By Jonathan Goetz
May 12, 2017 (El Cajon) – After inviting the public to submit redistricting maps and hiring a consultant to advise the city as it moves toward district elections instead of citywide elections for all council members, the options have been narrowed to five maps. Three of the five maps square Councilman Ben Kalasho off against Councilman Gary Kendrick by putting them in the same City Council District. Four of the five maps put Councilman Bob McClellan and Councilman Steve Goble in the same district. Below are the maps and descriptions of each proposal.
The green map shown above, one of five “focus maps” being considered at the May 26 City Council meeting later this month, was drawn by National Demographics Corporation (NDC) and puts all four El Cajon Councilmen in different districts so none would lose their seats unless defeated by a challenger in a future election. (The Mayor runs citywide.)
To the east, Interstate 8 divides Councilman Bob McClellan from Councilman Steve Goble, though they live near each other. To the west it pairs Fletcher Hills north of Fletcher Hills Blvd., where the only minority Councilman, Ben Kalasho resides, with the area between I-8 and Main Street, and then down to Washington at Avocado. To the south is District 4, in which Councilman Gary Kendrick lives; his expires in 2018.
Councilman Ben Kalasho, who is of Iraqi Chaldean descent, told East County Magazine at a recent Chamber of Commerce event that “Gerrymandering is legal; what’s not legal to do is gerrymandering against the only minority.”
The map submitted by Paul Circo creates four solid districts in the city’s north, south, east and west, and creates two open seats for challengers in the center of the city, the portion considered most minority rich, along either side of Main Street.
Only BJohnson1 United Communities has two districts in which Latinos are above one-third of the population, District 3 at 34% and District 4 at 35%. Like Circo’s map, both minority rich districts have no incumbents already living there.
ECook1, the four corners plans, divides the city up into four quadrants, NW (1), NE (2), SE (3) and SW (4). It avoids pitting the only minority Councilman against a sitting Councilman, and has Kalasho in a district with a good chunk of minority voters.
Map TBrumfield1 pits Kalasho against Kendrick in the west and Circo against McClellan in the northeast. This means two current Council members would be forced off the Council at the next election. This plan draws a heavily minority district including both sides of much of Main Street.
Douglas Jonson, with National Demographics Corportion, who drew up three of the maps, says, "All five of the focused maps have at least two majority minority districts." The City of El Cajon used a broad definition of minorities to include all those speaking a non-English language at home, other than Spanish or Asian, which includes the city's large Middle Eastern communities.
The deadline is Monday for the public to submit additional maps, so it's possible there could be more options for Council to consider.
El Cajon voters previously approved a ballot measure to authorize switching to district elections. But how those lines will be drawn is up to the City Council, which will determine the final plan.