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Independent Re/districting Commission Needed

From: domainremoved <Julie>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2017 17:18:53 -0800

Dear City Council Members,

Thank you for all of the work you do for our City. I know that you each
dedicate countless hours for Menlo Park both inside and outside of Council
chambers.

In that spirit of service, I request that you recuse yourselves from
directing the process and the ultimate outcome of the re/districting
process. Creating districts will have an impact on all current council
members whether they are running for reelection in 2018 or not.

As Pam Jones and Jen Wolosin wrote in a post to the Town Square of The
Almanac (https://www.almanacnews.com/square/2017/11/27/menlo-park-fo
r-good-governance and copied below), in order for the highest ethical
standards to be applied in an open and transparent manner which allows for
the most inclusive public participation, an Independent Re/districting
Commission must be used.

Thank you for your thoughtful and considerate attention to this vital
process.

Sincerely,
Julie Shanson
Menlo Park Resident

Menlo Park for Good Governance

Original post made by Pam Jones and Jen Wolosin, Menlo Park: other, on Nov
27, 2017

Menlo Park is about to significantly change how its city council is elected
for the November 2018 elections. This change is in response to a threatened
lawsuit received by the City alleging bias in its electoral process.
Instead of electing members at-large, citywide, the City will create
districts, with voters electing a single candidate from his or her
district. For background information see recent Almanac article from
10/11/17: Web Link
<https://www.almanacnews.com/print/story/2017/10/11/menlo-park-council-may-move-to-district-elections>
.
Deciding how and where to draw the district lines must be handled with the
highest ethical standards. How the City goes about this transition will
speak volumes about the priorities and values of our community.

We believe an Independent Re/districting Commission with binding power, as
allowed for by SB 1108, rather than an advisory districting commission,
should lead this process. Why? An Independent Re/Districting Commission:
- sets the highest standard for ethics and transparency for Menlo Park and
builds public trust in the process.
- creates greater opportunity for public participation; the law requires
more public hearings for an Independent Re/Districting Commission than for
an Advisory Commission.
- reduces bias. An Independent Re/Districting Commission has the final
authority to determine the new district maps whereas recommendations from
an Advisory committee can be ignored, potentially subjecting the process to
a political bias.

In addition, an Independent Re/districting Commission is supported by many
non-partisan good governance/electoral advocacy groups including Fair Vote
California (Web Link <http://www.fairvoteca.org/>), Represent Us (Web Link
<https://represent.us/>) and Common Cause (Web Link
<http://www.commoncause.org/>).

We propose that members of this Independent Re/districting Commission be
residents who have been out of politics for a period of time, who would
also agree to waive any future involvement in politics (including serving
on any other City commission, or pursuing financial contracts with the
City) for a period of time determined by the commission. Thus, those
serving would do so because of a desire to be impartial and fair, rather
than for political or financial reasons.

We also disagree with City Staff’s conclusions in their Report (Web Link
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/16036>) for Wednesday's (11/29)
upcoming Council meeting. Staff concluded that “it does not appear that an
independent districting committee would be feasible” due to 1) the time
needed to meet the “safe harbor” statutes and 2) the difficulty of
recruiting committee members, especially those living in Belle Haven.

We reject these arguments because:
- The attorney representing the plaintiff in the potential lawsuit has said
that he will grant Menlo Park an extension if it acts in good faith.
Clearly, we can negotiate more time in return for a fairer and more
transparent process.
- Belle Haven residents actively monitor Council and Commission proceedings
and attend meetings. This topic, which addresses their needs directly, is
likely to draw much interest from the Belle Haven community, so we believe
there will be enough civic engagement to pull off an Independent
Re/districting Commission. (When needed, our city has recruited enough
commissioners. For example, when the Transportation Master Plan Oversight
and Outreach Committee was formed, also very limited in time and scope, 19
people applied for 5 seats.)
- “Where there is a will, there’s a way.” The City faced similar timing and
workload issues with regards to Mr. Arrillaga’s recent donation for the
main library, yet shuffled its resources and priorities to take advantage
of the opportunity. Establishing an Independent Re/districting Commission
represents another opportunity. This transition to “By District” elections
should be handled the right way, not the easy way.

An Independent Re/districting Commission will strengthen our local
democracy and improve local governance. Please join your fellow residents
and many advocacy groups in urging Council to adopt a resolution to
institute an Independent Re/districting Commission. The next public hearing
on this topic is Wednesday, November 29th at 7pm in City Council Chambers.
If you can not attend, please email Council at city.council_at_(domainremoved)
Received on Mon Nov 27 2017 - 17:23:20 PST

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