Take a long look at the outcome of San Diego’s 2010 Redistricting Commission process. You’ll be impressed by the success of that former Commission in drawing boundary lines for our City Council districts that have enabled San Diegans to elect a range of culturally diverse leaders in our nine council districts.
We now have what is popularly desinated as a Black District (D4), an Asian District (D6), a Gay District (D3), and two Hispanic Districts (D8, D9). All five of the councilmembers elected from these districts are “of color.” Two councilmembers identify as belonging to the gay community. Four councilmembers are women. And eight out of nine councilmembers call themselves Democrats.
Nothing's perfect in the world of politics. But if you happen to be a forward-thinking, reformist Democrat in San Diego, this would be called good progress. (Not so much for our Republican constituents, though.)
Now zoom ten years later to San Diego's 2020 Redistricting Commission process. You'll notice that something peculiar is underfoot.
With only a few weeks left to finish its job, the current Redistricting Commission is being bombarded by demands to drastically rearrange San Diego’s map of neighborhoods and communities. The demands are for changes that far exceed necessary boundary adjustments due to new census data or community streamlining due to population shifts.
Most peculiar about this turn of events is that the very groups that would be negatively affected by a drastic overhall of community boundaries are partnering in the pressure campaign to force the Redistricting Commission to enact these changes. It is ironic that their involvement threatens to reverse ten years’ worth of forward momentum toward fair representation at the City Council.
Which is why a person might be driven to ask herself: What’s going on behind the scenes to generate such an incongruous disconnect? How can we connect the dots?
Here's what it looks like from the outside: Starting this past summer, individuals and organizations were invited to submit maps of their own making to the Redistricting Commission, creating their ideal boundaries for their personal district or for the entire city. And all San Diego residents were invited to participate (via zoom) in regular Commission meetings to voice their comments and recommendations to the Commissioners.
Working under a tight schedule, the Redistricting Commission approved a tentative map at the end of October--a composite of public recommendations from the previous months of public petitions and testimony. Another round of public discussion devoted to fine-tuning this map was scheduled to promptly begin.
But at the very last minute a new redistricting vision--dubbed the San Diego Communities Collaboration map (let’s call it the SDCC map)--was submitted for consideration by a Chula Vista resident. This map deviated sharply from the map generated by the Commission. It wiped clean the boundary lines north of I-8 that traditionally defined five council districts (D1, D2, D5, D6, and D7) and sketched in completely new ones.
Some supporters of the SDCC map say they jumped onboard as a statement of solidarity with the ethnic goal of Asian undergraduates at UCSD and other Asian residents and businesses to guarantee them an even stronger ethnic concentration in the existing Asian District. They claim they can achieve this goal by moving the entire UCSD campus and greater environs out its present district and into D6.
The SDCC map is actually a dead-end for any San Diego resident who wants to see our city move forward. It's a devious setup that forecasts an undesirable return to the San Diego of old, when conservative perspectives dominated the City Council.
➤On the one hand, it supports a stronger Asian district and many supporters of the SDCC map are among San Diego’s most socially progressive advocates who regard this use of identity politics as a positive force.
➤On the other hand, it creates new concentrations of conservative-leaning voters in its newly-invented council districts, strategically diluting the voting clout of liberal cohorts in the northern and coastal sections of San Diego while also diluting the influence of the Hispanic population in five districts.
So why support a redistricting map that would weaken the voices and clout of Democratic allies to the north and ultimately undermine progressive momentum citywide?
Look closely and the dots will start to connect as you:
- identify the cadre of savvy Republican operatives who have seized the redistricting opportunity to make a comeback;
- catch sight of certain other proponents of the SDCC map expertly undermining the redistricting process and manipulating public opinion;
- come across student organizers encouraging fellow students to unleash their frustrations by condemning local neighborhoods over the inadequacy of social opportunities and housing rather than criticizing the policies of their own university chancellor;
- notice the stamp of approval provided by BIOCOM and related business industries;
- get wind of the corporate real estate investors calculating their next moves into environmentally sensitive regions--formerly protected from development but soon to be in the hands of compliant newly-elected city officials.
Redistricting is dirty business in many other parts of our country. We can close our eyes and hold our noses and pretend that San Diego is immune to partisan politics and sneaky actors with self-serving agendas.
Alternatively, we can support the better angels among our Redistricting Commissioners by encouraging them to gird their loins and move forward in the public interest to prevent San Diego’s backward slide into a politically retrograde, unpromising future.