The Swarm

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January 19, 2011
Council will look at citizens panel on Sacramento redistricting

It's nowhere near a done deal, but City Council members agreed Tuesday night to look at the possibility of a citizens advisory committee to help it wade through the redrawing of Sacramento's council districts.

The council agreed to similar public outreach as the last redistricting in 2001, but also asked staffers to come back in two weeks with options on an advisory committee - what its role would be, who would be on it and how its members would be picked.

During the debate, Mayor Kevin Johnson endorsed an advisory committee, and several others said they were at least interested enough to see staff proposals. Under the City Charter, the council would still have the final say, but an advisory panel could put more pressure on the council to adopt districts that are fair and sensible and ensure equal representation for all residents.

Because of how they were drawn 10 years ago and uneven population growth since, the current districts don't meet any of those goals.

But other council members said they should not rely on the advisory panel to hold public hearings and come up with a recommendation. District 2 representative Sandy Sheedy argued that such a committee could decrease citizen input and confuse the public if it was given too much authority.

Angelique Ashby, the new representative in District 1, said council members, themselves, should take the time to hear from the public and come up with the best map. Because it is home to an estimated 101,000 people -- nearly twice as many as four other districts - her district is likely to be significantly changed.

Besides the balancing act between council authority and public input, the redistricting process will also center on the balancing act between approving districts that are nearly equal in population - and also accounting for future growth that could skew the population balance.

Deputy City Attorney Matt Ruyak told the council it can factor in planned growth, but has to be able to justify it with real plans and estimates. If the council goes that direction, it might try to account for continued growth in Natomas, as well as new development in the downtown railyard and Delta Shores. Otherwise, the council could only redraw the maps again before 2021 if there is a major annexation.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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