside the normal scope of political science, so it’s not surprising that Tabb misuses it to describe how he felt the progressives tried to characterize him. It means belittling a prize you failed to win. The correct phrase is Sore Loser. 

Mike O’Malley 

Dave Blake 


The authors submitted the O’Malley/Blake redistricting plan, which formed the basis for the plan adopted by the Council on Oct. 9