Because Ceres has not grown substantially since the boundaries were drawn for the City Council districts in 2015, a consultant advised leaders on Monday that no changes need to be made. However, the City Council decided to proceed with the redistricting process to give the citizens a chance to offer ideas about drawing new districts.
Cities and counties in California are required to look into redistricting following each census.
The Ceres City Council on Monday evening held its second public hearing in the process of creating new boundaries for the four Ceres City Council districts.
Guiding the city through the process of redistricting is the consulting group National Demographics Corporation (NDC). Doug Yoakam of the firm gave a brief overview of the guidelines the city must follow in drawing new boundaries because of the new 2020 Census. Yoakam said that with Ceres’s new population of 49,464 means each district must be drawn so that each district is about 12,366 residents to be fairly equal in size. He explained that districts is deemed equal in size if they don’t vary more than 10 percent between the most populated and least populated districts. The districts as they were originally drawn vary less than 7.1 percent.
The current districts also “respect” protected classes of voters by not splitting them up or combining them in a way that takes away their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in a district, according to the Federal Voting Rights Act.
“If you want to proceed with redistricting, you can do that if you want to make changes,” concluded Yoakam. “However, if you think your districts are fine and the folks who live here in Ceres thinks they’re fine, you don’t need to do any changes to the districts.”
He noted that the Riverbank City Council experienced a similar scenario and decided not to proceed with redistricting.
Nobody at Monday’s public hearing on redistricting offered input.
Despite what Yoakam advised, the majority of the council wanted to let the redistricting process play out, giving the public a chance of make recommendations or try drawing their own districts.
Vice Mayor Bret Silveira suggested ending the process while holding the remaining two public hearings required by law.
Councilwoman Linda Ryno said she wasn’t totally happy with the way districts were drawn in 2015 and noted “I still see that we could make changes to it.” She opined that new boundaries might be considered.
“I don’t support keeping these maps,” said Ryno, who wants to offer her ideas for changes.
Councilman Mike Kline said some aspects of the districts are “a little out of skew.” He cited the example of how District 1 extends a finger to include the Mae Hensley Junior High School area.
Mayor Javier Lopez said he believes “all the underserved communities in the city of Ceres are being served by each and every councilmember.” He also noted the existence of “some weird lines.” He supported leaving the districts as they are.
When Silveira motioned to accept the current boundaries, Lopez seconded but the motion failed when Ryno, Kline and James Casey voted against it.
A second public hearing is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5.
A final and fourth public hearing will be held at the 7 p.m. Ceres City Council meeting on Monday, March 14 where a final map is tentatively scheduled to be chosen.
Yoakam said his firm offers “all sorts of wonderful tools” to the public to come up with their own ideas for district maps, to be submitted for consideration by Jan. 22.
Drawing district lines is not as simple as it might appear. Yoakam said “we cannot racially gerrymander … 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.
The public can submit input for maps be hand-drawing them. There is a link to an online map drawing website.
To learn more about how to get involved, visit https://ci.ceres.ca.us/637/Redistricting-2021