The Sonoma County Oversight Board concluded its contentious redistribution process by committing to map the county’s five districts that divide northern Santa Rosa and divide Rohnert Park, while unifying the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of the southwest of Santa Rosa with most of the rest of the city. .
The 4-1 council vote on Tuesday moves the map forward for state approval and marks the end of a highly controversial local process that has seen the council diverge from its own advisory commission, drawing criticism from some panelists and creating a division among several board members.
Supervisor Chris Coursey, former mayor of Santa Rosa and holder of the 3rd arrondissement, remained the only supervisor to favor the card recommended six weeks ago by the committee over the proposal put forward by the board of directors at its meeting of November 29, to the surprise of many. observers.
Coursey echoed concerns about the limited time the public has to comment on the board’s card. He also argued that the dismantling of northern Santa Rosa diluted what the carving commission “was trying to do.”
In July, the board appointed 19 civic leaders and community members to the Redistribution Advisory Board and tasked them with gathering public input and redrawing the district boundaries to be more equitable for citizens. historically marginalized communities.
Although he voted no on the final card, Coursey said he looks forward to working with Santa Rosa City Councilor Eddie Alvarez and Vice Mayor Natalie Rogers, who represent the western neighborhoods of Santa Rosa in the new 3rd arrondissement. He expressed hope to explore Moorland’s annexation to Santa Rosa, building on the city’s incorporation of Roseland in 2017.
“When these neighborhood changes are official tomorrow, I look forward to representing the residents of southwest Santa Rosa. That includes many neighborhoods, ”Coursey said, listing a few: Courtside Village, Roseland Creek, Burbank Avenue and the neighborhoods around the old naval air base.
The map adopts one of the commission’s recommendations by adding Roseland and Moorland, the two predominantly Latin neighborhoods, to the 3rd Arrondissement, which includes downtown Santa Rosa and most of Rohnert Park.
The rest of Rohnert Park continues to be in the 2nd arrondissement represented by supervisor David Rabbitt. Its southern county district, comprising all of Cotati and Petaluma, has seen the least change in the decennial process triggered by the 2020 national census.
Another major result of the new map is the division of northern Santa Rosa into 5th, 4th and 1st boroughs – a change that some city leaders say could weaken the political power of the county’s largest city.
The task of implementing the new district boundaries will now fall to Sonoma County Voters’ Clerk-Recorder-Assessor-Registrar Deva Proto, Linda Schlitgen, deputy county councilor, told the board.
Pending state approval, the new limits will be in effect during local elections this spring, including races for 4th and 2nd District Supervisors. The incumbents, James Gore and Rabbitt, have both announced they are running for re-election.
Maintaining the Rohnert Park split, council rejected a recommendation by the advisory commission to relocate Rohnert Park as a whole to the 5th Rural District, represented by Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
The recommendation, made in early November, sparked an outcry from residents of the West County and city leaders of Rohnert Park, who said the city did not belong to the 5th Arrondissement, which includes Sevastopol, the lower Russian River and the entire Sonoma coast.
Hopkins spearheaded opposition to that card on the board, relaying concerns that she said were widely shared by her constituents.
As the board moved away from the Rohnert Park commission’s recommendation, commission members publicly expressed concern that the board was also abandoning the commission’s work on fairness and transparency.
Nine of those panelists, all women of color, criticized the board’s abrupt shift to a new map, saying it ignored the broad public process that presided over the commission’s proposal.
The five supervisors thanked the members of the commission on Tuesday.
“I really hope the CRA doesn’t feel rejected in this process because I don’t think this card would look what it looks like today if it hadn’t stepped up its efforts,” Hopkins said. , the outgoing chairman of the board of directors.
Divergent reviews from residents and local leaders contributed to the conflict between Coursey and Hopkins. Charges of gerrymandering and West County talks of a fledgling legal challenge over the redistribution led Hopkins to push for a now controversial closed-door board meeting on November 19, records obtained. by The Press Democrat.
Coursey called the legal basis for that confidential meeting “bogus” and said Hopkins had used it to launch a political attack on him, accusing him of rigging the redistribution for his gain and loss. Hopkins took issue with this characterization and said she did not commit such an attack.
Federal and state laws require municipalities to redraw district boundaries every 10 years, coinciding with the once-a-decade national census, to rebalance populations.
The changes can strengthen or weaken the political influence of neighborhoods and interest groups and empower or weaken the communities that make up the county’s population of 500,000.
Supervisor Susan Gorin, along with Rabbitt, Gore and Hopkins echoed comments expressed early in the redistribution process that a perfect card would not be possible, but that the approved card, as Gore said, “has a lot. meaning “.
“It makes as much sense as a map can,” Rabbitt said. “The boundaries of the map are always going to divide and have to happen in a logical place, especially in the urban environment and it’s never easy to do.”
You can reach editor Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or [email protected] On Twitter @MurphReports.