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Districts may get new lines

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday January 08, 2002

Last week the city clerk made census packages available for citizens who want to roll up their sleeves, dust off their calculators and sharpen their pencils to take another shot at redrawing the city’s eight council districts. 

This is the second attempt at redrawing the district lines. The City Charter requires an adjustment following the census every 10 years so each district contains just about the same number of people. 

The first redistricting plan was scrapped by the City Council on Nov. 28 after the grassroots organization Citizens for Fair Representation, upset with what it called a lack of public input into the plan, collected enough signatures during a petition drive to put the controversial plan on the ballot.  

But instead of putting the plan to the voters, the council voted to drop the plan and start the process from scratch. 

One of the problems that contributed to the plan’s downfall was a Federal Census Bureau undercount of approximately 4,500 residents, mostly students, in districts 7 and 8. 

According to a notice in the packets, the Federal Census Bureau indicated that revised census numbers would be available by mid-January. These numbers, however, won’t reflect the city’s actual population, said Federal Census Bureau spokesperson Edison Gore. 

The 2000 census counted 102,500 people. 

“In no case will the new numbers include an actual recount,” he said. “Federal law requires us to conclude number tabulations by a certain date prior to the release of the census figures.” 

So instead of a new count, the census bureau will re-shift the population count in the city’s census tracts to “spread out the undercount,” Gore said.  

According to a spokesperson in the Office of the City Clerk, the old numbers were being released with the new packets as a safety precaution. She said the redistricting process has to get underway if the city is going to meet a tight April 1 deadline to submit an approved plan to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, in order for the new districts to valid for the Nov. 5 elections, during which the mayor and four council seats will be decided. When they are available, those working on new redistricting plans will switch to the new numbers. 

The deadline for submitting a redistricting plan is Feb. 1. The City Council will hold public hearings on the plans on Feb. 19 and Feb. 26. The council is expected to decide on a new plan on Feb. 26. 

During the last redistricting process, the city received four redistricting plans, in addition to two city staff plans.  

The plan, originally approved and later rescinded, was submitted by David Blake and Michael O’Malley. It was approved by a 5-4 council vote, with the progressive majority voting in support. 

The plan drew fire from Citizens for Fair Representation because large numbers of residents were shifted across district lines, with the majority of the 4,500 people ending up in District 8, represented by Councilmember Polly Armstrong. CFR supporters pointed out that with more people in District 8 than in others, each person’s vote would count less. No CFR representative was available for comment on Monday. 

Blake defended the plan on Monday saying he and O’Malley attempted to distribute the undercount throughout the city’s eight districts. Blake said he would not be submitting another redistricting plan this time around.  

Another controversial plan was submitted by the Associated Students of the University of California. They sought to create a student-majority district, in the hopes of electing a student to the City Council, by drastically altering the shapes of districts 7 and 8. The city attorney determined the plan was illegal because the City Charter requires new districts to be similar to the original districts, which were drawn in 1986. 

“We’re not sure yet if we will be submitting another plan this time,” said ASUC’s External Affairs Redistricting Coordinator Michael Wagaman. “But we intend to ensure that students are given their fair voice in city government.” 

Another plan that didn’t get much recognition during the redistricting process was the Elliot Cohen Plan, which, according to Cohen, was the only plan that came close to fairly evening out the population count among the city’s eight districts. “My plan was the one that came closest to one person, one vote,” he said. “The plan I submit this time will do that again as well as reflect the constructive comments I received during the last round.” 

For more information about obtaining a redistricting package call the City Clerk’s Office or visit the city’s Web site at