||GUEST SPEAKER: JOHN KERN
In 1990, Mr. Kern was an appointed member of the Redistricting Advisory Board for the City of San Diego. Mr. Kern will discuss the board's activities and experience.
Chairman Pesqueira welcomed John Kern. Mr. Kern will speak to the Commission regarding his position as an advisor to the previous Redistricting Commission.
JOHN KERN: Thank you for having me here. I want to state that right now, I am Chief of Staff to the Mayor. My comments are my own comments. They have not been discussed with the Mayor. They are not the Mayor's comments. They are not the Mayor's position. They are solely my comments based upon my experiences on this issue. I had hoped at one point that I would at least be an alternate to your Commission, but as I think you all know, that went by the boards during the course of the mayoral campaign.
Let me say that having been where you are now, except not having the authority, I appreciate what you are going to go through. Let me give you the perspective of having sat through numerous meetings. First of all, you are engaged in a numbers game. It's not a sociological experiment. It's not an exercise in balancing things. It's a numbers game. You have to draw eight City Council districts of approximately equal size, and you have some constraints under the law. One of those constraints is that you probably and I defer to the attorneys on this but you probably have to draw what would be commonly known as a Hispanic seat, a Latino seat. Having done that, your next job would probably be to draw a minority seat of some other version, probably centered on what is now City Council District 4. Having done that, you then have six other districts to draw. The City Clerk has already given you information which indicates that Districts 1 and 5 have to lose votes. All the other districts have to gain them. Given those constraints, and the fact that you have City boundaries, you have canyons, you have freeways, you have community planning boundaries, you have census tracts--Your choices then become somewhat limited.
Without having to go through all the things that you will hear, I can tell you right now that to achieve the Latino district, you will probably have to take District 2 out of the South Bay and move it up. You'll probably have to move District 4 up and to the east. That means you'll probably have to move District 3 over. To gain some of the stuff for District 2, you'll probably have to take and solidify, or at least combine, Pacific Beach. To lose stuff in District 5, you're probably going to have to take out that section of Linda Vista and Kearny Mesa. To lose some in District 1, you're probably going to have to take some out of south Pacific Beach. I know that because I have a lot of familiarity with voting patterns; and having sat where you sat and helped draw that map, I can tell you that you are limited to some extent by geography.
The reason I say all that is because there is a natural inclination--at least I have seen it in the paper and from what I've heard--to go out there and hold a whole extensive series of meetings and hearings trying to get, quote, community input. I guarantee you -- I absolutely guarantee you -- if you hold four meetings as required by the Charter change, you will hear everything you possibly need to hear to do this, and then draw the map. The biggest single mistake the Redistricting Commission made in 1990 was we held hearings we must've held eight or ten hearings, then we drew the map. And up until that time all we heard was the same thing over and over again. You heard people There's a wonderful, for example, academic argument as to whether or not a minority community is best served by being split among districts or being solidified. I could argue that position, frankly, on either side. It depends on your point of view; but you will hear that, and once you've heard it, you've heard it. Once you hear that Clairemont wants to be united, you've heard it. Once you hear that Pacific Beach wants to be united, you've heard it. Until you put the map on the wall and the versions thereof, you're just going to get the same testimony over and over. Once you draw those maps, your real work will begin. To hold an extended series of hearings -- I've heard people talk about six or eight months worth -- is simply a waste of your time and everyone else's. Draw the map first.
Now, having said that, then you get to the issue of staffing. My recommendation, if I was making it to you, would be forget hiring independent staff. If you want to hire a consultant, for a quarter of what your original budget was, you can hire the absolute best in the country that can draw every map you want, give you all the kinds of staff work you want, defend you in a lawsuit, and probably still give you a refund, but you have already hired a staff director. Bonnie Stone and Joey Perry, out of the Planning Department, I guarantee you can do anything you need done, anything. I've worked with them before. I have worked with them both on City staff and as a member of your Commission. Save yourself a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of grief. Just give them the direction. They can do it. They know how to do it. It's not brain surgery. It's a numbers game. You're constrained by geography. You're constrained by the law, and you can get it done. Either A, hire a consultant to do it, or B, just turn it over to them. Have your hearings. Get the direction, and I think you'll find yourself well served by the two people you have on City staff to do this.
There are a lot of options you have, and you can go on with this for sometime.. One of the advantages that you have that we didn't have is we kind of felt that we had to at least put in the incumbents in their districts. That's why you have the "Filner finger." I actually drew that Filner finger on a map ten years ago. You don't have that problem, so you don't have to worry about these little weird jogs and all that. I think you will realize as you go through this, however, that it is a political process. You are politicians now. Whether you choose to be or not, you are. You are engaged in the most intensely political act that our system knows, which is drawing the district boundaries. Based on your decisions, people's careers will be enhanced or they will be destroyed. People will get a chance to run for office and will not. There will be people who are unhappy with what you do. Some people may even choose to sue. Again, as I said, when you look at the numbers, I think you're going to find it relatively easy to draw those maps. Your attorney will be able to guide you through that thicket. But if you want to hire a consultant, I would say give them the whole job, but otherwise, save your money. I think you will be well served by the City staff that you have.
Anyway, that is my advice based upon what I went through. I would be happy to answer any questions. One of the things that I had hoped I would provide to you as an alternate to your Commission would be a lot of experience with politics in San Diego. I've run probably a hundred campaigns here. I know the districts. I know the voting patterns. I know -- I have a very real familiarity with professionals in the field. I know where you can get stuff. There is virtually nothing that you need that you can't find a source for or buy. You can get all kinds of voting data. Remember, there is a big difference between people who are registered to vote and the total population. Used to be in this city, when I first came to this city, that the districts were drawn based on registered voters. There was a lawsuit against it and, of course, subsequent law; and now it's based upon population. But the population is not necessarily votes.
One of things we learned in 1980, for example, in the Latino seat, to draw a true seat in which people vote, you have Latino voters. A lot of times the people who vote in the Latino community are not where the bulk of where the Latinos live. So it is not possible. What you can do is you can put together a Latino district, but don't expect it is going to have the same voting population as some of the larger districts. It's nothing you can do anything about. Somebody is going to come in and say, "My God, you realize that District 1 has 85,000 registered voters and District 8 has 45,000 registered voters?" So what? The fact is the law says this is based on one person one law, and those esoteric little discussions are just that, esoteric little discussions. Anyway, if I can answer any questions for you, I would love to do so. As I said, again, I have a fairly good familiarity with a number of firms in the field. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them, and anything else that I can do for you.
COMMISSIONER ODELL: I would like to know, in regard to your statement about being sued, I was wanting to know where Mr. Henderson lived.
MR. KERN: Ma'am, if I knew what Mr. Henderson was going to do on any given day, I would be a wealthy man in this town; but unfortunately, I don't. I would say you would have to ask Mr. Henderson about that. I haven't seen any indication, however, that redistricting is one of those things over which he would file a lawsuit on.
COMMISSIONER ODELL: Was he involved at all in 1990?
MR. KERN: No, ma'am, he was not. The lawsuit in 1990 was Perez. If memory serves me right, it was filed by Aguirre and Meyers and on behalf of a number of groups, but I'm not sure exactly what they were.
COMMISSIONER ODELL: Did Mr. Henderson when did he start his process of suing for different things? At what time, what year?
MR. KERN: Mr. Henderson was on the City Council from 1987 to 1991. He left the Council in 1991 when Ms. Stallings won his seat. I believe his interest in other city matters dated basically from that time.
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON: I would just like to thank you, Mr. Kern, for joining us this evening...taking time out from your busy schedule. I just have a couple of questions. Number one, you said you think four meetings is enough?
MR. KERN: Yes, sir, absolutely.
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON: We had contemplated perhaps having a meeting in each district, but you think four would be enough?
MR. KERN: Yes, sir, because what will happen is the same people will go to the meetings. You really think and I appreciate the fact that people feel that people in each district will want to come to these, but that was not our experience. I think we had eight we may have had ten--but the same people come to the same meetings. The same people showed up in San Ysidro that showed up in Rancho Bernardo with some minor exceptions. You can hold one meeting in the South Bay, one in Centre City, one along the beaches, one along the I-15 corridor, and you've pretty much got it covered. The people who are interested in this subject will come to those meetings. What happens is that they will tell you generalities. "Well, we want this done," or, "We want that done," but until they see the map, there is nothing for them to grab their hands around. Once they see the map then they say, "Wait a minute, I don't like this line here. Can we move this census tract?" Then (Senior Planner Joey Perry) can take the data, run it, and say, "Okay we can move this by transferring this census tract here and that census tract there." Four meetings is more than enough.
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON: So what I hear you saying is, when we go out to these four districts, we should have the map and everything ready when we go out there?
MR. KERN: No, sir. My recommendation, being the first four meetings, you have a map somewhat similar to that up there and take testimony. People will come in and you'll ask them what do they want. You'll find people from Clairemont want Clairemont united. You'll find people from Pacific Beach want Pacific Beach united. Up along the I-15 corridor, one of the issues that we had there, because it is such a traffic area, they wanted the maximum number of Council seats along that district so they'd have more clout. One of the reasons that you have it split the way it is, you could just as easily move that around a little, but they wanted to have the maximum number of seats along there. You will hear that kind of testimony. People may want downtown united with some other area. You will get all that in four meetings. Then you sit among yourselves and you give (Ms. Perry) or whoever you hire, if you hire a consultant, and there are some really excellent ones out there, and you give them broad generalizations, or at that point, they've heard the testimony, and you can say, "I'll tell you what, based on what you have heard, come back with five maps." I think ultimately in (1990) we had maybe 10 or 15 maps ultimately drawn that reflected various combinations; then you start narrowing it down. The reason is that once they have it to look at, then you start having very substantive testimony, something you can get your hands around.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: Thank you, Mr. Kern, for coming here. You mentioned the last time redistricting happened that you had a formal mandate to include the incumbents in the new districts that were drawn? Is that what you said?
MR. KERN: I don't know that it was formal. Remember, in our day the actual decision was made by the City Council based upon the recommendation that we had. If you recall, we sent a map up and they had a series of hearings which arguably lead to the recall of at least one of the members. Linda Bernhardt was certainly significant in that respect. They made the decision. Knowing that they were going to make the decision, and knowing they were not about to redistrict one of their own out, we simply drew it in such a way as to make sure all the incumbents were included. I don't know that it was ever a formal charge to us.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: As we're working now, there is no formal requirement to keep incumbents in, but at the same time, you mentioned that we should keep in mind that many politicians are very dedicated to public service, and so it is their lives and careers that we're dealing with. Some people say we shouldn't consider incumbents at all, but are you saying that we should also consider the kinds of public servants that have been involved in city politics?
MR. KERN: What I'm thinking of is some of the testimony you're going to get is from people who want to run for public office, and they have right now the next election is March 2002. As you know, prior to my taking over as chief of staff, I ran political campaigns. Prior to the last election, I was getting calls from people who are already thinking about the next election; and I can guarantee you they are already thinking about it. They're going to be looking at these maps thinking Based upon my knowledge of where incumbents live right now, you would be hard pressed to redistrict anyone out of their districts, just given the nature of the districts and the legal limitations. You've got to start with basically the two that you almost have to draw, and then you've got six left, and I don't think you're going to want--figure out that's a problem. The biggest problem you're going to have is people coming in, giving you all kinds of fancy justifications for including the census tract ,which just so happens to be where their brother-in-law lives who's been gearing up for running for office for the last ten years. That's the part that you're going to find a little tricky.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: Okay. On another issue, that's something that I and the committee has been grappling with in terms of, do we hire a consulting group to do the data analysis and draw the map, or how much of this do we do in-house with City staff?
MR. KERN: You know, I would say do it either/or, and I think you start down the road of doing it in-house, and I'm sure you've gotten some responses to your request for proposals. I'm sure they're very good firms. Frankly, if any of them came in at more than $250,000, I would throw it out based upon incompetence. Seriously, you don't simply need that kind of level. If you are going to hire somebody about that level, have them do everything. They can act as your executive director. They can help set up the meetings. They can draw the maps. They can do the data work. They can do all that sort of stuff. In my opinion, you don't need it. I really honestly believe the director that you hired now, your staff person, plus (Ms. Stone) and (Ms. Perry) can absolutely do anything that you need; and the City Attorney's Office is more than competent to defend you in any potential lawsuit. If I was out there being one of the consultants submitting a bid to you, I might have a different story; but sitting up one floor up or one floor down, my advice is don't waste the money. You can do it in-house. You really can.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: And I think we all agree with you in terms of the ability and the competence of the City staff, but what about redistricting is something that people normally don't deal with and so there are a lot of arcane things. What about hiring a consultant that might help the staff with some of the more sort of detailed parts of it?
MR. KERN: Sir, with all due respect, it's not that difficult. It really isn't. It was my line of work. It is really an extremely simple thing to do. It's a numbers game. That's all it is. You've got this population. You've got these demographics. You've got these community planning groups. You've got this freeway. It's not arcane. There is nothing in there that requires any detailed political knowledge in terms of that. Frankly, if you need it, give me a call. There aren't arcane things to do. It's a very straightforward job.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: What I was wondering about is, for example, say we talk about the Gingles requirement--such as, say, thinking about a group, and if there is a group that votes cohesively--how do we know that? Do we have the kind of political data that shows how people vote in San Diego?
MR. KERN: The answer is what group would you have in mind to find out whether they vote cohesively?
COMMISSIONER SAITO: For example, Asian Americans.
MR. KERN: You can acquire, for about $150 to $200, what is called a count book from an outfit called Political Data that's in Burbank, which can detail for you by census tract, by precinct, by community planning group, by district, any way you want, all the Asian Americans, where they are, their frequency of voting. If you want to know Asian American women between the ages of 18 and 35 and where they are, they can do that for you. This is a very particularly in this day and age of computers this is a very straightforward operation. And I suspect, rather than even spend $300 for Political Data -- and I would be glad to place the order for you free of charge -- (Ms. Perry) can probably do that for you once she gets the census tract data. Bearing in mind, however, that these people deal with voters. Voters are different than the population. The Asian American population and again let's break this down by do you mean the Pacific Islander? Do you mean Filipino population? Do you mean the Cambodian, the Lao, the Chinese, the Japanese? When you get down to that level of detail, I can tell you right off the top of my head that the Asian population is concentrated in Mira Mesa, over in Encanto, and in the Linda Vista areas in such frequency or in such numbers that it would be considered a rational voting bloc; and I know that because I've been doing this for ten years. You can get statistical data to prove that, too. It's just not that tough to do; and you don't need to spend a lot of money doing it.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: But we really wouldn't know how Asian Americans as individuals voted.
MR. KERN: Yes, sir. Let me put it this way: I could tell you the name of every Asian American voter in the City of San Diego, if I could identify them by name, and assuming that's how they generally do it in voting rolls. They take a name dictionary. If you wanted the name of every Asian American voter in the City of San Diego, their vote history for the last ten elections, whether they voted absentee, whether they voted in all elections or any combination of that, that is easily available, couple of hundred bucks, tops.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: I understand that but I guess my difficulty here is that unless there is a detailed exit poll taken, you don't know how individual voters voted. You can look at particular precincts, but then you only have a sort of rough guide about how people voted in a precinct.
MR. KERN: Why would you need to know how they voted? I'm sorry. I may be missing something here.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: Just to know if Asian Americans are indeed a cohesive political group. I would say that they are.
MR. KERN: I see what you're saying. In other words, how do you know that under the Voting Rights Act they are a cohesive voting group in the sense that they vote together for
COMMISSIONER SAITO: Right.
MR. KERN: The easiest way to do that probably would be find an issue and then cross-match that on top of the precinct level. For example, Proposition 187, which is of huge interest to the Latino Community, you can go in and find Latino precincts or precincts that have a fairly heavy and see how they voted on that. Again, it's a relatively easy thing to do. You could find someone who could do it for you. You have to know practical politics tells you, and I suspect that the way I would find this would be to call somebody up at UCSD or I have a very good friend who is a professor of political science at William and Mary that would research the literature for you to find out whether or not there are cohesive voting patterns among Asian Americans. Almost any group has a cohesive voting pattern on an issue that is important to them. Most issues are not that important to a specific group. If you're saying, do Asian Americans vote as a cohesive group, you would have to tell me what the issue is. If you're saying, do they vote for Bush for President, or Gore, tell me what their party registration is so I can tell you within an 85% certainty which way they voted. For your purposes, however, there aren't enough Asian Americans in this city in any one location that you could put together a district that would be, quote, an Asian American district, because they are spread out over three widely geographically diverse areas. Probably the closest thing you have to an Asian American district in this city right now is District Five, as it is presently configured.
COMMISSIONER SAITO: I guess I'm wondering, in the end, would that hold up in court, because there is a lot of research on Asian Americans in politics and their voting patterns, but I don't think any of that is from San Diego. Much of it is about Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and when we look at voting patterns within census blocks or within precincts, then we have ecological fallacy because we're making generalizations about how people tended to vote in that precinct. We have basic demographic data about who are the people and who are the groups there, but we don't know how individual voters voted unless there is an exit poll. And with Asian Americans, one of the difficulties here in San Diego, as compared to other cities, is that Filipinos are the largest Asian American group here, and so name dictionaries are very difficult, looking at Asian Americans, because of Filipino names that could be either Latino or Asian American. And so because of those, just some of the fine points, I was wondering, would a consultant help in a case like that when we're drawing these lines and trying to draw a plan that would hold up in court if it was challenged by a lawsuit?
MR. KERN: One thing is political consultants that you would describe to hire would go to the same data I would go to. That's easy enough. The best way to find out where the Asian American voters are, are outreach to the Asian American associations that are active in town, the Chambers of Commerce, the cultural organizations; in the case of the Filipinos various provinces have cultural organizations here in town. They can tell you where their members live, actually with pretty good certainty. But going down to the level that you're going down to is I think you're going to find because of your gross charge, which is eight districts of cohesiveness, of geographic cohesiveness, of the geographic boundaries and the voter, if you will, mentality in San Diego, which is based more upon local politics than it is national issues or state-wide issues.... Remember, you're drawing districts for a City Council race. The issues that are going to be of concern to your voting blocs are going to be more like traffic, of community of interest, of economics. And you only have eight districts to go on. You can run the numbers. (Ms. Perry) can run them for you. I think you're going to find that no matter how you cut those numbers, given where the various groups live, you're going to have a Latino seat. You're going to have the District 4. Right now, for example, District 4, although it has been occupied by an African American for 30 years, in fact it's only about, as I recall, 28 to 30 percent African American, and roughly it's a quarter Asian; it's a quarter Latino; it's a quarter Anglo. No matter how you cut it, given where people live, that's about what you're going to wind up with.
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON: Boundaries. I was looking at the old map and I saw some boundaries that were a little what would you consider to be a boundary, I mean for districts? Should they be streets or...how would you look at that? Would you expand on that a little bit, please.
MR. KERN: I would look at boundaries I think pretty much the same way most people look at boundaries when they come in to see.... First of all, your community planning groups--people identify with Clairemont, they identify with University City; they identify with La Jolla--so I think your communities are really your first boundary. If you look at this map in back of me, for example, that's District 2 down below. It's there for a balancing reason, but I think a natural boundary is South San Diego, the south part, the South Bay area. That's a natural boundary. If you go up Mission Bay, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach is a natural boundary. Clairemont. Freeways are natural boundaries. Canyons are natural boundaries. Those are the kind of boundaries I think they're talking about. When I think of cohesive in terms of a district, you're also looking at compactness in nature. District 5 stretches 20 miles north to south, maybe a little more. It was drawn to some extent to bring some of that stuff, but also as a balancing act. Again, my recollection was because of that I-15 stuff--but those are the kinds of boundaries that I think we're talking about.
I appreciate you having me here. I wish you luck. Please give me call any time if I can answer any questions for you, I'd be happy to do so.
CHAIRMAN PESQUEIRA: John, thank you very much for coming.
REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ACTION (Tape location A022-B400.)
Chairman Pesqueira introduced City Clerk Chuck Abdelnour, who was in the audience.