The Ceres City Council held its first public hearing in the process of creating new boundaries for the four Ceres City Council district next year.
Doug Yoakam of the consulting group National Demographics Corporation (NDC) gave an overview of the guidelines the city must follow in drawing new boundaries because of the new 2020 Census population figures. Yoakam said that with Ceres’s new population figure of 49,464 means each district must be drawn so that each district is fairly equal in resident numbers, or about 12,366 in each district.
Members of the public can actually use mapping tools to come up with their own ideas for district maps, to be submitted for consideration by Jan. 22. Those ideas will be presented at the second public hearing set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5.
A third public hearing will be held at the 7 p.m. Ceres City Council meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022 where a final map is tentatively scheduled to be chosen.
The Federal Voting Rights Act requires that boundaries be drawn that will “not discriminate against any protected class of voters by splitting them up or combining them in a way that takes away their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in a district,” said Yoakam.
He also added “we cannot racially gerrymander either, which means that we cannot set out to draw districts based on race.”
“So it’s a balance. We have to respect communities but we also have to not specifically favor a racial group when we draw a district.”
The California Fair Maps Act requires that each district has to be contiguous, respect neighborhoods and communities of interest and should follow easily identifiable boundaries, such as major streets, creeks, rivers, freeways and railroad track.
The state act also governs that districts must be compact and cannot discriminate or favor any specific political party.
Making things even trickier is that lines cannot be drawn that would kick an existing representative out of his or her own district.
“You can start from your current districts as your basis and can also draw a map completely and not worry about the current lines,” said Yoakam.
The public can also weigh in by offering views about neighborhoods have common interests, whether it be geographical or share a social or economic interest to be included in one district “to advocate for that particular interest or policy.
“It could be traffic, it could be law enforcement, it could be public transit routes through the city – whatever a group of people are concerned about.”
Yoakam detailed that a “community of interest” cannot be based on a political party, an incumbent or any political candidate.
The public can submit input for maps be hand-drawing them.
“Believe it or not we have received drawings for districts on paper napkins before,” said Yoakam.
Users of Excel spreadsheets may use that process.
Daniel Padilla, former city engineer, said he wants he “would like to see moving forward that we contain one district completely on the west side of State Route 99,” which he said is the most obvious boundary.
He also wanted to know from Yoakam if the council should wait for a council appointment until redistricting. He said no because this is for the 2022 election.
John Osgood said he wants to see the Ceres Municipal Code changed to create up to seven council districts so districts would be about 7,000 residents so that “councilmembers could represent people in a much better matter.”
Only Modesto, which is the most populous city in Stanislaus County at 216,616, has a seven-member could. The second largest city, Turlock at 72,904 residents, has five councilmembers.
To learn more about how you can get involved, visit https://ci.ceres.ca.us/637/Redistricting-2021