Antioch Council districting workshop results in changed Quadrants map, gets heated at the end

The revised quadrants map finalized at the council workshop on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.

By Allen Payton

During the special workshop of the Antioch City Council on the maps for the district elections on Tuesday evening, April 10, they made changes to the Quadrants B map. It also got a bit contentious among the council members at the end. Fewer than 25 members of the public were in attendance.

The council considered realigning the Quadrants B map along the current congressional district boundaries. Councilman Tony Tiscareno and Mayor Sean Wright offered the most proposals for moving the lines to that map.

There was a discussion about the population growth since the 2010 Census, which the council must use for the basis of dividing the city into districts. One argument was that the population grew more on the south side of Highway 4. However, Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe disagreed.

“We can’t assume all the growth went to south and southeast Antioch,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in the difference between 102,000 and 114,000 population. Many of the homes were empty.”

Interim City Attorney Derek Cole said, “Quadrants A would address the issues of illegally diluted voting. It didn’t really respect communities of interest.”

Wright offered some changes to the quadrants map, which the consultants from Q2 made.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson said, “It seems to be the changes that were made…we’re splitting communities of interest.”

Tiscareno said “I’ve gotten many calls.”

Thorpe said, “I’ve gotten many calls over on Hillcrest and Deer Valley. People looked at me like I was crazy when I proposed the quadrants.”

Cole then suggested the council rename the revised Quadrants B map to Quadrants C.

The revised map uses major thoroughfares on the south side of Highway 4 as the dividing lines, such as Putnam Drive, Lone Tree Way and Deer Valley Road, as well as the Delta DeAnza Trail on the west side of the city.

Public Comments

Marty Fernandez was the first member of the public to speak.

“I favor that C, now in the districting,” he said. “If one council member is good for downtown, two would be better, right, Lamar? No one has mentioned how this would affect Viera Lane. How many people live out there? How much is this going to cost the city? Let’s have some transparency, here.”

Garry Holman introduced himself as “a former two-term member of the city’s Economic Development Commission.”

“The city government has promoted or professed to promote a common interest,” he said. “Avoid the creation of a wrong side and a right side of the tracks, namely Highway 4. I don’t think Antioch is big enough for district elections.”

Holman said it will create “clear balkanization.”

“I oppose Working Draft 1,” he stated. “Working Draft 1 will only codify the right side and wrong side of town.” He concluded his remarks saying he supported the quadrants map giving downtown two council members.

Former Councilman Ralph Hernandez said he opposes districting and submitted a letter about his views.

“This started out as a racial threat, based on the Latino vote of other cities,” he said. “It does not represent Antioch. I’m very angered that the Latino community is being used for a lawsuit against Antioch. “

Former Councilwoman Norma Hernandez spoke next, saying “Looking at the maps to me that’s gerrymandering. The city attorney can only advise you. The decision is your own and the consequence is your own.”

“This totally disenfranchises the voters of Antioch,” she added. “A house divided against itself you know that can’t stand.”

Jeffrey Klinger was the last to speak saying, “I haven’t heard anything that’s changed my opinion of districting. It’s difficult to feel good about it as a citizen. But you had my sympathies.

My personal preference would be Quadrants C. I have a visceral reaction to using Highway 4 as the dividing line.”

Cole said the council will bring back the final decision on May 8 and you would bring back two maps.

“What I need tonight is do you want one map or two maps? he asked. “We have to publish these maps in the paper. We’re kind of at a critical juncture, here.”

Accusations of Self-Serving Gerrymandering by Councilmembers

The council members then discussed the matter, and it got a bit heated.

Thorpe said “this is costing us something and the public should know how much. Marty, I would agree with you that North Antioch deserves two council people. When you look at B section what you see there’s a lot of people who live in that area. If you’re an incumbent in that area you won’t be going anywhere for a very long time. The voting pattern…dilutes the voting power for north Antioch. What these maps don’t do, in any of these maps, it doesn’t create a Latino majority district. We won’t be creating a majority minority district. We’re a pretty integrated community. Your comments about downtown Antioch I couldn’t disagree more. I think it’s interesting how everyone uses Highway 4, uses this as a demarcation line. The survey we took the people north of the freeway are very unsatisfied with the city of Antioch. Two-thirds of the people in southeast Antioch were satisfied. People are not happy in north Antioch. Some of that has been caused by the continued expansion in south Antioch. We didn’t look at other cities, we looked at Antioch and that’s how we learned of the racially polarized voting.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said, “I too went out and walked. I went to the C Street area…showing them the maps. Most of them didn’t know we were doing the districting. I left over there and went to Beede Park. The majority of them I got signatures wanted Quadrants B. Several of them from C Street wanted Quadrants B. We are listening to what everyone is saying. We got several emails that were boilerplate emails. They’re talking about the school districts. They’re going to have five districts. So, what the school district does has nothing to do with what the city does. I know it’s a hard thing. We talk about Rivertown. It’s not everything below Highway 4.”

Tiscareno then said, “This is a very difficult situation. I had the pleasure to meet with some of the constituents, especially those who support Working Draft 1 and heard their stories. A lot of people did get a hold of me in regards to the Quadrants map. There are three maps that we’re looking at. This was really rushed…put toward us in a manner we might be making rash decisions. I thought we were going to have an ordinance on this. Putting forth a map before we have an ordinance is an oxymoron to me. We’re back down to two. If that’s what we’re doing, then I would love to hear from the public. The ones who are adamant…I heard you. But there’s 116,000 people in the community and I want to hear from others. Working Draft 1 and Quadrants C.”

Wilson then said, “I haven’t put out my preference. I haven’t touched any of the maps. I’m uncomfortable with C because I feel like a little gerrymandering was going on. I too have been out in the community. The majority is Working Draft 1. At the end of the day moving the line there’s a preference to you.”

Wright weighed in saying, “I’m still against this. But we’ve been told by our attorney that if we fought this we would probably lose. We have to be responsible with the fiscal. How do we keep Antioch the best that we can over the long-run. I’m OK with Quadrants C.”

He then defended the changes he made to the quadrants map saying, “When you gerrymander you draw crazy lines to make sure you have the people in your district. When drawing the lines, I went down the major thoroughfares. I didn’t look at which family is where. I’m in favor of Quadrants C going forward and Working Draft 1.”

Thorpe said, “she’s not referring to the changes that Mayor Wright was doing. She was referring to the area over here (pointing to the change in lines between Districts A and D of the Quadrants map). This is why I hate this process. It shouldn’t be in the hands of politicians. Don’t dismiss the people who are trying to participate in the process. Whether they are signing a petition or signing someone else’s letter. I find that particularly unfortunate.”

Tiscareno was not happy saying, “when pointing toward the Gentrytown are, when looking at Working Draft 1 or Quadrants B the Gentrytown area remains intact. Quadrants B or C go against me. Working Draft 1 actually benefits me. But I’m doing this for the benefit of the community. I do take some offense that (others were saying) gerrymandering is taking place.”

Cole then said, “either Working Draft 1 or Quadrants C, legally speaking either map would be sufficient if enacted…in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. I feel I have direction from council to move forward with Working Draft 1 and Quadrants C.”

The workshop adjourned and the council went into regular session.

The council meeting for deciding on which map the council will adopt was moved to May 8 from the special meeting that was previously scheduled for Monday, April 23. According to City Manager Ron Bernal the council can’t adopt an ordinance at a special council meeting and the City Attorney got permission from the other attorney threatening the lawsuit to extend the deadline to complete the process.

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