Nine named to advisory districting committee

Committee to hold first meeting tonight

The team tasked with splitting up Menlo Park into voting districts has been chosen.

With three members of Menlo Park's advisory districting committee randomly chosen earlier last week, six additional members were selected on Jan. 19; the committee's first meeting was scheduled for Jan. 22, after the Almanac went to press.

To ensure both diversity and impartiality on the committee, the first three randomly chosen members, Honor Huntington, Michael Hoff and Mark Heim, were tasked with selecting the six others. According to interim City Clerk Clay Curtin, the early committee members had an "extensive discussion" at the Jan. 19 meeting. In circumstances where multiple qualified applicants were clustered in the same geographic area, they held random drawings.

The other committee members they chose are: Carolyn Bowsher, Katie Cage, Michael Paul Cohen, Nicholas Taylor, Joan Westley and Karen Zak.

The city is on a deadline to make the change because it received a lawsuit threat in August that claims the city's at-large voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act because it makes it harder for Latino and African American voters to elect the candidates they prefer. To have districts in effect for the November 2018 election, the city has to finalize the boundary lines by early April.

There were 29 applicants originally, none of whom came from Sharon Heights. Two withdrew their applications and a third, Charles Jameson, did not meet the five-year residency requirement. He was disqualified because he had technically lived in Menlo Park proper for only four years, and had previously been a resident of unincorporated Menlo Park.

At the City Council's Jan. 16 meeting, he requested that the council grant him a waiver, explaining that he believed that the five-year residency requirement limits the numbers of renters and young people who can participate on the committee.

"I'm eager to be on the committee to represent those voices," he told the council. The request was rejected. Council members said that changing the eligibility qualifications would require the city to re-do the application process.

The City Council on Jan. 16 unanimously approved spending $45,000 more on the districting process, including $16,000 for consultant fees with the National Demographics Corporation, $15,000 for public outreach and $14,000 in legal fees.

The committee's first meeting starts tonight at 7 p.m. in the "Downtown" conference room at the Menlo Park City Hall (701 Laurel St.) in the Civic Center.

Access the meeting agenda here.

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Like this comment
Posted by ┬┐Que Guevara?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:22 pm

So the whole point of this was to make sure the predominant Hispanic/Latino population in Belle Haven wasn't discriminated against, but no one seems to be from that constituency- what am I missing?

Like this comment
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2018 at 1:17 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

The communication system in Belle Haven needs improving. There are few free newspaper racks, unlike cental/downtown MP. Starbucks has a community posting spot, but I believe it now closes at 6 pm so areas to meet in for word of mouth updates are also limited. The city could better use existing available places to post and develop new ones. Residents in that area are also more likely to be non-native speakers and potential applicants may not have felt confident enough of their English abilities to apply. ESL classes have been limited in BH too. Now that the library has hired someone to replace the retired Project Read coordinator, we should be able to look forward to improvement in ESL offerings in BH. Making applying even more challenging, residents of BH often work multiple jobs so they have less leisure time to attend meetings.

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