In 14 days, 14 people will decide how many representatives Menlo Park has in Congress, a process which has some Council Members concerned.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission unfurled maps on June 10 that propose new boundaries for political districts in California, shifting the lines to account for the population growth that took place in the past 10 years.
While the lines for the State Assembly districts are drawn around Menlo Park, the proposed boundaries for the Congressional districts would split Menlo Park in two, placing half of city in the responsibility of the person who will represent most of Santa Clara County, and half with the person who represents most of San Mateo County in 2012.
The Commision has been holding public hearings to gather public perspective on the matter.
Council Member Peter Ohtaki traveled to a meeting in San Francisco Tuesday night to ask the Redistricting Commission to move the boundary lines, shown in the image that accompanies this article, and keep Menlo Park represented by one individual.
Ohtaki advocated that the Commission move Redwood City northward into the San Mateo County Congressional district and move Menlo Park and East Palo Alto southward into the northern Santa Clara County Congressional district.
“The natural ties among these cities are formalized in several ways: East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton share a joint fire department, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District,” Ohtaki said.
“The ‘Tri-Cities’ of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto jointly work on common issues, such as transportation, land use, crime, and jobs, among other issues,” he added, noting that grouping these cities would preserve a community of interest.
In November of 2008, California voters authorized the formation of the Citizens Redistricting Commission, putting the responsibility of drawing the boundaries for congressional, assembly, and legislative districts into the hands of 14 individuals with differing political affiliations from all over California.
It was known as Proposition 11, or in some circles, the Voters First Act. The commissioners are tasked with “drawing fair districts that reflect the best interests of the people, not the incumbent political parties,” according to the Commission’s website, wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
With the boundaries being redrawn, the political landscape could change. The placement of the new boundaries is not satisfying to Menlo Park residents such as Kelly Fergusson.
Fergusson, Menlo Park City Council Member, is concerned that they would divide the education-related communities of interest.
“It splits at least three school districts, including the Menlo Park City School District, Sequoia Union High School District, and San Mateo County Community College District. On education-related matters, the voice of the residents and students of these communities will be significantly diluted.”
Fergusson is also upset that the draft map will split the majority of Menlo Park from the city’s most influential businesses.
“Menlo Park is known globally as the 'Venture Capital Capitol of the World,'" Fergusson said, " It is unconscionable to separate Sand Hill Road from the majority of Menlo Park with this draft Congressional District map.”
According to wedrawthelines.ca.gov, the commission will consider the following criteria when making their decision on the final boundaries:
- "Districts must be of equal population to comply with the US Constitution.
- Districts must comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minorities have an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.
- Districts must be contiguous so that all parts of the district are connected to each other.
- Districts must respect the boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities of interest, and minimize their division, to the extent possible.
- Districts should be geographically compact, that is, have a fairly regular shape.
- Where practicable each Senate District should be comprised of two complete and adjacent Assembly Districts, and Board of Equalization districts shall be composed of 10 complete and adjacent State Senate Districts.
- Districts shall not be drawn to favor or discriminate against an incumbent, candidate, or political party.”
While the hearing that was held Wednesday in Sacramento has concluded, you can find a complete schedule of the hearings here.
Additional information about participation in the boundary drawing process can be found here.
The second drafts of the maps will be published on July 14.