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City Beat

Mayor Johnson wants to revisit contentious redistricting issue

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

November 14, 2014 11:27 AM

UPDATED November 14, 2014 09:25 PM

It was a subject that to the casual observer may have seemed rather wonky: a Sacramento City Council debate over how to draw new council district boundaries. But that issue sparked a furious dispute in the summer of 2011, resulting in rallies and public testimony from hundreds of residents.

And now it’s coming back.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said at Thursday night’s City Council meeting he wants to reopen the issue of council redistricting from three years ago. Specifically, the mayor said he wants UC Davis Medical Center placed into the council district that includes Oak Park.

That slice of land was the central issue of the debate in 2011, when the council voted against the pleas of Oak Park community members and pastors and instead placed the hospital campus in the City Council district representing Elmhurst and Tahoe Park. Johnson said bringing the issue back now gives the council a chance “to right a wrong from the past.”

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“Back in 2011, the voices of the community were ignored and the UC Davis Med Center was taken from District 5,” the mayor said in an emailed statement Friday. “Putting the will of the people ahead of the interests of politicians is a critical step towards giving Sacramento the good governance it deserves.”

The council will first have to vote on Tuesday to bypass the city’s Law and Legislation committee and have an amended redistricting ordinance voted on by the full City Council. If that vote passes, the council could vote on the new district line as early as Nov. 25, but likely not until at least Dec. 2.

Councilman Kevin McCarty, whose district includes UC Davis Med Center, said residents of his area have not called for the change to be made. McCarty won a seat in the state Assembly this month, and his last City Council meeting is Nov. 25.

“I think it’s unfortunate, especially coming after Measure L,” McCarty said, referring to the failed strong-mayor ballot measure pushed by Johnson. “I was hoping that the mayor would focus on going forward, not backwards.”

Councilman Steve Hansen agreed.

“What happened in 2011 over this issue was not fair, but I don’t think reopening it in this way is fair either,” he said.

Although Johnson’s strong-mayor plan was defeated, he has a coalition on the City Council that appears open to supporting him on controversial matters. Councilman-elect Rick Jennings, a close ally of the mayor’s, takes office Nov. 25, and Johnson will likely have the votes he needs to push the redistricting proposal forward.

Councilman Jay Schenirer represents Oak Park and joined Johnson and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby in 2011 in pushing for the medical center to be included in his district. Both Schenirer and Ashby said Friday they would also support Johnson’s request this time around.

“I think (2011) was a point in time that the council did not listen to the voices of the neighborhood, and I’m happy the council will be able to take a look at it again,” Schenirer said.

Ashby called the 2011 vote “such an obvious wrong.”

“It’s something for me that when you have an opportunity to fix something that was broken, you should do it,” she said. “There was so much civic pride from the Oak Park community that was tarnished during that process that we owe it to them to go back and make the right decision.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.