By Matt Corrales
In the current edition of another community publication, a column ran attacking the LGBT Redistricting Task Force as a “mostly all white so-called LGBT Redistricting Committee … working on a new 3rd District that would be about 70 percent all white and would kick out our first gay person of color elected to the city council”.
This analysis of the Task Force and the proposed District 3 map it produced is plain wrong in a number of ways.
First, they overlooked the governing laws and guidelines that the City’s Redistricting Commission must follow when producing the City’s new Council Districts. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that if identifiable concentrations of a specific list of community groups (the LGBT community is not included in the Act) can be identified, Districts must be drawn that maximize those communities likelihood of electing representatives in comparison to their percentage in the overall population.
The 2010 US Census showed that approximately 1/3 of San Diego’s population is Latino. The Voting Rights Act therefore requires that if requested, a second Latino empowerment District HAS to be created. Latino Community leaders have requested a second District and using Census information, the largest concentration of Latinos outside of the current empowerment District is City Heights. Without City Heights, a second Latino empowerment District is not possible. Therefore, though we would have loved to see the 3rd District remain largely like that designed by SDDC member Charles McKain 20 years ago, it just isn’t possible.
Another guiding regulation the City must follow is the principle of contiguity, i.e. the District must, where ever possible, follow current community boundaries and be compact. The City cannot create Districts with pockets (like Azalea Park) that cannot be reached without leaving the rest of the District.
The final governing rule is that the City cannot consider current or potential Councilmember’s interests in creating a District. In other words, they cannot take into account the fact that our exceptional current 3rd District Council member does not live in the new (proposed) 3rd District. While we understand that Todd Gloria, who we are proud to count as a member of SDDC, might want to continue to represent both City Heights and the LGBT community where it is concentrated, given the realities of the Voting Rights Act, that is not possible.
Todd will continue to represent the current 3rd District through the end of his current term. At that point, given his well-justified popularity, he can choose to move to the new 3rd District and run for re-election or run for election in the new District based on his residency in City Heights. Since City Heights will represent nearly 40% of the population of the new District, Todd has an excellent chance at election in either District. More importantly, either District should be proud to have such an able and effective representative.
The San Diego Democratic Club is extremely proud to have led the fight to bring District elections to San Diego and the effort to define and create the LGBT 3rd District 20 years ago. We are also proud of the SDDC members who have represented the District over the years – State Senator Christine Kehoe, Assemblymember Toni Atkins and Councilmember Todd Gloria – as well as the SDDC members who have worked on the current Task Force or testified before the Redistricting Commission – Larry Baza, Doug Case, Jeri Dilno, Mel Merrill, Jacqueline Palmer, Craig Roberts, Pat Washington, and many others. Had your columnist stayed at last Monday’s meeting in City Heights he would have seen the testimony of Larry and I, both proud Gay and Latino men, as well as the moving testimony from Pat Washington, a proud African-American Lesbian. The three of us were not the only people of color included in what was referred to as the “mostly all white” Task Force.
Lastly, the charge that the Task Force was motivated to create a District that was more white or more affluent is not only erroneous, it’s offensive. Because the last Census did not identify LGBT people in its count, the Task Force was forced to use alternative means to determine the boundaries of the 3rd District. Among the mapping methods used were; areas with high voting percentages against Prop 8, areas with high registrations of Domestic Partnerships and, areas containing high numbers of HRC members. All metrics used pointed to the same communities – and those communities were included in the proposed District.
No other reason or agenda was involved in the selection of borders for the District. Indeed, the consultations with the African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Latino communities produced a proposed District that is not only arguably more LGBT than the current District, but one that respects the aspirations of all underrepresented communities in San Diego. Ignoring the governing law that will force it to happen anyway, keeping City Heights in District 3 would disenfranchise and further alienate the people of color the column rightly identifies as “important to our future.” Had this columnist accepted the invitation he received to take part in the work of the Task Force, he might have seen, as we have, that the support received from these communities for the Task Force’s proposed 3rd District, and the endorsement the Task Force provided for their proposed Districts is a testament to cooperation and inclusion, not racism or elitism.
The San Diego Democratic Club feels an apology is due the LGBT Redistricting Task Force and its leader, Linda Perine. The Task Force spent long hours crunching the numbers and doing the community ground work that led to a proposed District map that maximizes our influence in the 3rd District and with our allies in other Districts. While it may not have provided the desired outcome to our current representative, the Task Force also gave Todd some pretty nice alternatives. To subject them instead to brickbats from people who have not proposed a viable alternative is a disservice to the Task Force and the community.
Matt Corrales is the Vice President and Board Member of the San Diego Democratic Club. The San Diego Democratic Club, an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, was founded in 1975 and is the largest club chartered with the Democratic Party in San Diego County. SDDC’s mission is to secure equal human rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of the United States to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; to foster the ideals of the Democratic Party; to educate and inform the Democratic Party on LGBT issues and to contribute to the Party’s growth and influence.