City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

August 16, 2011
The Battle of Med Center: Brawl over tiny enclave continues

Petitions are being signed. Politicians and their staffers are canvassing door to door. Emails accusing the other side of malfeasance are filling up inboxes.

And it's all over a small - but incredibly symbolic - neighborhood many people have never heard of.

Of all the political battles to take place within City Hall the past three years, the fight over which council district should represent the residential neighborhood of Med Center has been perhaps the most colorful. And it likely will reach the next level tonight, when dozens of people from both sides are expected to testify before the City Council.

Here's the background: a map outlining new council district boundaries that the City Council is poised to adopt would sever the Med Center neighborhood from its existing district and hand it over to Councilman Kevin McCarty's District 6. In doing so, it would separate Med Center from neighboring Oak Park and the rest of District 5, where it has stood for 40 years.

That's got Mayor Kevin Johnson riled up. His beloved Sacramento Charter High School - the school run by a non-profit he founded - is within the disputed land. And there's great symbolism in drawing Sac High away from Oak Park, the neighborhood where Johnson grew up and that is most closely identified with the school.

McCarty argues that the Med Center neighborhood is strongly connected to the adjacent UC Davis Medical Center campus. McCarty thinks the hospital - which borders his current district - should be folded into his territory, along with the Med Center neighborhood.

McCarty raised eyebrows last week when he appeared in the Med Center neighborhood knocking on doors. Opponents of his plan thought he was drumming up support; McCarty told me he was simply gauging the opinions of residents.

Then, last night, the mayor's crew started knocking on doors on McCarty's Elmhurst block, gathering signatures from those they said are opposed to the plan. R.E. Graswich, the mayor's special assistant, told me the team had "great success" gathering support.

According the mayor's office, more than 200 people have signed paper and online petitions in opposition of removing Med Center from its current district.

For his part, McCarty sent an email to Elmhurst residents asking for them to support his plan and to let that support known to the City Council. The email hinted at some unpleasantness, saying, "efforts are underway to unravel this approved redistricting map, and unfortunately, these efforts are getting nasty and malicious."

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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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