Unfortunately, the city council district mapping process is backwards. The boundaries are merely being drawn by a mapper based on the mapper’s own unguided sense of what constitutes a “neighborhood.” The criteria for defining a neighborhood and determining how to draw the boundaries for those neighborhoods should have been defined by the city council in advance of drawing any maps.
By selecting the rules first, we simplify the decision process, streamline any future updates (next year?), and minimize political mischief.
- How many districts should be drawn?
- This should have been decided at the outset, when discussion is more likely to focus on the merits of an argument rather than political considerations.
- What is the council’s rationale for selecting 5 or 7 or 9 districts? If in time the rationale changes, then there is a basis for a future revisit of the number of districts.
- Where should the boundary drawing begin?
- It is common to start at the northwest corner of a city and proceed by census block toward the southeast corner. That’s how most GIS algorithms are designed. Might Davis warrant a different approach? If so, why? How might an alternative work, and what might warrant a future revisit?
- What is the rationale for the chosen boundary drawing methodology? Again, if the reasoning changes, then the methodology should be revisited.
- What is the order of precedent in selecting census tracts?
- Should the selection be bounded first by major arterials, then secondary arterials, etc? Spell it out.
- Should each district contain a “neighborhood” park?
- Should each district contain a “neighborhood” school?
- Should each district contain a “neighborhood” shopping center?
- Should each district try to conform to the district boundaries created by the School District?
The mapping should follow clearly established criteria that are adopted before drawing any maps.
Otherwise, the City is inviting the very litigation it presumably sought to avoid.
I suggest you adopt:
- A “yes” answer to each of the items in #3
- Place on the March 2020 ballot a series of questions for the voters:
- Do voters want to go to district elections?
- Do voters want 5 or 7 districts?
- Provide 3 map versions for 5 and 7 districts, and ask the voters to select one within each category.
Then, the voters will have guided the process, rather than the council, consultants, or bureaucrats… and you will know exactly what to put before voters in November 2020.
Also, put on the March 2020 ballot a question whether the voters authorize the current council to continue its authority from June 2020 until November 2020. They will undoubtedly approve this measure. (If you are fearful of its passage, make it advisory.) This step is imperative if you want the trust of voters. When your administrators advise to the contrary, they are needlessly violating fundamental democratic principles and undermining public confidence in each of you, in the council, and in the city.