Controversial proposed redistricting map headed to Sonoma County BOS (and nobody’s really happy)
Sometimes you get stuck between a rock and a hard place, even when you have the best of intentions.
That’s the position the Sonoma County Advisory Redistricting Commission – known as the ARC -- will find itself on Tuesday, Nov. 2 when it presents the proposed map for establishing new supervisorial districts for Sonoma County.
The proposed map offers major changes to Districts 3 and 5, placing Roseland and Moorland into the third district and the entirety of Rohnert Park into District 5.
The decision caused concern during Tuesday’s city council meeting in Rohnert Park, as reported by the Press Democrat.
“We are more closely related to Santa Rosa than we are rural District Five,” Rohnert Park Mayor Gerard Guidice said in an interview with the Gazette. “I have wonderful relationships with both Supervisor Coursey and Lynda, but as we discussed in the city council meeting last night, we’re sending a letter to the Board of Supervisors.”
Guidice said his focus is on Rohnert Park and made no comment on the fact Rohnert Park’s potential inclusion in the Fifth District could prove a major shift in politics for what has been known as Sonoma County’s historically most progressive district.
“Rohnert Park would make up 45% up the Fifth District’s voter base,” said Eric Koenigshoefer, ARC Commissioner for the Fifth District. “That changes things.”
David McCuan, political scientist at Sonoma State University agreed.
“Voters in Sonoma County expect to be heard,” McCuan said. “We are deeply participatory. So if you’re going to grab the Friendly City and put it in with the coast, that is going to be a big deal. There are a lot of competing voter interests there.”
ARC commissioners admitted they wanted to offer something more.
“That map is the definition of a zero-sum game,” Koenigshoefer said. “You might want to put southwest Santa Rosa into District 3, but at what consequence? How do you just move 44,000 people?”
Federal laws require supervisorial districts to have equal population.
“Because of the complexity, because of everything, there won’t be a perfect map,” said Stephanie Manieri, District 5 ARC commissioner. “We were aiming for perfect, but I don’t know if we got there.”
But, Manieri said, it’s a step in the right direction.
‘A certain narrative’
Manieri has been part of a push toward equity and equality. She, along with Soccoro Shields, Ana Lugo and Ana Horta adamantly believe Moorland and Roseland are one community of interest and should be in the same district as Santa Rosa.
“We are embarking on a process for equitable representation on the Board of Supervisors,” Manieri said. “I have been vocal about a map that integrates Moorland and Roseland with Santa Rosa,” Manieri said. I know there a lot of different interests, but for my community, that would be a big win.”
The County of Sonoma has only elected one Latino supervisor; Efren Carrillo represented the Fifth District, which included Roseland and Moorland, from 2008 to 2016.
Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said she supports the move, if that’s the will of the constituents.
“I love this community so much but if they truly feel empowered by joining the third, then hell yeah,” Hopkins said. Third District Supervisor Chris Coursey declined an interview.
Manieri said the redistricting experience has been a crash course and ‘really big learning curve,’ despite her role as a current trustee on the Santa Rosa City Schools Board. The Commission learned about the “many different layers of community.”
“I always thought communities of interest were places that were special or unique. You know, places people wanted to visit,” Manieri said.
Communities of interests are one of a handful of criteria the ARC must consider when redrawing lines. They’re defined as socioeconomic geographic areas that “should be kept together,” according to National Demographic Corporation, the consulting firm hired by Sonoma County to manage the redistricting process. Additional considerations include cities and census-designated places.
“Roseland has always had this…” Manieri pauses. “Narrative. But that’s why representation was so important.”
‘An identity crisis’
Manieri, Horta, Shields and Lugo make a point: according to a 5-part study published on Oct. 11, 2021 by the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, 2020 census data indicates Sonoma County is more segregated now than it was in 2010. To put that in context, at the same time, the study also named Rohnert Park, Windsor, Petaluma and Cloverdale as some of the most integrated (inter-municipal) cities in the Bay Area.
How can both exist?
“This county has been facing an identity crisis that we’ve seen percolating under the surface when talking about cannabis and water and other policy,” McCuan said. “This redistricting is bringing it right to the surface.”
McCuan refers to the identity crisis as the rising American electorate whose needs aren’t being met.
“These young voters are diverse and have real concerns affecting their everyday lives. They aren’t wild-eyed liberals, but they want to be heard and they want solutions and that’s not happening,” McCuan said.
Yet it didn’t happen during the process either, Lugo said. Commissioners felt unheard by NDC, the consultant.
“The fact that they felt it was appropriate to split Moorland and Roseland at all,” Lugo said, “It isn’t justified. You are dividing a concentration of folks and diluting the ability of people of color to have a united say.”
But at the same time, she understands Rohnert Park’s frustration.
“Is that really our best option,” Lugo asked. “Are we pitting communities against communities?”
Amie Windsor can be reached at email@example.com.