"District Map Chosen... Communities Preserved!"
The Lodi City Council has made their decision on the new voting district map on February 13, 2018. This decision will put the new voting districts into effect this year. As some of you may know, the City of Lodi had to make these changes due to the threat of a discrimination lawsuit from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Their claim is that the City of Lodi and the current at-large voting system has discriminated against Hispanic individuals from being elected to City Council. The suit also came with two stipulations: that the district voting lines must not separate the Hispanic vote and that there must be at least 50% Hispanic population in said district. With that in mind, the City Council- along with a contracted demographer- came up with 22 possible district maps. After a public hearing on January 31, 2018, four maps remained in the running: 105, 108, 117, and 118.
To address the issue, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce and the Government Relations Committee- which is an open committee for Chamber Members to voice their concerns regarding legislation at a City, State, and National level- met on Friday, February 2 to discuss the pros and cons of each map. Some of the initial issues were the visible gerrymandering in Map 117 and the split Hispanic voters in Map 108. While incumbent protection is not illegal by any means, Map 117 was drawn to accommodate three of the five current City Council members- one of whom may be retiring after this term- and separated like neighborhoods into odd districts. For example, the Willow Glen neighborhood would be split into three districts and the district lines would be drawn from North to South, encompassing neighborhoods with distinctly different needs. The Government Relations Committee also believed that Maps 108 and 118 would not “pass muster” if presented to MALDEF due to the fact the Hispanic voters were split among districts, which was against one of the main stipulations of their lawsuit, and the low Hispanic voter turnout in Map 118. President and CEO Pat Patrick, along with University of the Pacific Graduate student and paid intern Joseph Benapfl, presented a fifth option at the Government Relations Committee meeting to combat the irregularities the four maps the City Council chose- Map 119.
The Chamber’s thinking on the way district lines were drawn in Map 119d, the revised copy of Map 119, was to keep like neighborhoods together as much as possible and to have three of the districts touch Downtown Lodi to share the like goal of keeping our Downtown vibrant. Political reasons aside, Map 119d has the highest percentage of Hispanic citizens in the Voting Age Population category at 50.6% in their represented district (District 4) and is the most even in terms of population deviation among all five districts. The Lodi City Council obviously agreed and voted in favor of Map 119d during their City Council Meeting. This map meets the MALDEF requirements and should, to our knowledge, take away the threat of an expensive lawsuit.
In response to criticism, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce’s role is to secure Lodi’s economic future and be a champion for the community. Map 119d was created based on concerns of local business owners- members of the Chamber of Commerce- who wanted their voices and opinions heard. It is the Chamber’s job to represent these members and luckily, the City Council was able to see the benefit of drawing district lines to preserve like neighborhoods while also meeting the standards of MALDEF’s lawsuit. Pat Patrick and one Government Relations Committee member attended the vote on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 and heard from the public during the comment portion of the hearing. As quoted in the Lodi News Sentinel, Mike Carouba said Map 117 “did not meet the eyeball test,” and that “districts should look like districts.” He continued, “Map 119d would be one that people would support and I think they would think you did a good job under a bad circumstance.” Lodi resident (and non-Chamber member) Bill Mitchell spoke to the council and echoed Mr. Carouba’s sentiments. He felt that Map 119d was the best map for the task at hand.
Is districting ideal for a city the size of Lodi? No, it is not. But when faced with a discrimination lawsuit, the city made the decision to acquiesce to the stipulations of the lawsuit in order to avoid losing millions of dollars. The obvious downside of districting in a community the size of Lodi is that each representative theoretically will win by what they promise their constituency. In a small community, which has very little non-discretionary funds, this sets up opportunity for every representative to work for himself or herself opposed to working for the common good of the entire city.
The Lodi District Chamber of Commerce is aware of the issues facing the Heritage District, voting districts aside, and has already been involved in the community as an advocate. As part of the Vision 2020 project, the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD): Love Your Block program was formed. This community program is targeted towards improving the Heritage District by supporting citizen-driven improvement projects. ABCD: Love Your Block provides a unique opportunity for neighborhood groups to grow in leadership and help transform their own block with the support of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, City, and concern citizens from all over Lodi.
Mission Statement: The Lodi Chamber is a member-focused organization and community partner. We work as a catalyst helping businesses grow, a convener for leaders to create positive change, and a champion for a stronger community.
Vision Statement: We see Lodi’s economic future secured by a robust business community, creating ongoing opportunities for citizens to work and thrive in our local economy.