The proposed map that was reconsidered by the Carpinteria city council on March 14. | Credit: Courtesy City of Carpinteria

After initially selecting a final draft for a new city election redistricting map, Carpinteria City Council took back its decision and brought forward another option that would straighten out a few boundary lines that one councilmember said “looked like gerrymandering.”

The council originally selected a map, tentatively called “A2,” during its February 28 meeting, though there was pushback from the public and some on the council over the lines that divided the three districts north of the 101 freeway — specifically, a few census blocks that extended out from one district to another. Vice Mayor Al Clark had voted against the map in the February meeting, along with councilmember Natalia Alarcon, and the two requested that the decision be placed back on the agenda for reconsideration. 

Carpinteria residents have since raised issues with the boundaries as well, some implying that the map was favored by certain councilmembers because it kept them from potentially having to run against each other in the future. 

Councilmember Roy Lee, who resides along the boundaries in question, said he felt personally attacked by Clark bringing the decision back for reconsideration.

“I just feel like I’m being targeted by Al for whatever reason to modify or amend the map,” Lee said. “I’m hurt and disappointed by all the accusations by people that I look up to and respect, so it’s been tough. With that said, we all agreed on a boundary, and that is the freeway.”

Lee contended that the other options at the time did not meet the criteria, and he would not be changing his vote. “There’s no perfect map, there will never be,” Lee said. “I do feel like people were attacking us, and it’s hard to see everybody be so mean and difficult.”

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Clark and Alarcon, who were both part of the committee that worked with the public in the drafting process, said the map should be drafted keeping “communities of interest” in the same districts. Clark said his primary criteria for the districts would be keeping at least two districts “that are majority Latino,” and Alarcon urged the council to take its time, since the city has until April 26 to submit a final draft to the county registrar.

“District elections is one of the most important decisions that we’re gonna be making,” Alarcon said, “and it’s gonna stick for the next 10 years.”

Clark addressed Lee, saying his actions weren’t personal. “Roy, I’m not targeting you,” he said. “I’m trying to get the best map for the community.”

Lee replied, “I don’t know; it doesn’t feel like that to me. But do what you gotta do.”

The council ultimately proposed to keep both the original option and a new alternative, which maintained the core guidelines of the map — with three districts above the freeway and two districts below — but removed the zigzag boundaries that community members could see as gerrymandering.

“The last thing I want is to have a divided community, so because of that, I think it’s important to show the transparency that we have, and because of that, in my opinion I would like to see this move forward to bringing in a second option,” Mayor Wade Nomura said.

The motion passed 4-1, with councilmember Lee opposed. Carpinteria City Council will meet again March 28 and has another month to choose between the two options.

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