Older plan revamped and ready for council approval
By Jia-Rui Chong
Special to the Daily Planet
In an unusually cordial workshop over redistricting, a four-member subcommittee of City Council settled on one plan to present to the whole council on Monday.
The four-month long process was distilled into a two and a half-hour swap meet that brought together councilmembers from both sides of the aisle–moderates Polly Armstrong and Miriam Hawley, and progressives Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington. Staff from the City Manager’s office, the City Clerk’s office and the Department of Information Technology also added their input.
The subcommittee began with a base plan presented by Brian Quinn, an applications programmer from Information Technology. It was an aggregate map he created from the council’s approved plans and his notes from Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilmembers came into this workshop from Tuesday’s City Council meeting with three main concerns.
• To bring together students who are currently divided into three districts. The most contentious issue in the redistricting controversy was resolved by adding student co-ops on the southern border of District 6 to District 7 and keeping the Foothill dormitories together as part of District 8.
Worthington said he was pleased that the students were now divided only into two districts where they already made up significant portions of the population. He added that the student increases in Districts 7 and 8, however, were probably not significant enough to affect the chances of a student being elected to City Council.
• To rationalize the jagged line on the western side of District 8. This issue was solved by the addition of several blocks along Benvenue, consisting mostly of tenants and single-family houses, to District 8.
• To work out the interface at the northernmost part of the District 5 and 6. In this case, the subcommittee shifted the current line westward to Spruce north of Acacia Steps.
“No one triumphed and no one was beating anyone else up,” said Armstrong, who called herself “the compromise kid” during the meeting. “Kriss’s district and mine changed the most, but in the end, there were compromises and changes.”
“I’m amazed we were out before three o’clock,” said Maio, who was also delighted with everyone’s willingness to give and take.
“After what we’ve all been through – something I think everyone would consider a dreadful process – we couldn’t continue in this vein.”
Maio said that this workshop went so smoothly because the subcommittee was politically balanced and because they had “a really high-quality technical program” that allowed them to make changes with a mouse click and analyze the impact immediately.
But not everyone was so happy with the proceedings.
Councilmember Dona Spring, who had to keep silent during the meeting because she was not officially part of the subcommittee, left halfway through in disgust.
“I was aghast at how the process had been hijacked,” said Spring. “The council plan had agreed to work with the Maio-Worthington plan in subcommittee and make minor revisions to it. But Brian Quinn came in with an entirely new proposal that was dramatically different from anything we’d seen before.”
Spring felt that this was not only the worst plan she had ever seen, but also an outrageous process.
The council had not given city staff the go-ahead to work out the suggestion on their own, nor was her district, District 4, allowed to participate in a process that dramatically altered its boundaries, Spring said.
While the final draft that emerged was not as bad as she had feared, Spring said it was torture to watch her district be punched back and forth like a punching bag.
But Spring was still upset by shift of the Oxford tract neighborhood into District 6 because this tenant-dominated area will be moved into a homeowner-dominated district that is not friendly to tenants’ interests. Moreover, she worried that her efforts to protect the neighborhood from the negative impacts of university development have been lost.
Others on the council will probably not want to hear her objections, Spring said, because they will want to end this process. Still, she hopes she can at least work out a trade with Councilmember Maio over Ohlone Park.
“District 4 is just going to have to be the sacrificial lamb in the redistricting process,” said Spring.