City of Berkeley Redistricting Map Referendum, Measure S (November 2014)

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A City of Berkeley Redistricting Map Referendum is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Berkeley in Alameda County, California.

In December 2013, the Berkeley city council adopted a new redistricting map ordinance, known as the Berkeley Student District Campaign map, which included the student-majority District 7 near Telegraph Avenue. This map would have concentrated most of District 7 on the south side of the college campus. According to critics, this would have resulted in a district more dominated by conservative students, as it would have excluded student co-ops and dorms on the north side of campus, which were perceived as progressive, and added fraternities and sororities on the south side of campus, which were considered more conservative.[1][2]

When the city council voted six to three to accept the map, including the controversial District 7 boundaries, a group called the Berkeley Referendum Coalition began a petition drive to force a referendum on the redistricting ordinance, and, on January 21, 2014, they turned in 7,867 signatures to the Berkeley City Clerk. After a random sampling of the signatures, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters concluded that the petitions contained valid signatures numbering well over the 5,275 required to force a referendum, if the city council did not themselves rescind their ordinance. The city council voted to put the map before voters in November.[3][4][5]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[6]

Shall Ordinance No. 7,320-N.S. authorizing the adjustment of Berkeley City Council district boundaries pursuant to Section 9, Article V of the Berkeley City Charter, to equalize population in the districts as a result of population changes reflected in the 2010 decennial federal census be adopted?[7]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure S was provided by the office of the city attorney:[6]

The City Charter divides the City of Berkeley into 8 council districts, with the Mayor elected at large.

The City Charter requires the City Council to adopt new council districts every ten years, based on the decennial census, and requires the Council to complete its redistricting process no later than the end of the third year after the census is taken.

The Charter requires that council districts be as nearly equal in population as may be. Based on the 2010 census, districts of equal population would each have 14,073 residents. The existing districts, which were based on the 2000 census, diverge from this population by a minimum of 4.5% and a maximum of 18%.

Until 2012, the Charter required that new council district boundaries preserve to the extent possible the original council district boundaries established by a charter amendment in 1986. In 2012, after considering a number of proposed redistricting maps, the Council placed a charter amendment on the ballot to eliminate the requirement that new districts conform as closely as possible to the 1986 boundaries. The voters adopted this amendment in November 2012.

In 2013 the Council reinitiated the redistricting process under the revised Charter rules. In December 2013, after considering a total of 7 redistricting proposals, the Council adopted an ordinance establishing new council district boundaries with a maximum population deviation between district size and equal population of 0.77%.

Under the City Charter and state law, voters may place an ordinance adopted by the Council on the ballot for voter approval or rejection by collecting the signatures of registered voters equal to 10% of the entire vote cast for all candidates for Mayor at the last preceding election at which a Mayor was elected. An ordinance that is placed on the ballot in this manner goes into effect if it is approved by a majority of the voters voting on it. This measure was placed on the ballot as the result of a petition signed by voters.

A "yes" vote would approve the redistricting ordinance adopted by the Council, in which case it would go into effect.

A "no" vote would reject the redistricting ordinance adopted by the Council, requiring the Council to adopt a new redistricting ordinance and leaving in place the existing districts that were adopted in 2002 until it does so.[7]

—Zach Cowan, Berkeley City Attorney[6]

Full text

The full text of the redistricting ordinance

Support

Supporters

  • Eric Panzer, long time Berkeley resident

Council members

The following council members voted to approve the Berkeley Student District Campaign map:[8]

  • Mayor Tom Bates
  • Councilwoman Linda Maio (District 1)
  • Councilman Darryl Moore (District 2)
  • Councilwoman Laurie Capitelli (District 5)
  • Councilwoman Susan Wengraf (District 6)
  • Councilman Gordon Wozniak (District 8)

Arguments in favor

A long time Berkeley resident and member of several Berkeley city commissions named Eric Panzer published an op-ed supporting the district map and opposing to the referendum attempt to overturn it. He wrote:

This referendum campaign represents an effort to short-circuit the community redistricting process and delay implementation of new City Council districts. The main impetus for this referendum is Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s support for an eleventh-hour redistricting proposal that was crafted within his own council office. Redistricting proposals were due to the City Clerk by March 15, 2013, but Worthington’s proposal was not introduced until Sept. 10, nearly six months later. Supporters of that map evaded the public scrutiny of the formal submission process and are now threatening to drag redistricting beyond the Charter-mandated three-year deadline for its completion.

This needless referendum would also waste your money. Despite the 17 community meetings, public hearings, and Council meetings between 2011 and 2013, referendum supporters are claiming that the Council-approved map was chosen without community input. If their referendum goes to the ballot, Berkeley will need to call an otherwise-unnecessary special election that will cost a quarter-million dollars of your money. Moreover, putting this referendum on the ballot would likely mean that the 2014 election would be conducted with the now-outdated and imbalanced districts adopted in 2000, a clear violation of the principle of “one person, one vote.”[9][7]

Opposition

Opponents

The Berkeley Referendum Coalition was the group behind the referendum and the group that paid for referendum signatures to be collected. This group is hoping voters will reject the redistricting map during the November election.

Individual opponents included:[10][8]

  • Lisa Stephens, the chair of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board
  • Nancy Carleton, a former chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board
  • David Blake, a member of the Rent Stabilization Board
  • James Marshall, a computer programmer who founded the Berkeley Institute for Free Speech Online
  • Gene Poschman, a planning commissioner
  • Daniel Knapp, the owner of Urban Ore
  • Martin Spence, a legal assistant at Cooper White & Cooper
  • Sara Shumer, former member of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board
  • Urban Ore

Council members

The following council members voted against implementing the Berkeley Student District Campaign map:[8]

  • Councilman Kriss Worthington (District 7)
  • Councilman Jesse Arreguín (District 4)
  • Councilman Max Anderson (District 3)

Arguments against

Councilman Worthington and his supporters described the council redistricting map as a way to dilute the progressive voice of the city.[2]

The referendum effort to repeal the ordinance was supported by the progressives of the city, who argued that the council-approved redistricting map was a way to remove Councilman Kriss Worthington (District 7) from the council by forming his district around conservative portions of campus, while excluding more liberal dorms and student co-ops.[10]

Councilman Jesse Arreguín (District 4) said, "It’s amazing that this would happen in Berkeley, that we would have a Texas-style gerrymandering. The good thing about this campaign is that we were able to talk to the community about what was going on.”[11]

Campaign finance

The Berkeley Coalition Referendum paid the Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz $5,000 to help collect the necessary signatures to put the referendum on the ballot. As of February 3, 2014, the Coalition had only raised $2,790 of that $5,000 in contributions. Michael O'Malley, who co-owns the Daily Planet was the largest contributor, giving $1,000 to the referendum effort. According to reports, the Berkeley Coalition Referendum was searching for donations to pay off $5,000 to $6,000 of debt it had accrued from paying Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz, printing support materials and organizing events.[10][11]

Donations as of February 3, 2014, have included:[10][8]

Donor Amount
Michael O'Malley $1,000
Gene Poschman $300
Martin Spence $250
Sara Shumer $200
Urban Ore $300
James Marshall $200
Lisa Stephens $100
Nancy Carleton $100
David Blake $100
Daniel Knapp $100
Donations under $100 each $140
TOTAL $2,790

The redistricting map

The redistricting map approved by the council excluded from District 7 certain student co-ops and dorms on the north side of campus, which were perceived as progressive, and added fraternities and sororities on the south side of campus, which were considered to be more conservative.[1]

Below is the redistricting map that was approved by the council and repealed after the successful referendum effort:

BerkelySDC-map.png

Alternative map

An intern in Worthington’s office named Stefan Elgstrand drew up an alternative redistricting map, called the United Student District Amendment (USDA), which included parts of the north side of campus in District 7 boundaries, with fewer blocks included in the south of campus. This map was proposed to the city council as an alternative, but the city council voted six to three to approve the original map above.[2]

The proposed alternative map is displayed below:

BerkeleyAltMap.png

Background

November district map lawsuit

Because the city council put off the election for this referendum until November, the question arose: what district map would be used in the November 4, 2014 election before voters could decide to approve or reject the council's map? A lawsuit, City of Berkeley v. Tim Dupuis and Mark Numainville, was filed to determine the answer. Opponents of the redistricting map argued that the map should not be used because the successful petition drive should result in the suspension of the map until voters decide on it. The question was decided by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo, who decided in favor of the city, allowing the redistricting map targeted by the referendum to be used in the November election, instead of alternative maps that were proposed. The ruling stated that the council-approved map “is the one that best complies with meeting the mandates of equal protection and minimizing any disruption to the election process.”[12]

Councilman Jesse Arreguín wrote, “Obviously I am disappointed. I hoped that the judge would have given more consideration to the several alternate maps submitted which were constitutionally compliant and complied with the City Charter, rather than entering the political thicket and picking a map that was stayed by a successful citizens referendum." Arreguin also said, “This ruling sets a terrible precedent and encourages cities to purposely time their action on a referendum so as to inoculate it from challenges and renders the citizens right to a referendum as a futile exercise of democracy and makes a referendum essentially meaningless.”[12]

Measure R

In 2012, Berkeley city voters approved Measure R, which allowed city redistricting to be done through city council ordinance, provided the proposed districts "be as equal in population as feasible taking into consideration topography, geography, cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity, compactness of territory and communities interest, and have easily understood boundaries such as major traffic arteries and geographic boundaries." Measure R authorized the city council to pass the redistricting ordinance that was being questioned by this referendum.

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

When the city council voted six to three to accept the map, including the controversial District 7 boundaries, a group called The Berkeley Referendum Coalition, which hired the petition drive management company Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz, began a petition drive to force a referendum on the redistricting ordinance, and, on January 21, 2014, after paying the Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz $5,000, they turned in 7,867 signatures to the Berkeley City Clerk. About 2,500 of these signatures were collected by volunteers, while the remainder was collected by paid circulators from the Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz. After a random sampling of the signatures, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters concluded that the petitions contained signatures numbering well over the 5,275 valid signatures required to force the city council to choose between rescinding the ordinance themselves and putting a referendum on the ballot. The city decided to put the redistricting map before voters in November.[2][5]

Councilmember Kriss Worthington (District 7), speaking to petition volunteers and supporters in response to the success of the referendum petition, said, “The odds were stacked against any sane person getting signatures. But all of you realized that the conventional wisdom does not always rule the day.”[11][4]

Councilman Worthington also said, "The fact that about 15 percent of the voters of Berkeley signed the referendum petition, during (December) the single month that is the hardest to get signatures in Berkeley is an amazing testament to how bad of a plan this was."[4]

Related measures

See also

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