Redwood City Council meeting roundup for April 8, 2019

Latino group decries lack of representation in Redwood City district election map

in Featured/Headline

An infuriated Latino community is planning a rally Monday to protest the adoption by the Redwood City Council of a new set of seven council districts that creates only one Latino-majority district.

Latino Focus, a Redwood City-based group of Latino community and business leaders, issued a news release this morning about the planned rally. The group says it is also contemplating legal steps to block the new districts.

Group spokesman Alberto Garcia said the city would ideally have two majority-minority districts.

“There are so many issues facing the city – displacement, income inequality, educational issues and as an organization we really want to hold the council responsible to create an attitude of inclusivity,” Garcia said.

The creation of districts was prompted by the threat of a lawsuit asserting that the city’s at-large elections were systematically disenfranchising Latino voters and denying them fuller and more adequate representation on the Council.

Under the title “SOY,” which is Spanish for “I am” and also is being used as the acronym “Shame On You,” Latino leaders are calling for a protest rally outside Redwood City Hall at 6 p.m. Monday, prior to the 7 p.m. council meeting at which point the district map is scheduled for a second and final vote of approval.

By a 4-3 vote, the council gave preliminary approval to the new districts at its March 11 meeting. Voting for the new districts were Mayor Ian Bain and Council members Janet Borgens, Diane Howard and Diana Reddy. Voting no were Alicia Aguirre, Giselle Hale and Shelly Masur.

The decision since has been embroiled in controversy and accusations the Council could have created at least one more Latino-majority district and that they were too focused on making sure that the current Council members would not have to face off against one another in the same district.

Latino Focus claims council “ignored our repeated pleas to create two majority-Latino districts” and “eliminated two coalition districts,” which would have had a majority of non-white residents.

“Their whole attitude was very reactive and defensive as opposed to being more open and receptive to becoming more inclusive,” Garcia said. “Creating more inclusivity and diversity is a win-win for all of us.”

There also have been complaints that the Council failed to create a single district out of the Redwood Shores neighborhood, which lies north and east of the city, is physically disconnected from the rest of the city, is actually closer to Belmont and has a high percentage of Asian-American residents.

Comment is being sought from council. Check back for updates.

This is the second recent issue where Latino population has felt shafted by local leaders. Parents say the Redwood City School District’s reorganization plan to solve its budget deficit has fallen heaviest on the Latino community. A parent-driven campaign has included 130 letters signed and mailed to local legislators.

13 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article!

    Do RWC Council actions embrace diversity?

    They voted to remove two majority-minority districts from Redwood City. Map 21 had three majority-minority districts, and Map 17, narrowly approved on a 4-3 vote, has one.

    They blocked the Asian American community to elect a member by districting-in an incumbent councilmember from a different community, against the desires of Redwood Shores.

    They diluted the Asian American share of the vote by annexing Bair Island; reducing the Asian American citizen voting age population by 1% under the 2010 census. Since 2010, Bair Island has grown, so we can safely assume the dilution effect increases.

    They also diluted the Latino vote, reducing the Latino citizen voting age population by 3% in district 4. While the Council created one majority-Latino district, they could have created two.

    If this weren’t enough evidence of their lack of commitment to fostering RWC diversity; check-this: appointed two white men to the Planning Commission from a diverse applicant pool.

    Caucasians make up a minority of RWC, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their Planning Commission or City Council.

    Again, RWC missed an opportunity to embrace the spirit of the Voting Rights Act: diverse communities deserve a say in shaping policies which govern their lives.

    Our communities want action, not lip service. Our communities want to be represented, not patronized. If the Council does not care about diversity, they should be honest, so voters can determine whether they share those values, or the lack thereof.

    • @Mary Please spare us the outrage. The primary difference you keep touting between the two final maps is a 1% Asian vote in Redwood Shores. With map 13, the Asian vote was 38% out of Redwood Shores and with map 21, it was 39%. Ohhhh…the horror. I could see why you’re so upset. How will voters in the Shores ever get fair representation when they are so marginalized especially given that you have had three Councilmembers from the Shores in the last 5 years? How will your voices ever be heard?

      Also, nobody “…blocked the Asian-America community to elect a member…”. This minority group that you curiously appear to represent gets an election in 2020 in both maps. If you don’t like the incumbent assigned to your district, vote ’em out. It’s that simple!

      • @Kris, I am not alone in my opinion and don’t appreciate being bullied. I am outraged you support the gerrymandering map which was moved forward. We deserve representative districts that are mapped to keep neighborhoods and communities of interest intact. I suppose what you haven’t factored into your condescending comments are that part of the Voting Rights Act is about dilution. The Asian American share of the population is reduced from 39% in Map 21D to 38% in Map 13F. Conversely, the White share of the citizen voting age population is increased from 56% in Map13F to 57% in Map 21D. Given significant growth due to development in the Bair Island neighborhood not accounted for in the 2010 census, we can assume that the dilution effect is even greater.

        • @Mary, either way, the Shores gets a 2020 election in a District that will be comprised of anywhere from 95-100% of Shores residents. Isn’t that indeed keeping a community voting block intact? I still don’t get why you feel the Shores residents are somehow being marginalized.

    • I forgot to mention:

      With Map 21c, District 1 is comprised of 100% Shores residents
      With Map 13f, District 1 is comprised of ~95% Shores residents

      Explain to me again how Shores residents were so aggrieved by the selection of Map13f?

  2. Good ole Climate…fails to cover the story until there is outrage and then is more than happy to jump into the fray and fan the fires. This vote happened 10 days ago and now you couldn’t wait for a quote from our City before publishing this incendiary article? oh, okay

  3. I have lived in Redwood Shores for almost 40 years and love my community very much. If ever there was a neighborhood which should have separate representation, the Shores is it. However, the Shores has had representation on the Redwood City Council and on Redwood City boards and commissions. Districts were never needed for that purpose in the past, but if the council has decided to go forward with districts city-wide then it will be a travesty if Redwood Shores is not a district by itself. In fact, if the council’s failure to make Redwood Shores a separate district is the cause of minority imbalance elsewhere, then the clear remedy is to make Redwood Shores a separate district.

    • Thank you Jack for your comments. Also thank you for being the first elected Redwood City Council Member in the mid-1970’s to represent Redwood Shores. We then went onto have Colleen Jordan, Rosanne Foust and Jeff Gee.

      • Actually, Mary, Bob Norris was the first person elected to the City Council from Redwood Shores, and he was very generous in his assistance to others who tried to do the same, as was Brent Britschgi who was not from the Shores.

      • Bob Norris, with Ken Rowe, actually “wrote the book” on how to get elected, which he called “How To Take Over Your Local Government”, a 95-page primer that featured such helpful chapters as “Blowing your horn, carefully” and “The candidate as a human being” (difficult subject, that one). It is a fun read, but not really specific to Redwood City politics.

        • How could I have forgotten about Bob Norris! Where is the book “How To Take Over Your Local Government” available? May have to borrow your copy Jack!

  4. I’ve lived in Redwood City for 66 years growing up in the Friendly Acres neighborhood which was almost as isolated from downtown Redwood City as Redwood Shores is today. Broadway stopped at Chestnut Street and the Sweeney Ranch sat squarely between 1st Avenue and Chestnut. As a neighborhood we felt isolated and in fact in the wintertime when it flooded, we were physically isolated from the greater Redwood City. I certainly agree with Mary and John, Redwood Shores should be one district. The root of the problem however is the requirement by the City Council that no district should have two or more sitting Council members in it. That led to the gerrymandering of the districts and the turmoil that has follow. All of it could have been avoided if that requirement had not been placed on the process. However, I find the 4-3 vote has more to it than either Redwood Shores or the Latino community concerns which are legitimate. My political antenna feels It has all to do with development.

    • Hi Dick! Glad to hear from you here. I have questioned council members and no one yet has brought up development. Interesting, but nonetheless I can’t figure out why this council would not keep with the spirit of the Voting Rights Act? Representation should be fair for all.

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