The Reverend Arnold Townsend, the chairman of the redistricting task force who admitted he was under immense pressure from the mayor’s office to promote a heavily gerrymandered sup map, changed his stance early this morning and voted for a new version that community activists say will go in a much better direction.
The 5-4 vote, with Townsend in the majority, reflected a different kind of politics: Organizers and activists representing Black, Asian, Latina, LGBTQ+ and other communities have turned out in large numbers over the past two weeks, passing long hours at rallies and at public hearings and several hundred comments against the gerrymandered map.
Some had said that if the gerrymandered map were approved, it would lead to legal action and possibly a fall ballot measure reversing the decision.
The new map project, called the “Healing Map,” restores Potrero Hill to District 10, brings together the Tenderloin and central Soma, and leaves much of the original District 5 intact. He still moves the ultra-rich Seacliff from District 2 to District 1.
Raquel Redondiez, on behalf of the SF Unity Map Coalition released the following statement:
We thank the working group for listening to the overwhelming feedback from the community that the final map would have been detrimental to the city’s most vulnerable populations. We hope the task force listens to the community at its additional meetings and draws a fair map that truly reflects public input, prioritizes those most dependent on city services, and protects the political voice of working-class neighborhoods. , communities of color, LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable communities.
For the hundreds of people who fought this battle, it is a sigh of relief and sends a strong message that grassroots organization works, even in the face of very powerful interests.
But it’s still not over.
The working group agreed to miss the April 15 deadline, which really meant nothing, and to hold another meeting on April 21. The Department of Elections needs the map complete by May 5.
If the task force decides to accept anything close to the new map, it will go back to what community groups asked for ten days ago – and the panel seemed willing to accept.
Then the pressure started and the direction of the mapping changed dramatically.
It seems unlikely that the powerful interests trying to oust progressives from power will give up after this setback.
So everything, in public anyway, will work out for a week. Then, the working group will meet again, at least once, in the face of a real deadline, and draw up a final map.
But it won’t be quiet behind the scenes. We will keep you posted.