As expected, several dozen people showed up for Tuesday night's City Council meeting to protest a redistricting plan that would separate the small Med Center area from neighboring Oak Park.
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 Councilman Kevin 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. The areas have been in the same council district for 40 years and Med Center was considered part of North Oak Park for 100 years.
Another concern for many is that Sacramento Charter High School - a school synonymous with Oak Park - is in the disputed neighborhood and that the hospital is an economic engine for Oak Park.
Sac High's presence in this debate has attracted the close attention of Mayor Kevin Johnson. The non-profit organization he founded controls Sac High and he graduated from Sacramento High School, which once operated on the current charter school's campus.
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.