Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Redistricting takes center stage

In the span of 16 hours, key decisions will be made that will impact the lives of Pomona residents for the next ten years. This is about redistricting - the decennial redrawing of lines to ensure equitable distribution of population after each census. Redistricting impacts the representation that residents have, and on a greater scale determines whether communities of interest are kept together or are broken apart, and whether the rights of minorities are maintained or regressed. Poorly drawn districts can result in some areas being considered less than others and receiving fewer resources and attention from the elected official, or could invite extensive and costly litigation as attorneys for protected groups challenge the new lines.

At 5:30 pm on Tuesday, the Pomona City Council will meet to discuss council redistricting. The city staff has opted to handle it themselves, and not go into an outside consultant. Staff and the City Attorney have gamely identified 24 possible areas for moving populations and tried to shift them around to reduce deviation as much as possible. With the Phillips Ranch area, District 5 having the least population and North Pomona, District 6, with the greatest population, any district move would have a domino effect on the whole city. Unfortunately, due to poor scanning of the staff report, it is unclear where all these chess pieces will end up. Nevertheless areas near the boundaries of districts, such as Val Verde, Westmont, and Downtown Pomona could be at risk of moving to another district.

Critics of the staff-driven process say that it is not transparent where these considerations come from, that they have not allowed the community to express their preferences as to what they consider a community of interest is, and that they do not provide racial demographic information to ensure that protected ethnic groups are not adversely impacted by these moves, due to Voting Rights Act considerations (which are referred to in the staff report but subsequently not evaluated with respect to the new district proposal). Many cities with districts choose to go to one of the major providers in California of redistricting services - Matt Rexroad's Meridian Pacific, Paul Mitchell's Redistricting Partners, or Doug Johnson's National Demographics Corporation. Having the experience of doing many cities' redistricting helps greatly in understanding the key legal issues that, if not addressed, could result in extensive and costly litigation.

The next morning (Wednesday) at 8 a.m. the Three Valleys Water Board will discuss redistricting of its water district lines. The Water District has two proposals provided by Redistricting Partners that could radically shift the City-based lines of today into lines that do not match up with any water district lines or City lines. In particular, small portions of North Pomona could be disunited with the rest of the city under the "minimal changes" option, with the primary impact breaking Walnut up from one district into three. In "Option A", Claremont and South Pomona could be united in one district that would be extremely diverse in terms of demographics and water purveyors.

Again, there are issues of transparency as Redistricting Partners was selected without any indication of the selection process or how they were chosen. The public input on this has been minimal, with one resident comment and one comment from an elected official.

Everyone has a different perspective of their community. Some would like to see Downtown Pomona as part of one district, while others feel that as many council members as possible should share an interest in Downtown. Similarly, City lines may not be important for some people, and having South Pomona and Claremont in the same Water Board district may still be in a community of interest, being on the east end of the County line.

If you don't feel that your community is being kept whole, let your voices be heard. You can write to the members of the City Council here, and to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District at vhahn@tvmwd.com. You can also speak at the public hearing for the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Claremont at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, or to the City Council at the Council Chambers during public comment some time after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.


John Clifford said...

On Tuesday night there was a special council meeting where a first draft proposal was made by staff for redrawing the district lines. Staff did a fairly good job of putting together a new district map that equalized the districts to within 2-3% of optimal.

However, some of the decisions seemed a little odd. The area between the 10 freeway and Val Vista, abutting Ganesha Hills was slated to be moved from district 6 (Atcheley)to district 1 (Soto). This one immediately struck me as odd as that area definitely seems to belong with the Ganesha Hills area and councilman Stephen Atcheley seemed to feel the same way. There was also some odd changes between district 4 (Lantz) on the south-eastern border of the district that would move blocks to District 3 (Carrizosa), while district 3 would then cede population to district 2 (Rodriguez).

While the shifts did equalize the district, there was no explanation about the affects to neighborhoods and micro-communities being moved.

The whole thing has been referred to an ad hoc committee which will be meeting at the end of the month to bring back a revised map to council by March.

Anonymous said...

Three Valleys did not get bids for their proposal. They sole-sourced due to political connections of Redistricting Partners (Paul Mitchell is a friend of former St. Sen. and current CA Community College System Chancellor Jack Scott).

The City also did not put out an rfp for support, which is why they're lacking basic data and about to adopt a plan that is very likely unconstitutionally out of population balance.

John Clifford said...

Wow anon, some strong accusations.

I believe that the city didn't put out an RFP because they decided not to spend the money and to do it in-house. Your suggestion is that this is somehow wrong. Why? I'm not understanding what the "basic data" is that you're referring to. Is there something other than census data that the city needs to take into consideration?

It seems that, while I'm not sure I agree with it, that the city was showing fiscal responsibility in not paying for something that is not in the budget at a time when the city is barely scraping by.