Antioch City Council Takes Step Towards District Elections, Ordinance Approved


On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council took steps to move towards District elections beginning in 2020, however, they did not select a District map and will make that selection at the May 8 meeting.

In a 5-0 vote, the council selected an Option 2: Implement districts all at once in 2020:

With this option, the City would start all district elections in 2020, but provide half of the districts would initially be for a 2-year terms, while the other half would be for full 4-year terms. Then, in 2022, the Districts with 2-yaer initial terms were held would convert to 4-year terms. This would allow the council to maintain a staggered election system. Effectively, this would mean for the two council seats that are up this year is that those would still be elected on an at-large basis in November, but they would only provide for terms of two-years. Note also, that as with Option 1, the Council can substitute the numbers of the Districts that will be given two-year terms. Presently, Districts 1 and 4 would be given initial two-year terms, but the council could specify a different combination at its pleasure.

With this Option, the two council seats up for election in 2018 will remain “At Large” for only a 2-year term. They will then come up for re-election in 2020 with the other two seats meaning all four districts are up for election.

During the work session held at 5:30 pm, the Council worked to tweak the maps and receive additional public input. They city’s demographer was present and made map changes in real-time to show the council and city what would occur with map changes.

During the Discussion, Councilman Lamar Thorpe defended his opinion that the downtown area deserved its own representative which would be the case in Working Map 1 saying he kept looking behind the population and was looking at precincts and voting patterns which he says, “are clear”.

He explained that Quadrants will dilute the vote in downtown Antioch.

“One thing that maps don’t do in any of the versions, we are not creating one majority Latino vote in any of them” said Thorpe.  “That does not happen and in fact the demographics in Antioch are pretty diverse throughout… so we won’t be creating a majority minority district.”

Thorpe further highlighted based on their recent survey, north Antioch residents were unhappy with the city while residents in Southeast Antioch were happy.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock says she spoke to residents and about 90% didn’t even know they were doing districts and some did not have enough information.

“A majority of people said they wanted Quadrant B,” said Ogorchock. “We have a lot of emails from people in C Street that want Quadrant B… some of the emails sent in were boiler plate where half don’t read it they just sign it and send it in”

Councilman Tony Tiscareno says in meeting with some of the constituents in favor of Working Map 1 and that this whole process feels rushed. He suggested the push forward with Working Map 1 and the newly created Map C.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson agreed this was rushed and really wanted to hear from the public for their input.

“I am uncomfortable with Map C because I feel like a little bit of gerrymandering was going on,” said Wilson. “I am going to say that, that is just how I feel. I still want to hear from the public. I just want to make sure we get this right… like it or not, if you are moving a line, there is some preference for you. So I think there is a little bit of gerrymandering going on.”

Mayor Sean Wright reiterated his stance against districts saying he didn’t feel it was the right direction for the City of Antioch but if they fought this in the courts, they would lose.

“I keep saying I am moving forward scratching and hollering and screaming being pulled and dragged down this direction,” explained Wright. “I’ve been looking at it of how we can keep Antioch the best we can over the long run and as we looked at Quadrant B it has become Quadrant C and I am okay with Quadrant C.”

Wright also provided a “real” definition to gerrymandering.

“When you gerrymander you take a district and you draw very crazy lines to ensure that the people you want in a district are in a district,” said Wright. “As you saw what I did, I went down the lines. I looked at Lone Tree and Deer Valley. I was looking at major thoroughfares and saying these are major thoroughfares that divide our city evenly.”

Councilman Tiscareno took offense to the accusation of gerrymandering.

“There was an insinuation that when it was pointed towards the Gentrytown area there was some head nodding there. Keep in mind, in Working Draft 1, has the Gentrytown area the Delta Fair area intact. If that is called gerrymandering, then Working Draft 1 is gerrymandering because that is what I am asking for (in Quadrant C),” explained Tiscareno. “It’s not a change, in fact, Quadrant B or C, if you want to get into political part of it, it goes against me. If I have a better chance, if I decided I wanted to run, the Working Draft 1 would probably benefit me more than this one. I am not doing it for a personal reason, a gerrymandering reason, because Working Draft 1 already reflects that, I am trying to do this for the benefit of the community to have more representation in the north part of the highway so I do take some offense that I am being accused of gerrymandering when Working Draft 1 already has that.”

City Legal expressed to the council that both Working Draft 1 and Quadrant B or C would meet the legal requirements. He explained either map would be sufficient per the law.

The council directed Staff to push Working Map 1 and Quadrant C forward.

Regular City Council Meeting

During the regular City Council meeting, the there were more than 20 speakers who shared their opinions in support of Map 1, Quadrant B/C and those who were against the idea of districting completely.

The Council was not selecting a map, however, it was an introduction of the ordinance (Option 1 or 2) and what year the ordinance will be introduced.  The Map will be selected on May 8, 2018.

Mayor Sean Wright opened the council comments.

“I hope you understand how hard this is and there is not a soul up here who regardless of which direction we go is not thinking of Antioch first. Everyone of our council members up here cares about Antioch, they may disagree with you, but in their disagreement with you its their love of Antioch and its not anything more than that,” explained Wright. “We are trying to tackle a difficult decision the best way that we can.”

Wright further highlighted that when this process began, he has continued to look for ways to fight this because he didn’t think this was best for Antioch.

“What I have come to the conclusion is that if we fight it, we will lose and I don’t think that is what is best for Antioch,” said Wright. “For those who want us to fight, if I thought we could win, I would be right there with you.”

Wright was then critical of the way the law is written and critical of lawmakers in Sacramento.

“The way the law is written, you don’t have to prove harm. You have to prove racial polarization. Well the barrier to prove racial polarization is really simple, its real easy to prove. And that is the law, it doesn’t have to prove that racial polarization causes harm. It doesn’t have to prove that racial polarization does anything to a city forces them not to get elected—none of that in that law matters,” said Wright. “And then we are confused because once you accept that you are racially polarized and you have to move forward in this process then as you divide the lines you are not allowed to look at ethnicity, you are not allowed to look at race, you are supposed to divide the lines in some way that doesn’t look at any of that. Yet you are being told you have to do this because of race, because of race you have to do it, we can’t use race as our determining factor for how we divide the lines which just defies all logic. We have legislators in California who made a stupid law.”

Wright added people are free to disagree with that, but said the they now have a law that is no descript and non-detailed where any city in the state who receives a letter will not be able to fight it and that he will be in support of adopting the ordinance because its in the best interest of Antioch not to fight it.

“As far as implementing this, implementing this in 2020 is in the best interest of our city,” said Wright. “It gives us time to inform members of our community about what we are doing and why we are doing it.”

Councilman Tony Tiscareno stated he agreed with Wright 99.99% but that he was not opposed to districting, he is opposed to how it came about.

“I am very angry about how it came about and I was willing to fight this. We are basing our information and data on 2010 census which skews the numbers of the maps and is not a full representation of what Antioch truly is as of population,” explained Tiscareno. “I wouldn’t even have a problem waiting for 2020 census to start that process… its very frustrating being rushed into something.”

Tiscareno said the city was unprepared for redistricting and the city should take its time to do the process the right way.

“I think we need to be smart about this, we need to be studying this a bit longer, yes we have to go to Districts eventually, so if we are going to have to be forced… I am looking at the option to start in 2020 to make sure we do this correctly,” said Tiscareno.

Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe was open to either 2018 or 2020.

Councilmember Monica Wilson said she had no problem going to Districts but agreed they were being rushed. She also hoped to hear more input from the community.

“This is tough,” said Wilson. “This is a hard one and we want to get this right. We all are trying to be thoughtful on how this process is working.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock called this process unbelievably rushed and that 2018 does not work and agreed with the staggering after 2020.

“My ask is what Councilman Tiscareno said, push it off until 2022 for when you have the true census and the true numbers of the people in Antioch and then those lines can be drawn at that time. I don’t want to go over the maps, the maps are the maps and we will go over that on May 8, but I would say no to the ordinance because its not that we don’t need districting, I agree, we do, but its really hard when you don’t have true numbers to do this,” said Ogorchock. “So I may be a little gutsy and say no to this.”

Ogorchock stated people of the community don’t know about this and if they did it now it would be a rushed process.

During discussion, Thorpe discussed the idea of putting which map before the voters to decide in November which map to use in 2020 which Mayor Wright did not agree with because of the cost and they will be redrawn in 2022—it didn’t make sense financially for one-time use.

The council did also discuss that in 2020, they could begin to implement a citizen commission dedicated to redistricting to take it out of the hands of the council which could be used for the 2022 election.

Councilman Thorpe made the motion to select Option 2 and the council approved the ordinance in a 5-0 vote.

Under this ordinance, the two open seats in the November 2018 election will be “at large” for a 2-year term. With all four seats in 2020 up for elections. Two of the four districts will be for 4-year terms and two districts for 2-year-terms.

All elections starting in 2022 and after will be 4 years terms