By: Jessamyn Sabbag, Deputy Director, Oakland Rising
Early in 2013 as the city started to think about how it would undergo this redistricting process, the original proposal was to hire a consultant to look at just 3 districts, and not have much of a public input process at all. Thankfully, before getting too far into the process and under public pressure, the city reconsidered and decided to add public forums to collect input, and take a look at all 7 districts.
Simultaneously, the Oakland Votes Redistricting Coalition (OVRC) formed with a mission of maximizing public input and voice into the process, and looking at other best practices around redistricting for future cycles. As we held activities and talked with community residents about redistricting, we held a line that the interests of neighborhoods and communities (especially in the flats) should come before political interests of elected officials. In the last couple of months, the members of OVRC have held a “Redistricting 101” workshop attended by 70 people, which produced 36 community-driven maps, and moved the conversation about redistricting from a personal one to a community framework.
As part of our work we also supported preliminary conversations and push polling around doing redistricting through an Independent Citizens and Residents Redistricting Commission in future cycles, starting in 2023. Our organization, Oakland Rising, ran a multifaceted campaign, including talking with 4,490 voters who support an Independent Citizens and Residents Redistricting Commission, which represented a support rate of 84%. 493 people also said that they would want to get involved to be a part of making that happen.
Overall, what we see is that we’re ok with the ultimate outcome of this years’ redistricting – Map 26 – because it incorporated a high degree of community input. But the bottom line is that OVRC collectively talked with more than 5,000 Oakland residents who believe that people, not politicians, should draw the lines. This must be the last time City Council is making decisions on the lines of their own districts.
We look forward to moving ahead through a collaborative and inclusive process to explore options around forming an Independent Citizens and Residents Redistricting Commission.