Why showing up for the Oakland’s final Redistricting Commission meeting is important

Two map proposals by Oakland Redistricting Commission with City Council and School board boundaries
Two map proposals by Oakland Redistricting Commission with City Council and School board boundaries.

For the past several months, the city of Oakland has redrawn the seven district boundaries for the City Council and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD).  

Redistricting occurs every decade, but this is the first time an independent committee of citizens, not elected officials, has drawn the lines. In 2014, Oakland voters approved a ballot measure creating a 15-person voluntary community-led and non-political Redistricting Commission

The commission began meeting monthly in October 2020. The last three sessions have focused on adjusting density based on the community needs. Live map adjustments were made during previous meetings. There are no more deviations or edits to the process; however, the public will get to decide which of the last two map proposals (K3 and F3) are the most beneficial to the community.

Two map proposals by Oakland Redistricting Commission with City Council and School board boundaries
Two map proposals by Oakland Redistricting Commission with City Council and School board boundaries.

What’s In it For Me? 

“It allows us to look at how our city is shaped by our districts and tries to help equitably distribute electoral power in Oakland,” said Liz Suk, executive director of Oakland Rising.  

Redistricting means changing the boundaries where City Council and OUSD represent the citizens of Oakland. As the public discourse on historical redlining and impacts of gerrymandering have increased, the discussion of redistricting becomes increasingly vital. Participating in viewing the maps and public comment gives residents the opportunity to weigh in on those lines that have separated historically disenfranchised and underfunded communities. 

The conversation has already begun but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to join. The commission will vote to adopt a final map at its December 30 meeting. 

It allows us to look at how our city is shaped by our districts and tries to help equitably distribute electoral power in Oakland.

Liz Suk, Oakland Rising

Where have these people been? I haven’t seen them.

During the December 13 redistricting meeting, the committee members acknowledged this effort has reached an increased number of citizens in previous years with more community engagements. 

Since September 2021, the commission has provided education and community engagements at First Friday, Akoma Market, Eastside Arts Alliance’s Art and Heal event. Oakland Rising also hosted online lunchtime Monday Meals on Instagram answering questions about the redistricting efforts. The commission co-hosted a redistricting workshop in partnership with the Allen Temple Baptist Church and the NAACP. 

What’s the Point in Participating Now? 

Public feedback has been important in finalizing and voting on the remaining two maps, K3 and F3, so the citizens of Oakland are not surprised by the changes that will happen in their communities. The next opportunity for engaging with the redistricting process won’t come around for another 10 years. 

How is my community impacted by the changes being made by the redistricting efforts? 

  • Voter participation and representation: Candidates will enact policies based on the districts they serve, but with policies that may impact all of Oakland. A candidate living within close proximity of your district may make decisions in the interests more aligned with where you live or where you send your children to go to school. This also includes making community engagement efforts such as town hall meetings and district meetings accessible. “It isn’t just about identity politics or being able to identify with somebody who is in office,” Suk notes. “It really is about someone who will see your best interest at heart.”
  • Infrastructure: Driving down any number of Oakland streets after a heavy rain means more potholes. Councilmembers will determine how the community resources are allocated when getting those repairs done.
  • Neighborhood demographics and population density or plurality: Changing lines also means that racial data mapping changes how the districts are demographically represented. Black, Asian or Latinx citizens’ demographics can change upwards or downward based on redistricting lines. “If we don’t see the actual population density and needs in one community, when they build out their federal budget to allocate, if we don’t have an accurate count, we’ll be given less money,” Suk said. “It’s directly in relation to who is living where and how many people live there.”
  • Geographical compactness: Some areas, like Lake Merritt, are split into two separate districts and may have separate council representation. Moving lines means changing lines on the edges of parks, hospitals, schools, and community centers, which could mean being in a different district and represented by a different councilmember.

Where are we now? 

The redistricting committee is finalizing the district maps. Public input has already occurred for many of these maps. During the previous meeting, public comment concerns have been raised on issues such as impacts to housing and Latinx communities in the Fruitvale, how district lines may shift demographics of communities along the freeways such as 580, the San Pablo corridor, and near Jack London Square. 

What do I need to do?

There will be one final public comment period before the final map is chosen on December 30th

  • Attend the virtual meeting and participate. These meetings can at times often be confusing or frustrating for those of us who have never participated in them. Each meeting has been a learning experience for not just the community but also for the commission, as well. 
  • Look at the remaining two draft maps proposals that are under review before the meeting. Every map has been reviewed by the commission and discussed in the public comment portion of the meetings.   If you’re not sure what has happened, all the Oakland Redistricting meetings have been recorded and can be watched on the City of Oakland’s website.
  • Meet the commission where they are and help decide. There has already been a lot of progress and the commission plans to complete its review efforts by the end of 2021.  
  • Voice your concerns during public comment. You only get two minutes to make a statement. Remember to write your comments down so that you can make your point clearly heard. 
  • If you can’t attend send an email prior to December 30th calvin@oaklandca.gov or complete www.surveymonkey.com/r/oaklandredistricting

For your community, on December 30 at 5pm, let them know what supports your community and how you can benefit from a particular map. 

Author Profile

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from the Maynard Institute for Journalism, a correspondent for Oakland Voices, a blogger and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @msbrandycollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.

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