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Every ten years, in response to population changes, as documented in the decennial census, the City of San Diego redraws all of its City Council districts.

Complexity has increased in this decade’s redistricting because an additional (ninth) district is being added. The San Diego Redistricting Commission comprises seven citizens selected by a panel of judges to redraw the districts.

The commission has heard hours of testimony, and received hundreds of comments, emails and phone calls. A dozen or more maps have been presented to them, with more to come. The task seems daunting, almost overwhelming. Is it?

Lori Shellenberger, an attorney for the ACLU of San Diego, in a June 16 presentation to the commission, said the legal landscape for redistricting “is surprisingly straightforward” and offers “a clearly defined framework for …discussion and the ultimate decisions.”

In that same meeting, Commissioner Theresa Quiroz offered a list of 32 “basic principles” as a starting point for discussion. She derived the principles from the extensive public testimony received by the commission. The Commission seems poised to follow the mandate of the city charter, and federal and state law, to provide communities of interest the opportunity to be” fairly and effectively represented.”

The commission has emphasized the importance of public testimony on behalf of communities of interest. It has had more than twice as many public hearings as mandated by its bylaws. It has listened to citizen testimony with attention and courtesy. By its actions and commitment of time and resources, the commission has clearly indicated that it is ultimately the testimony and public submissions that will determine the real communities of interest with reference to which the new districts will be drawn.

So, despite outrageous personal attacks from partisan hirelings, the commission seems ready to draw a map which reflects the enormous changes that have occurred over the past 10 years in the demographics of our city.

There is another reason for optimism. While many maps have been submitted, most are drawn with shameless partisanship or with little reference to or respect for the various communities of interest or the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. One map, however, has been drawn with scrupulous attention to the subtleties and complexities of our city’s neighborhoods and communities of interest

The makers of the Community In Unity Map followed the rules. They consulted with community activists and listened to the hours of testimony at the Redistricting Commission hearings. The map respects the months of work and cooperation among the Latino, African-American, immigrant, heritage, LGBT, tourism and other communities of interest. Beach and bay, canyon and coastal, Asian Pacific Islander and Mission Valley/College Area. Inputs from all of these communities were referenced and respected.

In addition, the requirements of the Voting Rights Act were honored and adhered to in shaping the new coalition empowerment district south of I-8 and the Asian Pacific Islander influence district north of I-8. Historical communities of interest were maintained and enhanced for the African American community in District 4, the Latino Voting Rights District 8 and the LGBT community of interest in District 3.

It won’t be the exact map the commission ends up with, but it could be a good place to start the dialogue.

The commission has challenges ahead, but it also has an impressive array of tools with which to work.

1. A clearly defined and surprisingly straightforward legal framework for its decisions provided by the Voting Rights Act and the city charter.

2. An impressive amount of testimony from citizens throughout the city.

3. A thoughtful and insightful set of basic principles culled from that testimony

4. A map drawn with reference and deference to the public testimony, cooperative community maps and current redistricting law.

Thanks to the hard work of many citizens, the commissioners and their staff, this important exercise in the democratic process is moving apace. There is reason for hope. Let the mapping begin!

Linda Perine is the chaiperson of the LGBT Redistricting Task Force. She lives in Mission Beach.

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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