LWVBAE has been monitoring the redistricting process in Berkeley to assure openness and transparency, following passage of Measure R in November, 2012, changing the City Charter for drawing district lines.
The U.S. Constitution provides for re-drawing of the lines defining the Congressional districts every ten years. This is performed after each decennial Census of the U.S. population is completed.
The City of Berkeley’s Charter similarly requires periodic drawing of new boundaries defining the eight Council Districts. The City Council must adopt a plan for such “redistricting” no later than three years after each Census. The current deadline is December 31, 2013.
Two years ago, our League assisted the City Clerk’s office in their charge by the Council to develop and carry out an open process through which Berkeley citizens would be invited to submit plans for re-drawn District boundaries that would comply with both Federal voting rights laws and those of the City’s Charter. The League worked with the City staff to develop the process and in November, 2011 the public was invited to attend a community meeting to view the redistricting plans that had been submitted to the Council by various individuals and groups.
At a City Council meeting in January 2012, the Council expressed interest in further development of a plan that would draw boundaries that would enable a “student district” that would provide greater assurance that there could be a student elected to the Council. The other plans were set aside and it was back to the drawing board. It was also necessary to ask the voters to pass a Charter Amendment (Measure R) at the next municipal election (in November 2012) to enable this “student district” proposal to come to pass.
The Charter Amendment met with voter approval and the plan was submitted for Council’s consideration. When it came on the Council Meeting Agenda for consideration this September 10, once again the Council voted to ask City staff to prepare in ordinance form, not one, but two proposals. The proposals are known as the “United Student District Amendment” plan, and the “Berkeley Student District Campaign” plan. Both appear to comply with the Charter, but the boundary lines differ in what geography is incorporated.
Presumably the Council, when the two ordinance choices come back to them later this year, will adopt a map for the new City District alignments. City staff asked that the Council at its October 15 meeting accept some technical changes to one of the plans and refer it back to staff for preparation as an ordinance. Presuming the agreement by Council, both ordinances will be before the Council and the selection of one or the other will be made in time for the December 31 deadline – a full three years after the Census was completed.
Sherry Smith, Program Coordinator
All League News