|ITEM-1:||Call to Order/ Welcome and Introduction
By Chairman Ralph Pesqueira at 6:15 p.m.
Mr. Pesqueira announced that the preliminary map will be filed on tomorrow, July 10, 2001 and this filing will start a 30-day clock. An overview of the map approval process was given to the public by Mr. Pesqueira.
Operations Director Staajabu Heshimu called the roll:
(C) Chairman Ralph R. Pesqueira-present
ATTENDANCE DURING THE MEETING:
(C) Chairman Ralph R. Pesqueira-present
(VC) Vice Chairman Leland T. Saito-present
(M) Charles W. Johnson-present
(M) Marichu G. Magaña -present
(M) Shirley ODell-present
(M) Juan Antonio Ulloa-present
(EO) Deputy City Attorney Lisa Foster-present
Lisa Foster: (Transcript) Thank you, Ralph. Good evening, everyone. And thanks so much for coming to our meeting. The public participation in this process has been very important to us. And I think youll also see in some respect its actually been reflected in the work that weve done. I know some of you Ive seen here before at our meetings and I appreciate your being back again. I hope I wont bore you. But I did want to go over a few things before we get started. I think it really helps, before we actually start talking about our map, to go over some of the basic principles of redistricting, particularly for some of you that might not have been to one of our previous meetings. Because youre going to hear some of these concepts being discussed in terms of the actual map. But we do have a set of legal criteria that we do have to follow in doing redistricting. And they do actually have an order of importance. Before I talk about the legal criteria though, I did want to share with you, if you dont know this already, that this Commission is actually a unique experience in San Diego. This is the first time in the history of San Diego that weve had an independent Commission of citizen volunteers doing the redistricting plan for the Council Districts. In our previous redistricting in the City it has been the elected officials - the Council Members who have actually made the decision. And in 1992 there was a vote of the citizens to change the City Charter to create this independent Commission. And it was the will of the people to take this decision and put it in the hands of a Commission. The decision is not subject to being approved by the City Council and the decision of this Commission will be final unless its challenged through the legal process. So, I think its important for you to know that, that this is a new experience here in San Diego and its what the citizens wanted. And so far I think, we think, its been working out pretty well.
As far as the legal principles related to redistricting you should all have a single sheet, two-sided thats titled "Factors to Be Considered in Drawing Boundaries". And Id like to go through it very quickly. I created this flyer for the Commission back, I think it was, in April when we talked about the legal factors and what the order of importance to those factors is. And youll notice on the first page, number one, is equalizing the population between the districts. And youll also notice that I have that in large lettering and bold and really to highlight that that is first and foremost the primary goal of redistricting. Its based on a constitutional concept known as one-person-one-vote.
And that concept basically means that if the population between the Council districts is drastically different then the peoples vote in the different districts does not carry the same amount of representation. It doesnt have the same amount of value and weight as maybe someone elses vote in a different district. So, youre all entitled to have basically equal population in your districts for electing your Council Members.
As you can see from this sheet, in addition to basic criteria there is a lot sub-issues. And actually the law of redistricting can be very complex. There are entire books written on this subject. Ive tried to really just boil this down to the very basics. One of the concepts that comes into play with equalizing the population is: How equal is equal enough? When will a plan be considered equal enough to pass legal muster? And the Courts have decided that the rule is approximately 10% total variation between districts which means the districts should be within 5% of the ideal number, up or down for a total of no more than 10% total variation.
The second concept that we need to follow comes from the Voting Rights Act, which is a federal statute. The Voting Rights Act basically says that in the process of redrawing the Council boundaries for the purpose of equalizing the population, that racial, ethnic, and language groups should not be harmed in their ability to vote for candidates of their choice. And youll see that there are several criteria that a group has to meet before it is entitled to this legal protection. The group has to be large enough to potentially be a majority in a district. The group has to be politically cohesive. And there has to be a history of racially polarized voting in the area. And what this basically means is you have a group large enough to potentially be a majority in a district, they tend to vote the same way, and the white population in the same area tends to vote to defeat that groups preferred candidates.
Youll probably hear some discussion tonight and find out that we actually have a consultant doing a study for us right now on the City Heights area of San Diego to determine if we have a Voting Rights Act issue in that area that will dictate how we might have to draw the boundaries in that area. So, that certainly has been a serious consideration for us in this process.
The third concept that we have to follow comes from a line of Supreme Court cases that started in the early 90's primarily with the Shaw V. Reno case out of North Carolina. And those cases stand for the proposition that when you have a redistricting plan thats based primarily on race that doesnt follow the traditional redistricting principles, that can be a legal violation. So, it kind of creates a contradiction with the Voting Rights Act to some extent. And this is one of the complexities of redistricting law. Basically we have to consider race to a certain extent but you cant consider it too much under this line of cases.
The facts in that case were essentially that the redistricting plan was drawn in order to create an African American majority district. But in order to do that the people were scattered geographically. They werent in one place. And the shape of the district ended up being described as "it looked like a bug on a windshield". And as youll find out as I go through this sheet a little further, that really is contradictory to redistricting principles. Youre supposed to have nice compact shapes. So, that was a case where the group really didnt meet the legal criteria for protection under the law and the Court found that that plan went too far in considering race in drawing districts. So, we have to walk that line between those two legal principles.
And then finally we have a number of principles that come from our City Charter here in San Diego. One being that we are mandated to have eight (8) districts. We can not at this time change the number of districts. That is dictated by the Charter and unless the People vote to change the Charter it will stay that way. The districts have to be made of contiguous territory. Which means all the parts of the district have to be touching. You cant have islands that are remote. The districts need to be geographically compact as much as possible in nice neat shapes. We need to use natural boundaries, like streets and natural features as much as possible. We, to the extent possible, are trying to preserve identifiable communities of interest. That has been to a large extent why weve been out in the community talking to people about the characteristics of their neighborhoods.
And we are to use whole census units to the extent possible. That can be either census tracts or census blocks which is a smaller census unit than a census tract. And the districts are not to be drawn for the purpose of advantaging incumbent elected officials
So, those are the basic rules that were following in this process. And again thank you for bearing with the explanation. As we talk about our map tonight youre going to hear the concepts come up over and over regarding trying to equalize the population in compact shapes in using census units. So, we wanted to just give you that little brief introduction before we talked about the map.
REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ACTION (Tape location: A076-180.)
Joey Perry briefed the public on the Preliminary Redistricting Plan and changes made to various districts.REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ACTION (Tape location: A181-250.)
Chairman Pesqueira spoke on precautions taken to address possible Voting Rights Act violations.
The Commission accepted public comments on the Preliminary Redistricting Plan.
Chairman Pesqueira commented on his appreciation for this communitys interest in the redistricting process.
Chairman Pesqueira requested Ms. Foster to address certain issues as follows: The necessity of looking at the Voting Rights Act and moving boundaries. What drives the moving of those boundaries? What about the protected groups? What is the criteria that must be followed as it relates to communities of interest and the protected groups?
Lisa Foster: (Transcript)
I should start by saying that we have certainly taken to heart the comments weve heard from the Asian/Pacific Islander community throughout this process. And we certainly have given due consideration to whether or not it would be appropriate under the Voting Rights Act to draw a district around lines of where the Asian/Pacific Islander population is located. In addition we have had our consultant actually go through the process of trying to draw a map on that basis and we found that there were a number of problems with that process.
I think primarily one of the biggest problems weve had with regard to this particular issue is the size of the group and the location of the group. If youll go back to the two-sided sheet that we talked about earlier, youll see some of the factors related to when a group is protected under the Voting Rights Act. And right at the start you cant get past number one if you dont have a group thats large and compact enough to constitute a majority in a district. The Courts have found there has to be at least 50% of a total district or more or close to 50% with a demonstrated ability to vote for candidates of choice. What we have found with regard to the Asian community, or what our consultant has found, Mr. Bruce Cain, is that when he has tried to draw a district along those lines the population is not geographically compact and you end up with an irregularly shaped district somewhat along the lines of what happened in the Shaw V. Reno case, where you really have to have a lot of little fingers going off here and there. And we did actually have the consultant go through that exercise of drawing the map.
Another thing that has to be taken into consideration with the size of the group and whether you actually have a protected group under the Voting Rights Act is that for this purpose you dont look at total population. You only look at voting age population. So, you have to first take the population and narrow it down to voting age. So, if youre starting with a group thats approximately 15% of the population, as I think what Levin was saying, when you narrow it down to voting age you get a smaller group. So, that certainly is something that has to be factored in.
When you have citizenship information available some of the Courts have found that that should be considered as well because that affects the ability to vote. We dont have that available for this redistricting process for San Diego. So, when were looking at Voting Rights Act issues were looking at voting-age population as what we have to work with. If we did have citizenship information that might narrow the number down even further that would be considered for this purpose.
So, weve really looked at this issue and found that were really not there having a protected group under the Voting Rights Act for Asian/Pacific Islanders at this time. Additionally we have also worked with trying to take a map and unite Mira Mesa and Penanquitos and weve also found that we had significant problems with our equal population between the districts when we tried to do that. Weve gone through the exercise with our software and done that and it throws the numbers off in a really significant way. In order to correct that we would really need to go through and profoundly affect a lot of other communities.
So, we really have taken this issue to heart. Weve worked with it. Were certainly looking forward to seeing a map that Levin might be presenting to us to see if he can find a way around these problems that weve encountered. But these were some of the issues under the Voting Rights Act that we found when we tried to do the same thing.
REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ACTION (Tape location: A301-375.)
Mr. Saito commented regarding the small and dispersed population of the Asian/Pacific American population. He addressed the idea of an influence district that may not be a minority/majority but may have enough influence to be a community of interest.
Ms. Foster responds to Mr. Saito. (TRANSCRIPT)
Influence districts, this is a very controversial idea in the law. Right now Ive looked at a survey. I think Ive found about seven total cases that have discussed this issue which is whether a group that is too small to be a Voting Rights Act protected group, but can show statistically that they influence the outcome of elections is entitled to protection. Right now there are more cases finding against that idea than for that idea. So, although there are a small number of cases that have...Courts that have said they might be willing to look at that, there really are more cases saying that that is not a group that would constitute a group that requires protection under the Voting Rights Act. So, I think thats one of your issues.
As far as Rancho Penasquitos and Mira Mesa, that certainly...putting those two communities together would certainly follow the Charter requirements of compactness and contiguity. But I think again if you look back at going on the assumption that now were dealing with a community of interest versus a Voting Rights Act protected group, when you find that that does have a very negative affect on equalizing the population between the districts, that becomes a higher priority under the law than protecting a community of interest. So, again the Commission is faced with that difficult choice. We obviously have heard testimony that there is a community of interest that would like to be together there. But again we havent found the solution to how to fix the numbers after we try to do that. But as far as the compactness and contiguity, certainly those criteria are met if you put those two communities together.
Commissioner ODell commented about the Asian population and the Commissions attempts to satisfy this groups interests.
Commissioner Magana commented regarding how the community can reach the Commissioners by E-mail.
Commissioner Johnson commented on his concern for preserving the voice of the Asian/Pacific community and the attempts made by the Commission to join this community and the difficulty in accomplishing this.
Glen Barroga commented regarding his inability to reach Commissioners to offer his input.
Commissioner Ulloa spoke regarding diversity and this good type that reflects District 5. He commends District 5 for their speaking out for the Asian/Pacific American population.
Council Member Maienschein spoke regarding Asian Americans being involved in voting. He also expressed his desire to maintain Mira Mesa in District 5. Council Member Maienschein commented on four criteria that the Commission has met:
Chairman Pesqueira closed with remarks; thanking the community for their participation.
Adjourned by Chairman Pesqueira at 7:55 p.m.REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ACTION (Tape location: C176.)
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