Independent Districting Advisory Committee looks for input at final community meeting
Neighborhood organization wants downtown to be own district
Nonprofit says downtown should be split
Miguel Lopez, chairman of Merced’s Independent Districting Advisory Committee, right, and committee member See Lee speak with reporters Wednesday about a proposal that would split Merced into six districts. Photo by: Andrew Kuhn firstname.lastname@example.org
The window is closing to draw maps for Merced’s new city council districts and a conflict is brewing between two groups wrangling over voting boundaries for downtown residents.
Seventeen proposed maps have been submitted by Merced residents. The Merced Downtown Neighborhood Association is pushing for a map that would keep the downtown as one complete district between Bear Creek and Highway 99.
That proposal’s biggest setback is it does not use the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks to divide the city.
The Merced City Council, however, has agreed to use the railroad track to split the city in half, because it’s a boundary that has an equal population on either side. That plan was part of the settlement the city made with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that last year pushed the council to move to districts.
Merced DNA supporters, however, remain committed to avoiding the railroad tracks as a boundary.
“We feel like it keeps the neighborhood together better,” said Cindy Morse, a member of the neighborhood group.
THE MERCED DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MAP WOULD KEEP THE DOWNTOWN AS ONE COMPLETE DISTRICT BETWEEN BEAR CREEK AND HIGHWAY 99.
Morse said she believes the DNA map would still give representation to south Merced while keeping the downtown as one neighborhood.
But Adolfo Lopez, a community organizer with the nonprofit Communities for a New California, said the railroad boundary was picked for a reason. That’s why his group has thrown its support behind a different map, one which would split the downtown district drawn by DNA into three separate districts. That map is titled Palma 1.
“We’re looking out for what’s best for the community’s interest,” Lopez said.
His group’s map, Lopez said, would give better representation to the city as a whole and particularly improve south Merced’s representation.
WE’RE LOOKING OUT FOR WHAT’S BEST FOR THE COMMUNITY’S INTEREST – Adolfo Lopez, a community organizer with Communities for a New California
The Independent Districting Advisory Committee is scheduled to present two maps to the City Council in September that comply with the city’s agreement to use the railroad to split the city. But the committee is considering including a third map, the one drawn by DNA.
Community meetings have been conducted around town for several months now. Organizers said meetings have drawn about a dozen people on average, so they hope the last meeting will see a much greater turnout.
See Lee, a member of the Independent Districting Advisory Committee, said considering that the districts will change how the city operates, she had hoped more people would be involved in the process.
Merced has a history of low voter turnout, with elections commonly drawing 20 percent to 50 percent of registered voters.
Lee said it’s important for people to come out to the final meeting because the committee needs to hear the stories behind the maps and neighborhoods. The committee also needs input on where the downtown districts should lie.
“We want to address the issue before it goes to City Council,” she said.
The final community meeting of the Independent Districting Advisory Committee will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Tenaya Middle School, 760 W. Eighth St.