Council OKs Redistricting Proposal

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Council OKs Redistricting Proposal
Jia-Rui Chong,  Berkeley Daily Planet, March 5, 2002

The City Council voted last night 8-1 in favor of the redistricting plan drafted by the subcommittee on Monday. In the two-hour special meeting, councilmembers grumbled about boundaries, but eventually that compromise had to be the order of the day.

The boundaries of District 4, represented by Dona Spring, the sole dissenter, were the main points of contention. Robert and Barbara Mishell came to protest being moved from District 4 into District 6.

L A Wood charged the council with being insensitive to the communities of interest in District 4, despite all their talk about trying to keep neighborhoods together. "I find when you re talking about neighborhoods, you're really talking about voting blocks," he said.

Spring thanked her constituents for showing up and explained her own revisions to District 4 in the subcommittee plan. Her proposal, one of three revisions submitted, would restore the Oxford tract on the west, shift several blocks south of Vine into District 5 on the north and trade a block on Francisco for all of Ohlone Park on the east.

Rent Board Commissioner Paul Hogarth's revision similarly tried to keep District 4 truer to its current form, but traded the hilly area at the northern end of Spruce for the Oxford tract. Since Councilmember Miriam Hawley had fought so hard for those blocks at Monday's subcommittee meeting, few on the council were willing to change the border between 5 and 6.

At one point in the evening, though, the council seemed willing to grant Spring's main request for the Oxford tract. When Spring seemed unwilling to give up any other blocks in exchange, however, the council gave up trying to reach a unanimous decision.

The council was also friendly to the students who tried to bring more students into District 7 though they eventually decided not to incorporate the two amendments suggested by the Associated Students of the University of California.

ASUC Vice President of External Affairs Josh Fryday came to register student discontent not only with the existing plans, but also with the process.

This controversy made clear that a process controlled by incumbents will never change, he said. While it was not necessarily the fault of the City Council because they were bound by an unjust charter, Fryday insisted. "The process is unfair and undemocratic."

Spring tried to soothe Fryday. "Every councilmember up here is trying to pitch to you. That must say something to you."

But hours of wrangling over the borders of District 4 left the councilmembers with little energy to incorporate any changes at all to the subcommittee recommendation.

"I thought when we approved the Cohen plan [on Feb. 19], that was the end of it," said Margaret Breland. "I'm not one to sit to 2 o'clock. I'm going to leave."

Other councilmembers murmured their support and Mayor Shirley Dean moved two motions to vote.

The first motion, proposed by Kriss Worthington, would have overlaid Spring's plan and the first ASUC amendment onto the subcommittee draft. It failed 7-2.

The second motion, proposed by Polly Armstrong, to adopt the subcommittee plan without any revisions, carried.

City of Berkeley Redistricting getting ridiculous
Clare Curley,  Berkeley Voice, March 1, 2002

There's a popular rumor in Berkeley that the City Council deliberately delays public hearings on controversial issues until late at night, when most of the public has long since tuned out.

If that's the plan, they needn't bother, at least when it comes to redistricting. No one who was paying attention to the latest re-districting hearing could possibly follow the discussion anyway.

Late Tuesday night, council and staff members brainstormed over the nuances of a number of proposals, including two they agreed to consider last week. They put off making a decision, though, to give themselves more time to pore over newly proposed plans.

Berkeley claims to be concerned about the environment, but the 5-inch-thick packet handed out for this week's meeting begs to differ. Ironically, despite the outrage last year over what some called "backroom dealing" -- or private alterations to proposals -- this time most of the council and some students rolled their sleeves up and dived in, doing pretty much the same thing.

This resulted in numerous last-minute spin-offs of the plans authored by activist Elliot Cohen and Berkeley High student Nick Rizzo.

Added to the bunch were at least five more, culminating in a list of names more confusing than the family tree in Gabriel Garcia Mairquez's " One Hundred Years of Solitude." The proposals were narrowed down to four runner-ups, which were revisited in a special meeting Thursday with the hope of coming to some kind of compromise.

A final plan will be voted on in two more hearings.

City analyst Brian Quinn had the unfortunate task of summing up in eight breathless minutes what a group of people have spent four months creating. Here were some of his conclusions:

• Dona Spring (revision of Cohen's plan); Extends the northern area of District 8, and moves part of District 7 to the south to keep the Bateman Neighborhood Association in the same district.

• Miriam Hawley (revision of Cohen's plan): District 7 shifts westward into 4 and 3, causing those two districts to shift westward into 1 and 2, displacing 6,936 people.

• Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington (Cohen-Rizzo blend): North of Hearst Street, District 7 absorbs some co-ops and student housing; District 4 is expanded somewhat eastward: District 6 is expanded westward.

In addition, the Associated Students of the University of California, whose plan was not under consideration after last week's hearing, submitted two new plans; the ASUC-Rizzo plan and ASUC-Cohen plan.

According to ASUC spokesman Josh Fryday, "(Both) were modified to increase student percentages relative to charter lines." The ASUC also submitted numbers of students in each district -- registered ones, not the actual populations.

The adjusted numbers for some proposals were still unknown at the hearing, since they hadn't all been tweaked to figure in undercounted areas.

After the meeting, Hawley's, Spring's and Rizzo's plans were out of the running.

Time is quickly running out for the council to settle on a plan before the April deadline, said City Manager Weldon Rucker. He clarified the urgency of the situation: "Our preference is, whatever you do this evening -- that a piece of this, a piece of that, becomes a piece of something."

Confused? Don't feel bad. At one point Councilwoman Betty Olds accused Worthington of leaving "crazy lines" in his plan, then said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm looking at Dona's."

Since the latest proposals weren't available in advance, the few residents who did show up for the hearing struggled to fob low the discourse, Among those in the dark were the authors of the parent plans, who said they got wind of the new variations just hours before the meeting.

The hearing portion of the meeting didn't reveal much. One UC Berkeley student who apparently thinks the council members were all born at their current age accused them of not knowing what it's like to be in college.

L A Wood criticized the council for hindering the public participation process, but he also offered yet another suggestion; a "donut scenario" that would shift the borders of District 4 counter-clockwise. "But I think you have enough plans," he said, and encouraged the council to hear from more UC Berkeley students.

As the discussion honed in on individual proposals, the meeting began to sound like a plastic surgeon convention, with everyone complimenting the perfect lines in one plan or worrying over bizarre sets of teeth in another. Worthington's plan was said to bear a strange, salamander-shaped birthmark. (Does anyone really care if their district is a perfect rhombus?)

Yet neighborhoods weren't at the root of discussions, and the only group to receive specific attention was UC Berkeley students. Mayor Shirley Dean in particular says she wants to maintain the goal of one student-centric district.

But it may be the residents who aren't as interested in the process as they once were. The neighbors who showed up in hoards during the last round of hearings have largely been absent this time around.

At least Armstrong, who wanted to accept Cohen's original proposal and be done with it, expressed sympathy for the viewers.

"Nobody in the audience knows what we're talking about," she said. "You can bet your boots no one at home knows what we re talking about, or they're not listening anymore."

But Cohen was pleased with the politeness displayed Tuesday. "They were actually negotiating," he said.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the city's census expert, Pat Detemple, left the country before this round of hearings began. But probably not.


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