At the December 19th meeting of the Santa Ana City Council, the ad-hoc committee for Decennial Council Ward redistricting will present its proposed realignment. The Committee is comprised of members Sal Tinajero, Michele Martinez and David Benavides. All three members represent Wards that are not up for election in 2012.
Realignment consideration is required every 10 years following the decennial census. The last time realignment was considered was 2002. At that time the Council determined that there was no requirement to adjust the lines therefore no changes were made to the lines drawn in 1992.
With shifts in population from the last census, the current lines need some adjustment. As I have previously reported, the process used for redrawing the Ward lines this year is anything but transparent. The Committee has never met publicly to consider its options, discussions have only occurred between the committee members and city staff.
While the changes may meet the requirements of the law, the current plan seems to be more gerrymandering for political gain, than adjustment to ensure proportional representation by ward.
Among the most notable change is the redrawing of the 6th Ward belonging to Councilman Tinajero. In addition to diluting the proportion of Asian-American (primarily Vietnamese) residents by 36% the White population was reduced in his ward by 41%. Theses “adjustments” result in a net 11% increase in Hispanic/Latino population for Ward 6.
So where did all of the non-Hispanic/Latino households previously in Ward 6 end up? Most of those residents were moved into Ward 4 represented by Councilman Benavides. The new Hispanic/Latino voters for Ward 6 came primarily from Ward 4. From the looks of it about 48% of the current Ward 4 residents were moved to a new Ward, most of those to Ward 6. The percentage of ethnic change in composition for Ward 4 is striking. The percentage of Hispanics/Latinos dropped from 92.56% to 79.71%, while Whites increased by 280.8% and Asian households increased by 100.5%.
This is the kind of stuff that happens when elected officials get to sit down and scribble out the lines they want on the back of a napkin in secret. Sources inside City Hall tell us that Councilman Tinajero was the primary leader of the charge to play fast and loose with the lines. He wanted to increase the Hispanic/Latino makeup of his Ward, and move out two perceived opponents for the next Ward 6 election, Helen Martinez, who challenged him in 2010, and community activist Thomas Gordon. Our sources have told us that while the committee had never met, Tinajero arrived at the first meeting of the committee and staff with the boundaries already set and laid out the plan. Since there are no minutes for the committee meetings, and they were never noticed or conducted in public view, we must rely on these sources who indicated that little, if any discussion occurred.
Councilwoman Martinez apparently had only one requirement for the process according to sources, she wanted more parks in her Ward 2, and she got it with the addition of Memorial Park to her Ward. If the new lines are approved as presented, Martinez will be able to make the misleading claim that she has tripled park space in her Ward while on the Council.
We’re still crunching the numbers and will have more before the city council meeting on the 19th. But from what we’re finding so far, there’s something funky going on with this process.