Citizen Redistricting & Public Election Funding Postponed to 2016

Jesse and Laurie_edited-1

Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli

Update after June 24, 2014 Council Meeting:

The League-supported charter amendment to create a citizen redistricting commission for Berkeley will not be on the November 2014 ballot. A majority of the Council, including one of the amendment drafters Council Member Capitelli, decided that it should be sent for review and comment to the Fair Campaign Practices Commission [FCPC] and brought back for consideration for the 2016 ballot. Council Members cited various reasons, the most telling, that neither the Council, a relevant commission, nor the public had had adequate time to read, consider and comment on the most recent version and that a charter amendment in particular deserves very careful discussion and scrutiny.

The League had been invited to comment on the measure late in the drafting process and had made a variety of suggestions that the drafters accepted. The League board agreed to support the measure, despite the very tight schedule before the election, because of League’s strong positions in favor of independent redistricting commissions.  In a letter to Council (June 23, 2014), we wrote: “The goal of removing redistricting from the realm of political and factional influences is one for which the League has fought–hard and long–most recently in the successful [creation] of the California Redistricting Commission.”

This is the second League-supported good government charter amendment this spring that has not been put on the November 2014 ballot, but has been sent to the FCPC for comment and consideration for the 2016 ballot. That measure proposed public funding of campaigns.

Council Members Arreguin had been particularly eager to get the charter amendment creating a citizen redistricting commission for Berkeley on the November 2014 ballot and was the initial drafter.

The checkered career of the redistricting plan after the 2010 census apparently prompted redistricting plan after the 2010 census apparently prompted Council Member Jesse Arreguin, joined by Council Member Laurie Capitelli, to propose that future redistricting plans be drawn by an independent citizen redistricting commission modeled on the state commission. Council Members Arreguin and Capetelli invited League representatives, [and Common Cause representatives, among others,] to consult on the measure.  President Nancy Bickel and Action Coordinator Carol Stone reviewed the measure carefully, made suggestions, and brought the issue to the board for discussion. After board discussion and further exchanges with the Arreguin and Cappitelli, the board approved a letter of support. Click to read letter: League Letter to Berkeley City Council or to read the draft redistricting commission charter amendment.

Council Member Arreguin rushed to draft the measure so that, if the current redistricting plan–adopted by a Council majority of 6 this spring–is not approved by the voters in November, and if the charter amendment for a citizens commission was on the ballot and  approved by the voters in November, a citizen redistricting commission would be appointed to draw a replacement redistricting plans that would be in effect for the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections.

A six person Council majority adopted the current plan in spring 2014. A petition was successfully circulated to require Council to put the new plan on the ballot for citizen approval or rejection, so it will be on the ballot in November.  Surprisingly, that plan will also be the basis of the districts which will be used for the November election.

A successful referendum usually means that the referendized law is suspended, not put into effect, until the voters decide whether or not it should be in force.  The Council had the option of replacing the referendized plan with a different plan for the November election, but did not do so. Instead the Council took the City Clerk and Registrar of Voters to court and asked a judge to order the Clerk and Registrar to use the Council-adopted plan for the November election on the grounds that  in the old plan many districts were much larger or smaller than others. Votes would not have equal weight. The judge did direct the Clerk and Registrar to use the council-adopted plan at this election.

If the voters do reject the council-adopted plan and if the charter amendment had been put on the ballot and passed, a redistricting commission would then draw the replacement plan.

Nancy Bickel, President

All League News