City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

August 17, 2011
Olive branch offered in heated Sacramento redistricting debate

Councilman Kevin McCarty is offering a compromise in the squabble over who gets to represent the small neighborhood of Med Center.

McCarty told me this afternoon he's open to keeping the Sacramento Charter High School campus with the council district representing the rest of Oak Park. The rest of the surrounding Med Center neighborhood and the UC Davis Medical Center campus would still transfer to his Elmhurst/Tahoe Park district.

McCarty said the Sac High issue - which has been met with keen interest by Mayor Kevin Johnson's office - had become a distraction. He acknowledged there is "an emotional link (between the school and Oak Park) and I respect that." I have a call into the mayor's office to get their reaction.

Johnson's non-profit organization operates Sac High. He also graduated from the school before it was a charter school.

The olive branch was extended the day after dozens of people showed up for Tuesday night's City Council meeting to protest the redistricting plan.

Roughly 70 people testified before the council in what was at times a heated two-hour event. The council could not respond to the concerns, given that the matter was not on the evening's agenda and open government laws prohibit the council from discussing issues that haven't been placed on an agenda.

That didn't stop several in the audience from hollering at members of the council for an explanation.

A plan for new council district boundaries would separate Med Center from the district it shares with Oak Park and place it in the territory currently occupied by McCarty. McCarty thinks Med Center belongs in his Elmhurst/Tahoe Park district, given the strong connection his neighborhoods have with the UC Davis Medical Center.

But many in Oak Park disagree, saying their neighborhood has even stronger links to the area in question.

While some of the maps put forth by a council-appointed redistricting commission recommended the change, the plan now being debated was presented just minutes before a meeting last week. McCarty and Council members Steve Cohn and Sandy Sheedy worked on the proposal in private.

Tuesday's tense testimony started with Betty Williams, the head of the local NAACP chapter.

"You insult our intelligence by making back-room deals on customized maps to suit your self-serving purposes," she told the council. She called it a "political theft of Oak Park" and said the council "are not the only ones who can take something away," a not so veiled election day threat.

A handful of Oak Park pastors and many residents followed.

The debate will re-emerge next Tuesday, when the council is scheduled to discuss the plan.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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