City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

August 23, 2011
Tense redistricting debate returns to City Hall tonight

Rarely has an issue with such narrow focus elicited this kind of impassioned response at City Hall.

See the redistricting maps here

But that's the case with the debate over which City Council district should represent the tiny neighborhood of Med Center - a debate that will once again find its way into the Council Chambers this evening. The council is scheduled to take up the matter at its 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 915 I St.

At issue is a proposal for new council district boundaries that must be adopted by Sept. 6. Under the plan, District 6 would take on Med Center and its 1,000 or so residents, combining it with Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and other neighborhoods on the southeast side.

Med Center has been in District 5 with neighboring Oak Park for 40 years. It was called North Oak Park until the 1980s, when real estate agents renamed the area along Stockton Boulevard to market it to workers at nearby UC Davis Medical Center.

The map proposing the change was drawn up by three council members - Steve Cohn, Sandy Sheedy and Kevin McCarty, whose district would absorb Med Center. McCarty has lobbied hard for the change.

Two maps submitted by a council-appointed redistricting committee also recommended moving the entire Med Center neighborhood into District 6, but those maps kept the area unified with Oak Park.

The city clerk's office has received more than 600 petitions opposing the proposal.

Meanwhile, neighborhood groups, the NAACP and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association are squeezing council members to reject the change. Up to 300 people are expected at tonight's council meeting.

Mayor Kevin Johnson - whose office has made keeping Med Center in its current district a top priority for the past two weeks - told reporters this morning he'd "like to think there can be some modifications tonight that would make a situation not as bad as it could be."

Sacramento Charter High School - which is operated by the non-profit formed by Johnson - is in the disputed area, making this a deeply personal issue for the mayor.

"I'm very hopeful," he said. "We will have a lot of people show up tonight, which is democracy in action."

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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.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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