Councilmembers: What follows is not a letter per se, but part of an article I wrote after the last Council meeting. Due to deadlines it probably will not be published, but I am forwarding it to you because it summarizes my views on the current maps under consideration. I will be out of town and unable to respond to this message or attend the June 7 meeting.
The Council was scheduled to decide on a map at the May 17 meeting, but at the last minute downtown business owners, who had not previously participated in any significant way, showed up with Map 8. Their stated goal is to see that every district has a piece of downtown. Rather than maintain a cohesive downtown neighborhood, it carves up the center of the city. Their map is truly bad. One district runs the full width of the city, sometimes only a couple of blocks wide. Two other districts have long artificial extensions, needed in order to reach Harbor. Elbridge Gerry would have been proud.*
While the stated purpose is that all Councilmember will have a stake in downtown, the unstated one is that business owners will have more influence with the Council. Why should downtown interests be more favored than the businesses of the Orangethorpe corridor; or than Cal State or St Judes; or the many residential areas of the city?
But maybe that is not the point. Perhaps the business owners want to divide up the downtown so that there is no one strong voice to represent the citizens of downtown who might complain about all of the problems that the bars and restaurants create.
Whatever the case may be, the map and makes no sense other than to fracture downtown and in doing so it distorts the other communities of Fullerton. And the political thinking behind it seems ill-founded. If every Council district touches upon the downtown area, then downtown counts for only a small percent of the voters in each district, which can then be easily ignored.
Moreover the political strength of the business owners is not based on votes, but on money (and perhaps standing in the community). The business owners themselves are not a significant voting bloc: most do not live downtown and many do not even live in the city. If they need support from the Council they can try to gain that support through campaign contributions, just as they do now.
For better and for worse, downtown is important to everyone in Fullerton. It is the core that helps make this a community and not just a group of homes. But is also the source of many of our problems and our greatest expenses. If it is important to every person then it is likewise important to all Councilmembers whether it is physically in their district or not. Artificially carving up the downtown will not accomplish what the absentee business owners expect.
In contrast to Map 8, Map 2b, with all its shortcomings, is a reasonable choice (as is Map 10). It has the blessing of the consultant and meets the legal requirements. With little guidance from the Council or community, David Ely has followed a fair and objective process to get to this point. Map 2B is not a partisan nor economically motivated product. Its weakness is in District 3 which runs from east of the 57 Freeway to Euclid in a narrow swath across the center of Fullerton. It seems to be what is left over after the other four districts were drawn. There is no natural community here. Otherwise this map respects neighborhoods (as does Map 10) and it could be easily tweaked to place the neighborhoods around Hillcrest Park and the south facing hills — all of which are part of the older Fullerton core community — into District 3 ; and then keep the areas east of the 57 Freeway in a single district (#2). If the Council is committed to 5 districts, Map 2b should be tweaked, but ultimately supported.
Dr. Vince Buck is Professor Emeritus, Cal State Fullerton. He is a frequent contributor to the Fullerton Observer, and a former member of Fullerton’s Library Board of Trustees, General Plan Advisory Committee, and Bicycle Users Subcommittee.
*Elbridge Gerry, July 6, 1744 – November 23, 1814. Fifth Vice President of the United States, known as the namesake of gerrymandering, the much maligned process by which voting districts are devised, often with irregularly drawn boundaries, to produce premeditated political results meant to benefit one political party over another. (Note added by Fullerton Rag Admin)