After using nearly $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to have a consultant draw new electoral maps, the Fresno City Council went with its own map on Thursday.
It’s a status-quo map that largely left many council districts intact — after eight public hearings and workshops, hundreds of comments and untold hours of work.
The council’s decision upset many, including members of the city’s Sikh community.
City Council Members Drew Final Map
The public submitted 12 maps, with the city’s mapping consultant National Demographics Corporation providing three more. The final 6-0 vote was for a map created by members of the city council redistricting subcommittee — Miguel Arias, Nelson Esparza and Tyler Maxwell.
“This map recognizes historic neighborhoods, unites Highway City (in northwest Fresno) which was called for by our residents from Highway City for many years. It eliminates the landlocked council district in the city and keeps the population within one percent of balance of each other, all while adhering to a complex set of federal, state (laws) and the city charter,” Arias said.
Known officially as Public 111, several of the seven council districts only experienced slight alterations, if any. The major change was to District 7, which now stretches from central Fresno to the eastern edge of the city.
“Drawing these maps and finding that sweet spot can be very tough. District 7 in its current form and all its forms that it’s ever taken just because of the nature of it and the geographic location has always sort of cut into different neighborhoods,” District 7 councilman Esparza said.
A skeptical Esmeralda Soria did not record a vote despite her virtual presence — she teleconferenced from a League of Cities meeting in Monterey — during the discussion.
Sikh Community Shows Up
Deep Singh, leader of the Jakara Movement and a Central Unified school board trustee, thanked those for attending and letting their voice be heard. Local Punjabi radio encouraged attendance. Several members of the Sikh community advocated for another map created by a coalition of advocacy groups.
“Even though the decision didn’t go the way we were hoping, we were just giving everybody what we say ‘patience and resilience’ that at least we made our voice heard tonight,” Singh said. “Am I satisfied?.. obviously we were hoping for a different result. But you know, these are lines we’re going to work with for the next 10 years.”
Self-Selected Map Criticized
Several speakers expressed skepticism, saying the new boundaries were too status quo.
Tyler Mackey, with the Tower District Marketing Committee, criticized the Public 111 map for continuing to split the Tower District at Olive Avenue, and splitting it more toward the western border.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria also cast doubt on the choice.
“I do have significant concerns, especially the the the additional separation of or breaking up more of the Tower community and the Fresno High community,” Soria said.
Several other speakers agreed.
Several speakers supported map 108 and an unnumbered map supported by the Inclusive Families coalition.
“It’s really heartbreaking not to even get the just consideration it deserves,” said Pedro Navarro Cruz, who submitted a map on behalf of advocacy group Communities for a New California Education Fund.
“I seriously question if our electeds can sleep at night after putting up gimmicks pretending to be listening to us,” Navarro Cruz later wrote on Twitter.
The city’s presentation to the council including analysis of the maps and a chart of whether the maps complied with a city charter provision to keep incumbents within their current district.
Only the maps provided by the consultant and the map drawn by councilmembers kept all incumbents in their respective districts.
Legal consultant Chris Skinnell explained that Public 108 and other maps — including Public 109 submitted by GV Wire — did not meet city charter requirements because they drew out incumbents.
“Our view is that as long as it’s possible to adopt a map that complies with both (state and federal requirements), there’s there’s no justification for ignoring the charter requirement,” Skinnell told the council.
The charter says “no boundary shall be altered so as to exclude any incumbent from office prior to the expiration of that incumbent’s term.”
Redistricting experts GV Wire previously spoke with said consideration of incumbents should be of the lowest priority.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get to the ideal map,” Councilman Luis Chavez said.
A final ratifying vote is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.
Changes to the Map
The new map goes into effect Jan. 9, 2022 — 31 days after its scheduled ratification next week. Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are up for election in June 7, 2022.
In west Fresno, Shaw Avenue served as the north/south line between districts 1 and 2. Now, a triangle-shaped area bounded by Golden State Boulevard, a canal and Shaw Avenue — the Highway City neighborhood — will now be part of District 1.
Neighborhoods near Blackstone and Bullard avenues will also swap between districts 2, 6 and 4.
The Tower District will also be altered. While Olive Avenue will still be the north/south split between districts 1 and 3, a portion between Palm and Echo avenues will now switch to District 3.
District 7 will pick up Fresno City College at its western edge. The district expands eastward, taking areas of District 4 west of Chestnut all the way through the city’s eastern border at Locan Avenue. It loses Roosevelt High School (Cedar and Tulare avenues) to District 5.
District 4 retains some neighborhoods east of Clovis Avenue and north of Shields. However, the two blocks between Armstrong and Locan avenues, north of Shields, will now join District 7.