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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.