On Oct. 11, Yucaipa City Council and staff conducted the first of four study sessions regarding the consideration of city council election district boundaries based on the 2020 U.S. Census data. These sessions are proposed to help the city receive public input from the community of its interest and ideas of potential district boundaries or redistricting. Yucaipa City Council Members hold four-year terms: District 1 (David Avila) and District 2 (Greg Bogh) terms ending November 2022 and District 3 (Bobby Duncan), District 4 (Justin Beaver) and District 5 (Jon Thorp) terms ending November 2024. Every 10 years, cities with by-district election systems are required to review and, if needed, redraw district boundaries in conjunction with each census. This process called redistricting ensures all districts remain numerically and demographically balanced. At the May 24 city council meeting, it was unanimously voted by all council members to have City Manager Ray Casey execute a professional services agreement with National Demographics Corp-oration (NDC) in the amount of $26,000 which was allocated from the fiscal year 2021/2022 General Fund to study and analyze the data for the city district map. Consultant Jeff Simonetti gave the first presentation to the council via teleconference at the Oct. 11 city council meeting. Per the Elections’ Code, the Yucaipa City Council is required to adopt a new or re-adopt the existing map, if appropriate, by ordinance following a series of public hearings. These hearings are scheduled for Oct. 11, Nov. 8 for the two initial hearings and the two draft map hearings will be held Jan. 24, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2022. The map adoption will be by April 17, 2022, and will be adopted via an ordinance passed by city council. The purpose of the public hearings is to inform the public about the districting process and to provide the members of the community an opportunity to voice their opinions about which factors should be taken into consideration while creating district boundaries. The public is requested to provide input regarding communities of interest and other local factors that should be considered while drafting district maps. Per the 2020 census data the population in Yucaipa is as follows: District 1 is 11,185, District 2 is 11,299, District 3 is 11,207, District 4 is 10,352 and District 5 is 10,626 with a total population of 54,669. Simonetti said the possible neighborhoods were identified when districting was done in 2016 as Dunlap Acres, Wildwood Canyon, Central Yucaipa (includes Uptown District), Chapman Heights, North Bench and the Freeway Corridor. Simonetti said during the second hearing the city should have a better idea and everyone will have had time to go through the maps and in particular look at if there are any federal or California voting rights act issues related to the new population data from the 2020 census in the existing districts. Also if there are not any issues and the districts are population balanced, does the council and residents want to keep the districts as they currently are, which Simonetti said would be a policy choice providing there are no federal or state voting rights act issues. Councilmember David Avila asked, “Because there are no ethnic neighborhoods, and that our community is balanced or it’s relatively consistent throughout the districts, which means it is relatively consistent throughout the whole city, is exploring the option of going back to non-districts viable or is that something we cannot do by law.” “There have been many cases throughout the state that have not gone to bi-district elections, they’re opening themselves up to both legal and financial liabilities associated with that so that remains a challenge,” Simonetti said. City Attorney David Snow said, “It is something that this council could consider, going back to an at-large district, provided that this new census data actually supports that and as Mr. Simonetti mentioned, there could be risks that go along with that.” Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Duncan asked, “What is the reason we did this in the first place because it really wasn’t something we wanted to do and this was something that we did trying to get out in front of possibly having litigation as in some of the other cities around us, right?” Snow answered that was exactly correct. Mayor Greg Bogh said he concurred with Avila and felt it was worth having the city attorney look into if it was a viable option to go back to a non-district election boundaries. Councilmember Justin Beaver said he was met by a gentleman before the meeting that told him he was not in Beaver’s district he felt the point was, “We all, I think out of an interest for bettering Yucaipa as a whole decided to put ourselves in the hot seats so speak, we do represent the community as a whole whether you live in Mayor Bogh’s district or Mayor Pro Tem Duncan’s District.” Beaver continued with, “Please know regardless of what happens as a result of this redistricting, I think I can speak for everybody up here that we all want to represent you rather than if you live in the south end or the north end, feel free to reach out to any of us to help us relay your sentiments. I think moving back to a city at large would be serving the public interest best.” The Nov. 8 hearing will be giving more specific direction and Yucaipa residents are encourage to share their thoughts by visiting yucaipa.org/Yucaipa-redistricting or calling 1-909-797-2483, ext. 230 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to be included in the process. Residents can also attend the Nov. 8 Yucaipa City Council meeting and fill out a speaker slip to express opinions.
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