Claims to have collected 4,000 signatures for a March ballot challenge
A newly formed organization committed to rescinding the city’s recently adjusted council districts is claiming that it has collected enough signatures to put the controversial redistricting on the March ballot.
The Citizens for Fair Representation announced less than a month ago that it would collect over 4,000 signatures necessary to challenge the redistricting plan, which was approved on Oct. 2, by putting it before the voters in March. According to a spokesman for the group, the organization has collected at least 4,000 signatures and intends to collect extra signatures by the city’s deadline of next Thursday.
The CFR say they launched the petition drive to recind the resdstricting plan becuase they claim it was fashioned by progressives to weaken moderate Councilmember Polly Armstrong in District 8 and strengthen Councilmember Kriss Worthington in District 7.
Progressives deny the accusations of a polictical power grab and say their plan is the most legal of the proposed plans.
“We’re well over the 4,000 requirement and pushing towards a cushion of any challenges of the signatures, Adam Sonenshein, Campaign manager for CFR. “I think we’ll come in with 6,000 at least.”
Once the petitions are submitted, the city clerk will verify the signatures and the petition to rescind the new redistricting plan would be put on the ballot for voter approval. If the plan is voted out, the council will begin the redistricting process all over again.
The controversial redistricting plan was drafted by Berkeley residents Michael O’Malley and David Blake, a former aide to progressive Councilmember Linda Maio. Progressives approved the plan, from a field of six others, because it best fit City Charter requirements.
Moderates claimed that the plan was fashioned during a secret meeting, which as many as four councilmembers may have attended the day before the vote. In addition they claimed that the Blake-O’Malley plan took advantage of a census blunder that undercounted nearly 4,500 people, mostly students in districts 7 and 8.
Because the charter requires the district lines be drawn according to the census – whether it has a colossal error or not – the approved district lines resulted in a population imbalance in District 8.
So, according to the census, each new district has close to 12,800 people. But according to the 1990 Census, there are 17,000 people in District 8 and close to 12,800 in each of the other eight districts. The extra residents is District 8 consist of many of the students who were undercounted in the census.
“If it’s true that they have gathered enough signatures, that’s wonderful,” said moderate Mayor Shirley Dean. “I don’t relish starting the redistricting process all over again but anything is better than what we have now.”
Progressives argue that the approved plan was the most legal of the six proposals and that moderate accusations of back room deals were sour grapes at not getting their preferred plan approved.
Blake argued that the petition drive is an attempt by moderates to avoid having a large population of students in District 8, which represented by moderate Councilmember Polly Armstrong.
“The moderates obviously don’t want students in [Armstrong’s] district because they don’t vote for her and they don’t vote for her in droves.” Blake said.