For the past few months, students of UC San Diego have made a historic push to move council districts in the City of San Diego's 2020-21 redistricting process. They have shared their perspective, in actions ranging from digital submissions of maps to vocal public comments in hour-long meetings.
Throughout the process as a student and leader myself, I've witnessed and experienced firsthand the disregard, apathy, and sometimes malice directed toward my peers for sharing their perspectives. For some, it emboldens them to speak up louder. But for others, it disincentivizes them from participating in the first place.
Many groups of diverse individuals share this experience in the city. Often, the voices of wealthy, single-family homeowners prevail in systems designed to cater to their participation; not to mention the fact that many youths are BIPOC and from underrepresented communities.
This is the status quo in San Diego, and it requires an enormous amount of momentum to overcome. As I highlight in my opinion piece for the Voice of San Diego, this came into play in very tangible ways:
Instead of a new persons of color majority district consisting of Clairemont, Linda Vista, and Serra Mesa, the commission voted to maintain the status quo by giving the coastal region two districts. By splitting our campus, they diluted student voting power and reduced the likelihood of our needs being taken seriously. Their adopted map also lowered Asian American and Pacific Islander percentages in District 6 and Latino/a percentages in District 9, relative to the collaboration map they rejected.
We must take action to dismantle the system that prevent real, important change from occurring. Three reform ideas that we proposed included:
Detach the appointments from specific City Council seats. Many independent redistricting commissions do not tie commissioners to existing seats, including the county and state. Rather than ensuring geographic representation, this pushed commissioners to defend their personal districts as if they were elected politicians and resist any changes to the status quo.
Change the Appointing Authority. Retired judges may sound like a good idea, but a system with selection bias toward older people and attorneys has generated major negative repercussions for communities of color. We need an appointment authority that is both independent and representative of the community and its values.
Require representation on the commission. We will never achieve districts that reflect local communities unless the commissioners drawing them also reflect the community. New requirements should be added to ensure renters, students, and Black, indigenous and people of color are adequately represented on the commission itself.
As we call for reform, we ask for your support. Join our newsletter to stay in the loop and reach out if you are inspired to get involved.