Unhappy with your political leadership? Oakland’s 2013 Redistricting Process is your once-in-a-decade chance to influence who’ll represent you at the most local level.

Every 10 years, Oakland must adjust its seven district boundaries to equalize each district’s population according to the latest Census data – a process called Redistricting. District boundaries determine which of your neighbors will be helping you choose your next City Council and School District Representatives. In our majority-rules system, these boundaries clearly influence election results (see current boundaries here).

I’ve always found it wrong that sitting politicians should set their own election boundaries. California voters were wise enough to reject this old system in 2008 by passing Prop 11, which took redistricting out of the hands of sitting State Legislators and put it into a citizen commission. Learn more about how it’s working here. In Oakland, the City Council still decides its own new boundaries – a system I’d like to change.

Until Oakland’s system changes, voters can and must do everything they can to influence this key driver of democracy. Advocacy works – as we saw in this year’s budget decision. You have four months until the Council votes on the final new district boundaries in November. Get going!

Here are several ways to get informed and get engaged in Oakland’s 2013 Redistricting:

#1 Attend a Town Hall Meeting – you’ll learn more about the process, legal requirements and how you can draw your own political boundary maps for consideration by using our on-line mapping tool.

  • Thursday, July 11, 6:30 – 8:30 pm – Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
  • Saturday, July 13, 10 am – Noon – Dimond Recreation Center, 3860 Hanly Road (I’ll be at this one)
  • Other dates include Sep 5, Sep 7, Sep 8

More info: www.oaklandnet.com/redistricting.

#2 Log into engageoakland.com and weigh in. You can start by responding to the posted question: “How would you describe the neighborhood that you live in and how would you define its boundaries?” Please register to use the City of Oakland’s official engagement tool on a variety of topics – from safety to dog parks. You don’t even have to leave your couch to be heard by City Hall!

#3 Explore and Subscribe for Updates at www.oaklandnet.com/redistricting. Read everything about Oakland’s process and get tips for engagement at the City of Oakland’s official site.

#4 Draw your own maps at http://www.onlineredistricting.com/Oakland3/redist/

#5 Explore and Register at www.oaklandvotes.org. The Oakland Voting Rights Campaign is supported by the good folks at Urban Strategies Council, ACCE, Oakland Rising and the League of Women Voters of Oakland.  Oaklandwiki.org/Redistricting will also be an excellent resource for keeping informed.

As the Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting says: “Our representatives set the rules by which we live. In ways large and small, they affect the taxes we pay, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the ways in which we make each other safer and more secure… The way that voters are grouped into districts therefore has an enormous influence on who our representatives are, and what policies they fight for.”

Please join me in Oakland’s 2013 Redistricting Process – we’ll be shaping democracy as well as Oakland’s future.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/tos


One Response

  1. Terrence May

    Thank you to Councillor Schaaf for this well written and informative article on redistricting.

    Due to changes in the distribution of the city’s population in the 10 years since the current plan was adopted in 2003, balancing district populations then using 2000 census figures, the 2010 census reveals that two districts are significantly *over* and three are significantly *under* the equalized target of 55,818, as calculated using the 2010 census. (The target is the ideal mean population of each district: 390,724 / 7 = 55,818).

    District populations do not need to be exactly 55,818; however, significant deviations (over/under) invite legal challenge based on the constitutional principle of equal representation. Currently, our districts have a total population deviation of 19.4%, which is unacceptable. At the extreme, one district is 7.4% under and one 12% over the mean or target population.

    In particular, District 3 (West Oakland/Downtown) is 12% over the target with 6,692 too many residents and will need to shrink accordingly. To a lesser extent, District 1 (North Oakland/Northwest Hills), which borders District 3 to the North, has 2,606 too many (4.7%). Combined, both districts have about 9,300 residents that need to be shifted to under-populated districts in order to make district populations “nearly equal” in population.

    Most in need: District 2 (Eastlake/Chinatown/San Antonio), which borders District 3 to the east and south, needs 4,151 more people (7.4%) and District 5 (Fruitvale/Glenview) 3,005 (5.4%). Further south, District 6 (Central East Oakland) is short 1,406 (2.5%).

    Districts 4 (Montclair/Laurel/Dimond) and 7 (South East Oakland) are close to the target at 0.4% and 1.0% below, respectively..

    The redistricting process will be driven by the need to shift population from Districts 3 and 1 in West and North Oakland to under-populated districts south and east of them. There are many ways this can be done, each invariably poses certain challenges and trade-offs. No plan is perfect. The devil is in the details, as the old saying goes.

    Even though some districts areas are probably fine as-is from a population standpoint, due to where they are situated, their boundaries and areas may nevertheless be impacted as a result of the need to shift population between over and under-populated districts. Citizens may also press for changes to district lines to better reflect communities of interest, keep neighborhoods intact, adopt more easily recognizable boundaries, etc.


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