Redistricting: Keeping Concord Whole (some?)

concord california, concord ca, redistricting plans, california, contra costa redistrictingWithin the struggle of terms and jargon in California Redistricting there is the often-overlooked technique of repetitive spin mantra (RSM), which is employed to deflect the observer from that most holy of all standards: common sense. RSM is clearly seen in the case of my city, Concord, where there has been an arranged chorus that would seek to divide Concord in two districts. Let us take a look here at the vile refrain: “It only makes sense to divide the largest city: Concord.”

It is proposed that County districts have a population 209,000. Were we to have a city of 245,000 it would appear to be logical that you would have to divide that city in order to make the division. However, would you scream in unison of drumbeats to divide the largest city if there were three made up of 50K, 51K and 62K?

Clearly there is a relationship between the size of a city and the district size that brings about a common sense approach. The geographic and communities of interest also would play into account, one might think. In fact, when you dig a little further into the nationwide approach to redistricting, the mention of dividing the largest city in a district *typically a congressional district*, is applied to large metropolitan cities in the size of which rival the congressional requirement, not the size of what we have here where there are three widely separate “cities” of 100k, 101K and only 122K representing substantially smaller segments.

Additionally there are several general issues against dividing Concord that remain rather unique:

1. Never in Contra Costa history has the largest municipality needed to be divided because of unusual size relative to the district limit, nor has political (un)niceties conspired against the largest city historically.

2. Concord has had an intense community of interest involving the Concord Naval Weapon Station and its development. An interest and participation that has involved the entire city and that impacts the city as a whole. Dividing the Reuse Area into a northern district with Pittsburg is to violate the community of interest there and throw the influence over the Weapon Station into a focus that is not within the city that has developed it and associated historically with it. It is after all the CONCORD Naval Weapon Station, not Pittsburg’s.

3. There is no pressing voter rights issue on racial or ethnic grounds that would justify such an extreme matter as dividing Concord.

4. There is no reasonable division of community make ups that are so stark in comparison as to divide the city either East-West or North-South to justify a County district separation.

5. There are no sub sets of county districts that even provide a glimmer of divisions: Concord is in a single school district, has its own single sanitation set up independent of the county district, is even totally contained in its basically own health district, a trifecta of community focus not found in adjacent areas.

The question has been raised as to the possibility of dividing the city by nibbling at the north end at High Way 4. The arguments against this are:

A. It is not needed. The main rational is to provide a continuous patch of land so that the ‘contiguous’ district requirement can be met by dragging District 5 from Pittsburg through Bay Point to Martinez and beyond. This can be done by simply using the Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTC) base that has no people to provide the land link. This would leave the village of Clyde (population ~750) to remain linked with Concord’s district, after all there is no way out of Clyde accept through Concord.

B. The concept that the warehouse, office space, light industrial area north of Hwy 4 in Concord should have some community of interest with Martinez and Bay Point is incorrect. While our Supreme Court has determined that virtual organizations such as Corporations have First Amendment Rights, we have not descended so low as to define something which is devoid of residents as a Community. There is no open realistic reason to strip from a city its business area. It would be as if to take the business areas along the BART tracks and create them as a community of interest with the tracks as their contiguous linkage.

C. The stated interest of the City Council of Concord by unanimous vote 5-0 was to inform the Board of Supervisors that all of Concord and that includes both the former Concord Naval Weapons Station Inland area and the Tidal area (alias now the MOTC) should remain together with Concord.

D. As one of the oldest cities in the County (over 100 years), a community that has such a history should not be so casually separated.

Many of the reasons to keep Concord whole in District 4 are also shared with other cities that are threatened with division. These need not be repeated here but no doubt are echoing in the various letters and back room chats that are piling up in the Board of Supervisor’s offices. The questions remain whether there will be a whole ‘sum’ triumph or a less than wholesome solution?

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Author: Edi Birsan

Concord Resident since 1983, raised two children here who went to the public schools. Working in the international container cargo business since 1973 with my own small business since 1986 involved in Container Technical Surveys and related services.

7 thoughts on “Redistricting: Keeping Concord Whole (some?)”

  1. I am opposed to the division of any city. The nibbling at a bunch of cities is not superior to hacking one.

    The self-selection process the is the nature of the turnout in the workshops is not a representative sample. Unless you want to make them representative of a lack of interest in the subject.

    There was no discussion at ANY of the workshops of the 18 plans that were submitted by the public. There was no polling at the workshops of principles of selection, of choice of options, of additional ideas. There were comments collected but hardly a choice of one over another and no attempt to weed out the packing of the workshops by multiple repeat parties.

    There is no doubt that change is part of life as is the final change of life however we do not need to kill ourselves to demonstrate that there is change. We need to change the concept of dividing cities for political purposes.
    We need to change the loosey goosey concepts of convenient application of community’s of interest that have no real commonality.

    For example the absurdity of community of interest that is represented in map 17D that you refer to indirectly: somehow there is a commonality of interest with the western part of Pinole with the shore line hispanic parts of Antioch -the eastern part is linked to Richmond’s district, but Blackhawk is linked with Antioch not Danville?

    And then there is the entire separation of Pittsburg and Antioch which is amusing. If we were to move ONE house from Pittsburg to Antioch there would be no discussion about having those two cities in separate districts.

  2. It is absolute nonsense to say “the people have spoken”. This is not a matter of a difference of opinion, but a difference of fact. The grand total of individuals that even attended the workshops was less than 200. The number that are aware of the issues of County redistricting is minuscule within the 1 million residents. The number that were aware of the discussions in the last Board of Supervisor’s meetings and the plans presented are smaller yet. Of course, the concept of ‘the people’ I suspect we are also in massive disagreement on judging by the statement. Also our concept of ‘makes sense’ is also greatly at odds. I find the concept repulsive that you should want to take a district that elected its supervisor and disenfranchise the majority members of the electorate of that district.

    That a group was unable to accomplish a goal of honoring the oldest cities without dividing the largest is a matter of the groups failure, not one of common sense accomplishment.
    Furthermore there is another plan that does not divide any city and it is on the agenda.

    1. Edi, Splitting only one city, regardless of the fact it hasn’t been split in the past, with significant portions in two different districts, versus splitting small portions of a variety of cities is a wise and common-sense approach. If it’s OK to split Walnut Creek, which is half the size of Concord, why isn’t OK to split Concord?

      It all has to do with creating the most compact districts, with the smallest population deviation between districts, which is what Concept 6 does. A 200 person sample is pretty good size. Many more people are now getting involved and showing up at the Supervisors meetings and giving input via email.

      Again the vast majority is in support of Concept 6. The Board should return to that.

      Change is part of life, (a man of your age should recognize that by now – LOL) and every 10 years we all have the possibility of having new representatives based on the redistricting process.

      We’ll see what happens on the 26th. Nice to see you yesterday, my fellow Rotarian. 🙂


  3. I do not know Mr. Payton and have followed this overkill of redistricting maps. I agree with Mr. Paytons conclusion and comments. #17 is the least of all evils and the most fair. No map will please everyone. Only map #17 ignores gerrymandering. It’s also the most unbiased of the supervisors. This is probably because Gioia is already re-elected and has no real motive. Now that the others have been cast aside #17 is the best bet. MAP 17 Please……

  4. As the Chairman of the Contra Costa Citizens Redistricting Task Force that developed the plan, labeled Concept 6 by county staff, that gathered the most support by far, throughout the Board’s public input process, Mr. Birsan and I have a clear difference of opinion.

    Our plan splits the least number of cities or communities, without creating gerrymandered, politically drawn districts, keeps common sub-regions of our county together, and has the lowest population deviation from one district to another of just 3.56%.

    There were four other plans submitted by three different individuals, including two county Supervisors, and county staff, that developed very similar to Concept 6 (our Plan A2). Why? Because based on the criteria put adopted by the Board in February for their redistricting process, it’s the only map that makes sense.

    Out of 53 Census Designated Places in the county, which includes all the 19 cities and the unincorporated communities, such as Clyde, Alamo and Bay Point, Concept 6 splits only one: Concord. The reason that makes sense IS because it’s the largest city and it’s in the path of where the new district lines must go to create as equal population per district as possible, while ensuring the most compact districts – both are legal requirements in the redistricting process.

    District 3 currently has the San Ramon Valley and part of East County in the same district. District 2 was gerrymandered for political purposes 30 years ago, with Lamorinda in the same district as Martinez, Hercules, Pinole, Crockett, Rodeo and Port Costa. Neither makes sense, other than political and those political games of the past must not be repeated.

    The people have spoken loud and clear and Concept 6 is overwhelmingly their choice, which, unfortunately, splits Concord. But, it’s only for 10 years and remember Walnut Creek is split in three in the current districts, which were drawn for political purposes 10 years ago.

    The latest three proposals by the Board, #15, which is a revised version of Sup. Uilkema’s Proposal 9, Proposal 16, which is a revised version of Sup. Mitchoff’s and Proposal 17, which is a revised version of Concept 6. That one splits four communities each by about 10,000 residents – Pinole, Concord, Antioch and Walnut Creek. The other two are clearly gerrymandered, putting either Walnut Creek or the San Ramon Valley in the same district as Far East County.

    So, if the Board is to find compromise, it appears that Proposal 17 will be the one. We still support Concept 6 as the best plan, splitting the least number of communities and has gained the most support from the public.

    We’ll see what happens on Tuesday.

    Allen Payton
    Contra Costa Citizens Redistricting Task Force

  5. Great article Ed! The interests of Concord need to be dealt with as a whole. Placing part of Concord with East County is a huge mistake. It would be a shame if the “district” lines cut off the North Concord/ Bates area from the rest of the city. With Muir Labs, Apria, and Biocare, that area has become a “Medical / Biotech” Area with huge job growth and income for the city.Really that area has the total “package” when you combine the North Concord BART station within walking distance to that area. We as a community want to promote these types of businesses that offer good salaries and career paths, especially in this economy. Dividing this area would only create competing interests of each part of the city(residential vs. Business) rather than that of the whole. I am sure that these companies identify with Concord more that Bay Point or Pittsburg.

    1. Brian,
      That “bio-tech area” is not going to be “cut off” from the BART station or the rest of Concord. Portions of the city will merely be in two different Supervisorial districts. Being in the same district as Bay Point and Pittsburg makes sense, with the planned development of the Naval Weapons Station, with 27,000 potential residents which will significantly impact Highways 4 and 242, which are traveled by East County commuters, as well as the new location of Cal State East Bay, which will be accessible to the students in East County and elsewhere will attend.
      Allen Payton

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