The city of Half Moon Bay’s Redistricting Advisory Committee completed its second of four required public hearings last week and presented options for the public to submit new district maps.
After the U.S. Census Bureau published data in August, the state must now calculate “prisoner-adjusted” data, which involves tracing those in prisons or jails to their last known home address. Shalice Tilton, a senior consultant at the National Demographics Corp., told the committee the state is expected to release that data on Sept. 20. Because of redistricting laws, neither the committee nor the com
pany can produce any maps for three weeks after the data is released.
However, residents are allowed and encouraged to draw and share their own maps during the interim. At Thursday’s public hearing, Tilton reviewed how residents can use online tools to draw their own maps. There are interactive review maps, excel spreadsheets, a paintbrush drawing software called DistrictR, as well as a paper version. Tilton said even those intimated by the process should feel welcome to submit maps because it still gives input to the committee on what should be included in each community.
“We want to link (communities) to a map and say this particular district was drawn with respect to this neighborhood that we heard public testimony from, that this is a neighborhood or community of interest that should be kept together,” Tilton said.
Tilton and the vendor are hoping to gauge two key questions from residents: What defines a community, and if that community would benefit from being included within a single district or from having multiple representatives. Because all districts are supposed to have nearly equal populations, all submitted maps will be produced with a demographic summary by the demographics consultant. Each district boundary should include a natural dividing line, highway, river or hills. Even significant neighborhood landmarks around parks or schools work well. Maps must also not separate “communities of interest,” a population that shares social or economic interests and usually includes minority groups.
It’s helpful to compare demographic information across multiple maps, Tilton said, because the committee can see if there are any outliers in terms of population percentages or if the number of minorities has been divided. Even though the data that is necessary for the final redrawn maps isn’t yet available, some on the committee said it was good to practice drawing maps based on early estimates to understand possible limitations while ensuring equal populations.
“My intuition so far is that it is worth playing around now to get a feel for how constrained we are and what’s possible,” committee member Phil Marshall said.
In addition to presenting the City Council with new district boundaries based on the 2020 census data, the committee will also examine whether Half Moon Bay should remain a four-district city with an at-large elected mayor serving two or four years, or transition to a five-district map with a rotating major. The consultant’s initial estimates put Half Moon Bay’s population at 12,730. If the City Council stays with four districts, each one will have 3,183 people. With five districts, each will have 2,546.
The committee examined some of the pros and cons of an elected annually rotating mayor. Some of the benefits presented for an elected mayor were continuity in leadership and representation to both staff and regional agencies. A two-year elected mayor would also not be obligated to serve one district and could represent the entire city. It would also allow all voters to vote during municipal elections.
On the other hand, an annually rotating mayor allows council members to experience new responsibilities, creates an incentive to support other council members who will also be mayor and provides a new leadership perspective each year. Committee member Steve Maller said he was in favor of a five-district approach that would distribute more responsibility among council members to the city as a whole. Because of the size of Half Moon Bay, Maller believes it could provide a more personal nature to the representation.
“I think given the size of our town to have two different political structures, one for a mayor and one for City Council members, feels unnecessarily complex,” Maller said.