After committing a blunder that left about 4,500 Berkeley residents uncounted in the last census, the U.S. Census Bureau issued another set of numbers Friday, which city officials say adds up to more of the same thing.
The Census Bureau was unwilling to recount residents and left the city’s total population at 103,000. Rather, the bureau simply moved 411 residents – on paper – from District 7 into District 8. It also made some small adjustments to districts 1 and 6.
City officials requested the new numbers shortly after it became evident the 2000 Census left out almost 5 percent of the population, mostly students, in districts 7 and 8.
The result of the undercount was a particularly combative city redistricting process. The city is required to redraw the eight council districts every 10 years, using census numbers, so that each district contains an equal number of residents.
But the newly-formed Citizens for Fair Representation challenged a redistricting plan the council approved in November by collecting 8,000 signatures on a referendum petition. Rather than spending approximately $100,000 to put it on the March ballot, the council voted to scrap the plan.
The city collected six new redistricting proposals last Friday. The proposed plans will have to be readjusted to accommodate the new numbers prior to a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 12. The council needs to approve a new plan by March 15, in order for the new districts to be in place for the November elections.
But according to city officials, the task should be simple because the new numbers are very similar to the old ones.
“I’m very unhappy that they are incomplete,” said Mayor Shirley Dean. “But we’ll have to do the best we can with what we have because I don’t think we’ll be getting anything more from the Census Bureau.”
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who represents District 7 where most of the undercount was located, said the Census Bureau was being “undemocratic” by not providing an accurate population count.
“Meet the new numbers, the same as the old numbers,” Worthington said. “We have got to get them to do a proper recount. This is unfair to the whole city.”
Worthington said the city will pay a price because state and federal grant amounts are often based on overall population.
Councilmember Polly Armstrong, who represents District 8, was also disappointed.
“It’s discouraging that the Census Bureau is not capable or not willing to credit us with all the people that live in Berkeley,” she said.
Councilmember Dona Spring, who submitted her own redistricting proposal last Friday, said the Census Bureau doesn’t want to do a complete recount because they would have to do it in other cities where they made similar mistakes.
“It looks to me like their trying to cover their behinds.” she said. “They don’t want to address the undercount here because they would have to do the same thing in Los Angeles and other cities, counties and states. It would be like opening a can of worms.”
Contact reporter John Geluardi at firstname.lastname@example.org