3 Of 5 Council Incumbents Advantaged In Redlands Ward Map

The City of Redlands, which is under the gun to forsake its at-large city council electoral system in favor of a ward system, has selected a final draft district boundary map to be used in future district-based elections which will, critics allege, confer an electoral advantage on three of the council’s incumbents.
In December 2015, the Malibu-based Shenkman Law Firm touched off a stampede among a multitude of Southern California municipalities when, citing what it labeled as racially polarized voting, it threatened those cities with lawsuits if they did not forthwith dispense with their at-large voting systems in which council candidates can live anywhere within the city limits and be eligible to run. In their place, the Shenkman firm demanded that the cities substitute wards or districts, such that there will be a more even geographic distribution of council representatives. Because of the language of the California Voter Rights Act, the aegis under which the Shenkman Law Firm was making its threats, a city cannot recover its legal fees if it prevails in such a suit but is liable for fees if it loses. With only a few exceptions, most California cities so threatened have knuckled under to the demands. In San Bernardino County, only Highland resisted, resulting in significant legal fees. Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Chino have complied and Chino Hills is in the course of doing so.
In the case of Redlands, a consultant laid out a number of districting schemes. Others were suggested by a citizens committee.
Ultimately, the council, by a vote of 4-1, has chosen what under the consultant’s nomenclature is referred to as option 2B. The 2B Map puts Councilman Eddie Tejeda in District 1, councilman Paul Barich in District 2, Councilwoman Pat Gilbreath in District 4, with mayor Paul Foster and councilman Jon Harrison in District 5. No current member of the council resides in what is to be District 3.
In a fair number of other cities that have gone to ward systems, the mayor is elected at large and council members represent a particular district. In Redlands, the mayor is chosen by the council from among the council. Thus, Redlands has five districts.
Under the lines drawn in Map 2B, District 1 borders the 210 Freeway on the east and extends south of the 10 Freeway, extending to include downtown and the neighborhoods around Citrus Valley High School.  District 2’s footprint covers the northeast part of the city, along Wabash Avenue and includes a portion below the 10 Freeway, as well as Redlands Municipal Airport.  District 3 is on the city’s northwest, including neighborhoods north and south of Brookside Avenue, abutting downtown as well as the property encircling the Donut Hole.  District 4 bestrides the 10 Freeway and includes the University of Redlands, extending a radial to touch downtown.  District 5 stretches along the city’s south side from east to west.
Harrison was the single vote against the plan. He is disadvantaged by it, since to remain in office, he will need to run against Foster, assuming Foster chooses to run again. Districts 2, 3 and 5 are to be on the ballot in November 2018 and districts 1 and 4 on the ballot in November 2020.
An ordinance establishing the map and election sequencing will take place at the March 21 city council meeting.

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