‘Communities of interest’ at forefront of redistricting talks

The Oakland City Council tackled the thorny issue of redistricting Tuesday night, hearing from communities of interest about balancing the goals of equalizing numbers of people in each council district, while preserving the integrity of  the city’s historic neighborhoods.

Community members repeatedly spoke before the council to ask them not to divide their neighborhoods. Adam’s Point, Maxwell Park, Trestle Glen, the San Antonio community and the Jack London District were all represented at the meeting.

Councilmembers also spoke on behalf of their districts, but the options— 22 maps in all— were overwhelming.

Councilmember Desley Brooks, who represents District 6, motioned to eliminate the majority of the maps. The motion passed, but Brooks later rescinded the motion, technically putting all the maps back on the table.

However, Brooks requested using maps 18, 21 and 22 as baselines for further development in the redistricting process.  The motion passed with a vote of three “ayes” against two “no’s.”

Councilmembers Lynette Gibson-McElhaney and Dan Kalb voted against the motion.

Map 18 was supported by McElhaney, who represents District 3. This option would keep Adam’s Point and Lower Piedmont intact, and also bring East Lake together.

“Map 18 seems to me to be the most cohesive,” McElhaney said.

However, all maps are still up for discussion.

“It’s important to remember that everything is always on the table till the last vote,” said Doug Johnson, the consultant hired to advise Oakland from the National Demographics Corporation, based in Glendale, Calif.

Johnson, in partnership with the city’s planning division, will now work to come up with more maps that cater to the concerns regarding communities of interest that were brought before council.

“We always run into the challenge of conflicting communities of interest request against the federal law of equal numbers of people in each district,” Johnson said.  “It’s a hard redistricting challenge.”

Councilmember Libby Schaaf, of District 4, said she feels strongly that the council should support a ballot measure for redistricting in the future.

“[City Council] should not have the power to draw their own lines,” Schaaf said.

Schaff said she supported map 17 because she is deeply in favor of uniting Maxwell Park, but Brooks argued that it “doesn’t support historic communities of interest” that date back to the 90’s.

District One Councilmember Dan Kalb did not express support for a particular map and said he saw the process as a mix-and-match strategy toward a consensus.

The other options will come before the council on Oct. 29. A map is scheduled to be tentatively chosen by the Nov. 19 city council meeting.

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