Though there was much discussion on the data, lack of data, and the representation of the Middle Eastern Community at the El Cajon City Council meeting on Oct. 26, the council ultimately decided not to spend additional money for a full redistricting process as current 2020 Census data showed that there is not enough change in the populations in the districts to warrant the extra costs, and that its current map is sufficient to move forward with.
City Council received an update on its current redistricting process after receiving 2020 Census data in late September.
Working with National Demographic Corporation which the city retained in 2017, NDC found that the city’s current population deviation, the difference between the most populous and least populous districts, stands at 5.35%. This value is within the 10% threshold and the districts are not legally required to be redrawn to comply with the federal equal population requirement. The final redistricting district map must be approved by April 17, 2022, to comply with election laws. The current district boundary map was approved by the city council in June 2017 using 2010 Census data, supplemented by 2017 demographic estimates.
Staff recommended that the city continues with all four hearing scheduled, gathering community input to be compliant with the Fair Map Act. Hearings were held on July 14, Sept. 8, Nov. 4, with the last redistricting hearing scheduled for Jan. 22, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. at El Cajon Valley High School.
Currently, the city is accepting map submissions by email, the redistricting website, and Geographic Information System.
The question before the council was whether to purchase an additional mapping tool, Maptitude Mapping Software, which would give more analytical data for each district.
Not purchasing the additional software would potentially save the city $30,000. It would cost $10,000 for Maptitude, and another $20,000 for hiring NDC.
City Manager Graham Mitchell said if the city were to analyze the map in depth, it would need the additional software and the services from NDC.
“Staff can use the current mapping tool that we have and draw general populations, but we will not be able to slice the data, look at ethnicity, and all those things without the assistance of the demographer,” he said. “But we cannot tell you how many Democrats or Republicans are in each one, the average age of each district, all of those things that the demographer can provide.”
He said the hiring of NDC is two-point. One, to get the redistricting process to where it stands currently, and second to move forward with NCD to analyze any additional maps that come in.
Mayor Bill Wells said with very little change, he likes the current map, and saw no need to change it.
“You can see in the change in the data, things basically stand the same.”
District 3 Council member Steve Goble said he thought the city should go through the full process and give the public the extra level of detail in being transparent to the public.
“It is probably a good amount of money so that the public looks at us and knows we gave them every tool they could possibly need in the transparent process,” he said.
Metschel said she believes the public deserves complete transparency and that it should spend the extra $30,000 since it was already budgeted.
Majdal Center Chair and Programs Manager Ramah Awad said she was there representing around 300 families of Middle Eastern background and Arab speaking population living in El Cajon.
Awad requested the council to proceed with the complete redistricting process to ensure the most accurate maps are drawn that will impact the next 10 years of local politics.
“Over the past few months, we have been mapping our community to compensate for the lack of representation in the census data,” she said. “If we use the 2017 map, we are going to continue to leave out portions of our community of interest, specifically is districts 2 and 4 where the majority of our communities reside, go to work, own businesses.”
Awad said their community would be better represented by adjusting some of the boundaries of District 4 and District 2.
For District 4, Majdal proposed that it extends it to the east and to the west and pushes the lower segment to District 1, and Awad said it has worked closely with the demographer, so the map presented is in the accepted deviation range.
“We know that many of our community members live in apartment complexes in those parts of District 3 and District 1, where the lower segment of District 4 are primarily mobile homes and trailer parks. We can say with confidence that this map, which is where our community is located.”
Goble said that the “other language” portion of District 4 has “flipped,” and asked Awad if using that data would help in using it for measuring the Middle Eastern communities.
“As someone who has been working with the community, we often have to piece together different sources of data to make sense of where our community is, and language is a huge indicator,” she said. “These are very different communities with different histories, but I will say what unites this other category is socioeconomic background, a major factor in defining a community of interest.”
District 2 Council member Michelle Metschel asked how the Arabic communities were not being represented in the current map and how changing the lines would benefit those communities since they are not currently putting forth people to represent them in elections.
Awad said that they are looking at getting as many of those communities in the same district can advocate for policies that impacts its communities, political representation, and having a political voice, which she does not believe is the “sentiment” in the current map and are looking forward to the next 10 years.
Goble moved to spend the money for the public to receive the additional data on maps created. The motion failed with Wells, District 4 council member Phil Ortiz, and District 1 councilman Gary Kendrick voting no.
Wells made a motion to direct staff not spend additional money with NDC. The motion passed 4-1, with Goble voting no.
To learn more about participating in the El Cajon redistricting maps, visit www.elcajon.gov/your-governent/elected-officials/redistricting/draw-map.