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News + PoliticsWheels fall off the redistricting process

Wheels fall off the redistricting process

At 3am Sunday, bad-faith gerrymandered map approved as four task force members walk out and community responds in disgust.

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The wheels came screaming off the entire redistricting process early Sunday morning, when the Task Force that is drawing new supes districts suddenly rejected a map the community could accept in favor or a radical new version that pretty much everyone outside Room 200 City Hall and the Yimby developer world hates.

Four of the members, including Raynell Cooper, who just a day earlier had defended the Task Force to the Elections Commission, walked out in disgust before the early morning vote.

This map was created out of whole cloth after midnight and pretty much everyone hates it.

The five who were left approved a map that, for example, moves Potrero Hill into District 9, moves Portola into District 10, and moves District 4 even further south.

The impact would be stunning—this would be the worst case of gerrymandering that we’ve seen through the entire process, and the worst in the history of San Francisco, and it came about after 2am.

Even some of the supporters of the new map, including Chasel Lee, appointed by the Elections Commission, and Lily Ho, appointed by the mayor, said on the record that the public has lost faith in the process.

This is exactly what a wide range of community activists warned about: The new map is drawn not to protect vulnerable communities but to change the makeup of the Board of Supervisors, just as the real-estate/Yimby axis has urged.

The video hasn’t been posted on sfgov.org as of Sunday night, but MissionLocal has a good rundown here:

Taskforce member Raynell Cooper said that he left the meeting not because of the content of the vote, but because of the circumstances of its process.

“The decorum of that process came totally out of left field,” Cooper told Mission Local. “We have gone back and forth on votes for reasons I don’t understand,” he said.

The redistricting task force has been dogged by allegations of political influence and bias that have grown in the past week.

“There were irregularities in the voting and the motions that we were going through that made me uncomfortable,” Cooper continued. “Changes were made where the sources of those changes were unclear.”

“This isn’t the process I signed up for, and it only became clearly apparent to me tonight.”

Cooper later phoned in to public comment, saying “I had been duped this whole time.” He said that he still intended to serve on the task force as that was what he was appointed to do, but said the next few days would be “difficult.”

There was plenty of drama: Ditka Reiner, appointed by the Elections Commission, voted against moving Portola into D10 (which would have blocked moving Potrero Hill, historically association with that district, into D9). That vote was 5-4.

Then Chair Arnold Townsend called for a recess so members could move their cars ahead of 2am street cleaning. I don’t know who called or texted Reiner during that period, but when she came back, she asked to rescind the vote, and shifted to the other side.

That move clearly dilutes Black political power in a district that has always had a Black supervisor.

Again, from MissionLocal:

[Michelle] Pierce strongly criticized the map Reiner flipped her vote to approve, calling it “ethnic suicide” before walking out on the meeting. [Chema] Hernández Gil had previously called an iteration of the map they were working on a “class warfare map” and said it disregarded the voices of several marginalized groups.

Community activists who have been working on this for months agreed there was no justification at all for the new lines—except for the stated interest of the mayor’s allies to make it easier to defeat progressive supervisors.

From SF Rising:

In a shocking and sudden move, four members of the San Francisco Redistricting Task Force walked out in protest around 2 AM on Sunday April 10th, after meeting all day Saturday. The remaining five Task Force members voted to pass the draft map anyway, and have faced increasing criticism for the lack of transparency and consensus. This occurs on the heels of increased public scrutiny on the Task Force and a special hearing held on Friday by the Elections Commission, which raised concerns and questions about whether the Task Force is making fair, impartial decisions on public input. The four Task Force members who walked out were Chema Hernandez Gil, Michelle Pierce, Jeremy Lee, and Raynell Cooper. 

This latest turn of events occurred at the Saturday meeting to approve the final draft map. The four members walked out shortly after Vice Chair Reiner rescinded her previous vote that stopped Portola from being moved into District 10. In the first vote to move Portola into District 10, the motion failed 4-5 with Vice Chair Reiner as the 5th vote. However, after coming back from a short recess the Vice Chair rescinded her vote and voted to move the Portola despite overwhelming public comment asking to keep Potrero Hill whole and together with the Bayview in District 10. After members Hernandez Gil, Pierce, Jeremy Lee, and Cooper walked out of the meeting, the audience of approximately 30 people also walked out in support. Many Black community leaders spoke during public comment that adding the Portola to District 10 would dilute the Black population and harm the community. 

The conduct of the Task Force to date has raised questions about political influence and disregard for public input. The four Task Force members’ decision to leave the meeting abruptly also showed a loss of faith in the process.

The Task Force meets again Monday/11 at 5:30pm, and Wednesday/14 at 3pm. So although the lines on the map are listed as a “final draft,” they aren’t actually final.

SF Rising will hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall Monday at 4:30pm Monday.

The City Charter sets a deadline of April 15 to finalize a map. State law requires that map to be published 72 hours before the final vote.

But here’s the interesting twist: If the Task Force misses the deadline by a few days, nothing is going to happen. There are no civil or criminal penalties for failure to meet the deadline.

So it’s still possible for the Task Force to make changes. Pierce, before all of this mess started, proposed approving map 4D, which a wide range of city activists support. That lost, 5-4.

So the Task Force—again, for the first time in history—is sharply split on what has always been a consensus process.

If this map is approved, the grassroots anger at Mayor London Breed and her allies who pushed this is going to be massive. It might lead to a ballot measure to overturn the map and change the process.

It will certainly lead to a big backlash that the mayor, a year away from a re-election campaign, might want to avoid.

Or maybe not: Maybe messing with the supes districts, and running a slate of pro-development candidates, is the end game here.

I don’t think people are going to stand for it.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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