The recent letters in the Berkeley Daily Planet by Councilmember Hawley and her Planning Commissioner David Tabb were filled with distortions regarding redistricting plan adopted by the City Council majority. The right wing opponents of the plan seem to think that the more they distribute disinformation about the plan, the more people will begin to believe these untruths. They’re attacking the process (which they have misconstrued) because they wanted a different outcome.
The fact is, there were extensive opportunities for public input on the approved Council majority plan as well as the plan that the council minority submitted. There were two public hearings and there were three votes on the plan over a period of a month. At the end of the second public hearing on redistricting, three council members proposed a small, fully described amendment to one of the proposals for redistricting. The city staff was then directed by a majority on the council to draft this preferred plan as an ordinance for a vote the following week. Then, when all the information was available to all the members of the public and Council, this ordinance was voted on for the first time and the following week once again for the second reading. After the preferred plan was specified, the public then had an additional two weeks to give input either in writing, telephone or at the public comment section of the Council.
The truth is: there was no backroom deal!
The approved the redistricting plan sought to create a balance of student and neighborhood communities of interest in both District 7 and District 8. The real problem is that there are a greater number of the undercounts in District 8, primarily because of the census undercount in student areas. Due to the undercount, District 8 had to have an additional 2000 people added to it. The Council majority has made a commitment to recalculate the districts as soon as an updated census count has been made available.
After seeing repeated distortions and mischaracterizations of the approved redistricting plan that conservative council members were passing out at a supermarket frequented by my constituents, I began passing out fliers to members of the public to give them the other side of the arguments on the matter. Mr. Tabb, Ms. Hawley and so-called “Citizens for Fair Representation” did not want members of the public to have the other side of the story. When Mr. Tabb complained to me I told him that we all had a right to be distributing information. Later, I witnessed Ms. Hawley verbally accost volunteers who were distributing literature, telling them to go home and screaming false accusations about the adopted plan. Apparently they think that they have the right to approach members of the public with information but that those of us on the other side don’t have the same right. Talk about running roughshod over the grassroots democratic process!
Mr.Tabb’s accusations about the Afghan resolution are equally inaccurate. The item was introduced a week in advance on the council agenda and included an endorsement of the letter presented by Vice Mayor Shirek to the Congressional Black Caucus. The revised item that was distributed at the council meeting when the resolution was passed took several of the most important points from the letter (that was included in the original agenda item) and put them directly in the recommendation. The item also contained background statements from three council members; any councilmember could have submitted background statements. The letter had been available for a week and the public made written and oral comments during that period before the vote. Moreover, Mr. Tabb has never complained about the mayor’s much more frequent last-minute amendments.
The right wing of the Council has every right to referendum the adopted redistricting plan. But is democracy and civil discourse in our community really served by their continued false allegations and distortions?
Dona Spring is a Berkeley councilmember.