When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) held their public hearing last Monday in San Francisco to gather public testimony, more than 300 people attended. There were 90 people signed up to speak. The Commission’s an independent body authorized by a vote of the people of California to draw the state’s Congressional, Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization Districts. BAPAC (Black American Political Action Committee) is one of the most prominent organizations that have offered a set of guiding principles about a unified Richmond. They like the Richmond City Council want Richmond to stay intact. They also have received comments from many Richmond residents who want to see Richmond remain whole within Contra Costa County. BAPAC has publicly supported Richmond’s Resolution 52-11 and the Alternate Plan by Tri-cities that unites Contra Costa in one district. Those positions could have great significance for determining whether the City might be represented by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, of Oakland/Alameda County and or by Congressman George Miller who represents Richmond presently. It has been reported that many of the residents in Vallejo also want to remain under the leadership of Miller as well. Lloyd Madden, BAPAC’s President, was the 69th speaker that gave testimony before the Commission. BAPAC disagrees with the Commission’s first draft maps Madden said and BAPAC has several major reasons to oppose the 1st Draft District Map for Congressional redistricting. Madden pointed out how the proposed 1st Draft Map for Congressional redistricting would split Richmond in half between what is now Congressman John Garamendi’s 10th District and Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s 9th District. He said “The portion of Contra Costa County east and north of Richmond that is currently in the 7th District would be split north and south into two other districts, leaving the east half of Richmond sharing representation with central and eastern Contra Costa.” BAPAC put forth the rationale that “Splitting Richmond in half is contrary to Criteria 4 of the Commission’s prioritized criteria found in the California Constitution which says: Respect cities, counties, communities of interest and neighborhoods where possible without violating the requirements of the preceding criteria.” Earlier in June BAPAC published a set of principles to protect Richmond’s ability to maximize its share of Federal dollars. Madden stated “While Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland may share [some] common social and economic interests,” they are also in competition for resources with Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Alameda. He stated that Richmond’s separate congressional representation helps provide a more level playing field, “but if combined with these four cities to the south, the divided one-half of Richmond attached to the new 9th District would represent less than 8% of the District population and would be overwhelmed as well as geographically remote, joined only by a thin strip of I-80 at the Contra Costa/Alameda County line. This thread of a connection defies the spirit of the requirement that “a district should be connected at all points.” Madden’s testimony submitted to the commission members closed by saying the highest proportion of minorities in Contra Costa County are located in the Richmond area proposed in 1st Draft District Map, “removing this block from the rest of Contra Costa County would disenfranchise those remaining and would likely violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” BAPAC will be asking all of the neighborhood councils in the City of Richmond to submit comments on the second draft maps that will be released on July 14.
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