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Independent Redistricting Commission NOT Advisory

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2017 13:35:24 -0800

Dear Mayor and Council,


On Wednesday, Nov 29, you will decide how Menlo Park goes about drawing
district boundaries for the Nov 2018 election. I appreciate staff’s
diligence and thoughtfulness in preparing their report on this topic early,
so the public has adequate time to consider the matter.


After carefully reading staff’s report
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/16047>, and documents from
multiple good governance organizations such as “California Local
Redistricting Commissions: Landscape, Considerations and Best Practices
<http://assets.contentful.com/mla2k9txthv8/17lt7PoqcOAM6acoGgiCy2/e716d108af55859240b07a8a373d5a7b/CA_Local_Redistricting_Commissions_-_Aug_2017.pdf>,”
I join with others who ask you to strengthen residents’ participation in
our city by establishing an *Independent *Redistricting Commission for the
purpose of drawing district boundaries.


The risk is small. Leading “good government” organizations recommend
an *Independent
*Redistricting Commission. Other cities and counties have successfully
implemented this approach. In 2008, California overall
<https://cavotes.org/sites/default/files/jobs/When%20People%20Draw%20Lines%20Info-graphic%2006102013.pdf>placed
redistricting in the hands of the people in the form of an *Independent*
Citizen’s Commission charged with the important task of drawing new
district boundaries throughout our state! The results were widely approved,
<https://cavotes.org/sites/default/files/jobs/RedistrictingCommission%20Report6122013.pdf>
and the approach now considered a model for others.


Your decision for an Independent Redistricting Commission would start the
needed process of strengthening the public’s participation in our local
governance. Unfortunately, the “balance of power” has shifted too far
towards the City Manager and his staff. In our form of government, Council
sets policy directions that the City manager (via his staff) is supposed to
implement. However, not all Council directives are implemented. Some may be
implemented so slowly it amounts to obstructionism. At public meetings,
public input and requests for information have been taken and later
ignored. What’s going on in our city has led to the threatened lawsuit
because requested (and common-sense) improvements shouldn’t take years to
achieve. While many staff members are responsive and hard-working public
servants, some seem to have forgotten that they are here to serve the
residents of Menlo Park.


Our current situation stems from inadequate staff accountability, oversight
and transparency, and the lack of an overall strategic plan. Council cannot
possibly oversee all this and fix all this. That’s why we need increased
public participation in our local governance. Increased public involvement
would lead to better decisions and better outcomes.


An advisory redistricting commission would perpetuate our current problem.
This approach includes *less* public input and a *less* selective
commissioner selection process. You might also have difficulty recruiting
for an advisory only commission, due to resident concerns that their time
and effort would be wasted as Council is free to ignore their
recommendations. This approach would only further the metaphorical needle
moving in the wrong direction.


Our existing Advisory Commissions illustrate the pitfalls inherent in an
advisory only approach. Only the Planning Commission has any real
authority. For the rest, staff and council are free to ignore their
recommendations. Worse, some Commissions are advisory in name only.
Commissioners may not be consulted on key decisions. Relevant information
may not be supplied. Misinformation may be given. At least some are too
staff directed. The public comes and speaks out, but little or nothing
happens because the Advisory only commissions have no power. The advisory
only commissions help marginalize the public and they inadequately improve
our community. Longer-term, the role of MP’s advisory only Commissions
needs examining and strengthening, and clear and specific expectations need
to be developed for staff liaisons to them.

Please elevate the role of the public in Menlo Park by establishing an
Independent Redistricting Commission.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Mon Nov 27 2017 - 13:39:50 PST

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