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Roundtable: New Districts For SD City Council

Aired 7/22/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

One of these days, if proposed political maps hold up, some San Diegans will hear the alarm go off and wake up in a different City Council District, perhaps one that has never existed before.

One of these days, if proposed political maps hold up, I will hear the alarm go off and wake up in a different City Council District. One, in fact, that has never existed before. That's because I live in the neighborhood of El Cerrito, which is expected to be part of the 9th City Council district. So far, San Diego has had only 8 districts. But the adoption of a strong mayor system and redistricting have required a 9th one to be created, for reasons that'll be soon explained. This whole process has set politics in motion as interest groups and ethnic groups fight to create council districts they think the can control.

Will Carless, reporter, Voiceofsandiego.org

Mark Sauer, senior editor, KPBS News

David Garrick, reporter, North County Times

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

FUDGE: One of these days, I will hear the alarm go off and wake up in a different City Council district, one in fact that has never existed before. I live in the area of El Cerrito, which is expected to be part of the ninth City Council district. So far, San Diego has only had eight districts, but the adoption of a strong mayer system and redistricting have required a ninth one to be created.

This whole process has set politics in motion as interest and ethnic groups fight to create council districts they think they can control. Mark, do your best to describe where the process is right now. The redistricting commission at work. What have they done so far?

GARRICK: Well, they have had a lot of meetings and they've heard a lot from groups. Race is a factor, not necessarily the overriding factor. But under represented folks, notably Asian community, African American community, Latino community have all been heard from in these hearings and this independent commission. It should be noted that they are distinct and separate from the City Council. They act independently, they have had months of hearings as you noted. And they've come up now with this tentative map which was -- has just been released. And part of the task this year, it's done every ten years in connection with the census. Of and part of the task this year as you noted was to carve up this ninth district. So a new district.

FUDGE: Why do we need a ninth district?

RIH2: Well, I came in with the strong -- with ties in lack of decision in many issues that come before the council. So you'll have that 5/4 split. We'll have, as you said this em -- that borrows from basically in central in part from Todd Gloria's district, district four. And cabs out this central district and shifts things around in Kevin Faulkner's district. So the question is those folks including you, Tom, who's going to represent you? Because we're moving forward to five more hearings from late July into August early, and the commission will submit this, and this will be the map until the fall election of 2012. They'll have a new district and no council member and no staff. So if you've got that busted street, if you've got trash can that the city crew wrecked for you, you've got nobody to call unless we get the sympathy from Marty Emerald and some of these other districts to have their staff pick up that slack.

FUDGE: So I have to wait until November†2012 before I have a council person I can explain to.

GARRICK: Exactly.

CARLESS: Instead of explain and nothing happening, now you just woven be able to --

GARRICK: Right. It thought goes to the dead letter box for a year.

FUDGE: Let me ask you about the district I used to live in, because it's all about me. I used to be in the third counsel district, Todd Gloria's district, which for years has become the gay districts. And what is happening to the third district? It's losing City Heights?

GARRICK: That's right. And he'll still have that core. But what's interesting about the question you raise is, and it's hard to see right now. Perhaps my colleagues have more definite opinions on this, but how politically this will play out. In other words you mentioned that is a predominantly gay area in Hillcrest there. But if you're going to lose City Heights or part of Carl DeMaio district is affected or the district where Kevin Faulkner is, he'll be a lame duck with this comes back around, what happens to politically in these areas and what will the makeup be?

CARLESS: How does this work timing wise? Let's say I live in City Heights and this new district is built, and suddenly I -- or designed and suddenly I get a new council member that's representing me. How would it work in terms of electing that -- would it happen on an election cycle is that the idea?

GARRICK: Yes, but not in the primary cycle. California is due for primary election next June. Of where of course not only will you have the presidential candidates, mostly on the Republican side obviously, and various other offices and vacancies and issues that come up when you have that natural election, but normally you'd have a primary fight for this ninth district. And the way it's structured, as I said, that won't happen till the fall. So you'll have this gap there. I should say this is a little bit of inside baseball, if you went over to Horton Plaza today and asked the first 10 people you saw, what council district are you in, who's your council member, we might reveal that folks aren't paying a lot of attention to this.

FUDGE: They should listen to KPBS more often. Mark Sauer is senior editor of KPBS news, Will Carless is a reporter for VoiceofSanDiego.org. Joining me also is David Garrick, a reporter for the North County times. This is the Roundtable on KPBS. If you want to give us a call about redistricting, you may. The telephone number is it 1-888-895-5727. David Garrick, what's your North County point of view on redistricting in the City of San Diego.

SAUER: We're in the embryonic stages up there as far as districting. I think I'll talk about a different angle of it. Vista unified school district and Escondido school district are facing challenges based on the voting rights act. Most recent data show that Latinos outnumber whites there. And both districts are going to have to create districts where they've never had them before. They'll be embarking on a similar sort of thing. 20 or 50†years ago, but it's going to be an interesting political fight. And it comes down to that same idea you're dealing with, where an ethnic group wants one representative to get their ideas out there. But when they put their members in 1st†District, they really can't have a majority. It seems they're represented by people who are even farther away from their point of view. They have one person bringing issues up, but losing every vote 8 to 1.

CARLESS: Is there a sense of how vitriolic this issue of race is? It comes up again and again and again every time I read these stories on redistricting. It seems that this racial group or minority is pushing for this. Do you think this is really something that galvanizes minority groups or are we looking at something that is sort of inside baseball that really not that many people care about?

GARRICK: It appears it would in terms of the hearings for the San Diego City redistricting because those were the groups who were most vocal and strident in their arguments about the lack of representation. And the Asian folks wanted that district in a different area, more to the north where there are more concentrations of folks from Asian countries. So they were the most outspoken. I don't think you've got folks -- the families in from Michigan this week, forget the zoo and the beach, let's go down to the redistricting hearing. I don't think it's something on that order. But for the folks who are affected and don't feel they have that representation, you can look to the county. It's certainly been a controversy there where you've knot five white Republicans who have been entrenched for the minimum term is 16 or 17†years now. They finally got term limits there. So these folks can serve another two terms, eight more years. So they really have a strangle hold if you're a member of one of those groups out in the county areas, you're out of luck.

FUDGE: Mark, looking at the map that we've seen from the redistricting commission in San Diego, is it too early to know or too difficult to know where there have been any winners or any losers? Has the Asian community won anything? Has the Hispanic community managed to get a situation where they might have two districts where they are well represented?

GARRICK: Yeah, I think the simple ball park answer is Asians didn't win much and are frustrated again after this ten-year cycle. African Americans are pretty pleased where they sit, and maybe Latinos broke even. That's the simple answer.

FUDGE: When we talk about a possible Asian -- I guess I'm jumping to this conclusion -- when we talk about a possible Asian district, we're talking about Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, that --

GARRICK: Certainly Linda Vista, if you go -- if you go out into the center of Linda Vista, you may hear a dozen different dialects and that wonderful, huge Asian grocery store there on -- across from the bay side community center in Linda Vista and you walk in and see all sorts of exotic things, live eels, and fish you're not gonna see in Vons. So that community feels under represented with the Vietnamese and the Hmong communities, and etc. And north to Clairemont in some of the other areas there. They did lose out in this, and they were vocal about it.

FUDGE: We have to take a break, but when is this issue resolved?

SAUER: In July†26th to early August, I believe August third, 5 more hearings are set, a couple of them are going to be broad cast in Spanish and so there are several more cracks at the plate here for folks who want to make their wishes known. And then if it stands, this map that's out, and it is on KPBS.org right now --

FUDGE: What do you think the odds are they'll stand?

GARRICK: It electrics like the long hearing process is over with, and they're going to go through this last series, but what you see is presently what you get.

FUDGE: And with that, we're going to take a break. We'll be back in a minute. We're going to know this conversation for just a couple of minutes. Then after that is correct we're going to talk about the controversy involving the Escondido City Council and their moments of reflection. So keep reflecting on this show and stay with us. I'm Tom Fudge.

I'm Tom Fudge, you're listening to midday on KPBS. I'm joined at the Roundtable by Will Carless, reporter for VoiceofSanDiego.org, Mark Sauer, senior editor of KPBS news, and David Garrick, reporter for the North County times. Marx, before we leave the subject of the San Diego City Council and redistricting, we've gotten some news about a council member, some fairly sad news, in fact. Marty Emerald who represents the seventh district. What's going on?

GARRICK: He's in a short sale situation. This was reported here in the last 24†hours. And her home there in Tierra Santa, her husband has died, she's had a tough year. And with so many folks across our region and across the country in these tough economic timeless times, she's under water in her house, and has to be moving in a short sale and will be moving her residence. Of the interest question from a political and districting standpoint is will she move elsewhere in her current district or as her district will appear after this map is set or maybe move into the ninth district and run again there? Then and there I wonder if there's a question for the city attorney, if she were to win in the ninth district, already having served a term, would she be able to run for two terms and not be termed out?

FUDGE: I mentioned this was a sad story.

CARLESS: Every cloud has a silver like.

FUDGE: It sounds like she was the main care giver for her husband who had Alzheimer's disease at the same time she was trying to represent the people of the seventh district. And now this. Well, I guess it shows it can -- the foreclosure mess we're in can happen to anyone.

GARRICK: And it does bring up the point that council members make $75,000 a year, when you're talking about a $3†billion budget, lord knows how many city streets and sewer and the responsibility there, you're talking about a board -- the mayor makes $100,000. For an enterprise this big, you expect member boards would be higher compensated.

CARLESS: They take a lot of stick from people like me and you. And let's be honest. They work pretty hard. If you're on the City Council, you have to sit through hours and hours of really, rather dull meetings.

GARRICK: And their staff members make considerably more. Several members of the mayor's staff who make more than a hundred thousand. But they're frozen. It's a political thing. Nobody's gonna touch it to raise that salary.

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