Swell, maps

We’re beginning to see some interesting outlines for Sacramento’s brand-new city council districts. The Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee is wrapping up its work this month—preparing its recommendations for the Sacramento City Council. The council will do the actual redrawing of the lines later this summer—as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process that affects every legislative district in the country, from U.S. Congress to local school board.

Since mid-May, the Sacramento citizen panel has been poring over three-dozen city council district maps submitted by other citizens. These folks are just like your neighbors, only much, much wonkier.

You can see all their maps on the city’s website, at www.cityofsacramento.org/redistricting. One of the main themes running through these proposals is, of course, a widespread desire to see downtown and Midtown united into one single council district (see “The district,” SN&R Frontlines, May 5). The city council brushed the idea aside in 2001, but will have to take it more seriously this time.

And while there are several plans which would unite the central city, Bites was intrigued by a plan submitted by locally famous chef Patrick Mulvaney, which would actually further divide up the city core.

Whereas the grid now touches on parts of three different council districts—Mulvaney’s approach would break it into four. Mulvaney even evoked James Madison (“ambition must be made to counteract ambition”), saying that his plan would “ensure sunshine in the public debate and enhance vigorous, open dialogue about the future of the city I love.”

Celebrity chefs quoting the Federalist No. 51 while they carve out city council districts? Bites loves Sacramento.

Another big theme Bites noticed is a push to create one or two heavily Latino districts—districts where Latinos would make up more than 30 percent of the population.

The most likely candidate seems to be District 2 north of the Sacramento River. Right now, large Latino populations in Northgate, North Sacramento and South Natomas are split apart in District 1 (represented by Angelique Ashby and dominated by North Natomas) and District 2 (Sandy Sheedy).

And while Latinos have had some successes in City Hall over the years—think Joe Serna and Deborah Ortiz—there hasn’t been a Latino on the city council dais in more than a decade.

Bites was also intrigued by the map offered by Tom Runge and other residents of Tahoe Park.

Today Tahoe Park is split in half between District 5 and District 6. This plan would put that neighborhood back together, but also draw in what Runge calls “Sacramento’s first suburbs” under the representation of one council member. That also includes Oak Park, Colonial Heights and Elmhurst, as well as some of Sacramento’s important but careworn commercial corridors, like Stockton Boulevard, Broadway and 65th Street.

Runge cites a recent report by the Urban Land Institute, “Inner-Ring Suburbs: ‘In the Sweet Spot’ for Development and Investment in the Post-Recession Economy” to help make the case. Point being that investment has been flowing to the sprawling new burbs and into sexy downtown projects—but mostly bypassing the old “streetcar suburbs.” But these are really some of the best neighborhoods for reinvestment and smart growth. And they need a lot of help.

“I think for the last couple of decades, the city has been really focused on downtown and Midtown. We’d really like to see some balance brought back to the neighborhoods,” Runge told Bites.

That’s what it’s all about, bringing some balance, spreading the power around. Soon these ideas will bump up against city council members’ own political agendas, namely staying in office. But so far, so good.