On Friday, the Antioch City Council held a special meeting on redistricting to choose a final redistricting map. The meeting was aimed to clear up confusion of which map was adopted Tuesday night, “Map A” or “Map A modified”.
The council voted 3-2 to approve Map A Modified which now places Councilmembers Lori Ogorchock and Monica Wilson in District 4. Ogorchock stated she will run for that District against Wilson–even though she still has 2-more years to serve in District 3. If Ogorchock defeats Wilson this fall from her “safe” seat, the council would then have to fill a vacancy through appointment or go to an election.
According to City Attorney Thomas Smith, councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker informed him that the map she intended to motion for was “Map Draft A Modified”, however, the motion stated was “Map Draft A”. He said tonight’s meeting was to ensure the proper map was selected by the council.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe confirmed if that was the case, they can still move and adjust maps.
During Public Comments, seven members of the public spoke accused the council of blatant gerrymandering, spoke of disappointments, lack of professionalism in the process while calling it a circus. They also accused the council of not listening to the public nor caring about citizen concerns while failing to communicate to the citizens of Antioch.
After public comment, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe attempted to further adjust District maps with a focus on District 3 and District 4.
Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica made a motion to approve Draft Map 521 as their redistricted map. The motion was seconded by councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. The motion failed in a 2-3 vote with Thorpe, Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres-Walker rejecting the map.
Torres-Walker then made the motion to adopt Draft Map A Modified which was in the agenda packet—not the modified version by Thorpe during the meeting. Wilson seconded the motion.
Councilwoman Ogorchock thanked the public for showing up and speaking.
“In watching the mayor, its obvious that lines are just being moved to accommodate percentages, that is it. We are not looking at communities of interest, we are not looking at any of the items that are in the fair maps act, nothing,” said Ogorchock. “It looks like a lake to me, I don’t know here the communities of interest are in that map. When you just sit here and say move this line, move that line, you don’t know about the neighborhoods, you don’t know who is in there, you don’t know about the HOA’s, you don’t know about the schools, you don’t know about the social economic individuals that live here.”
Ogorchock then read a piece by the East Bay Times highlighting consultant Karin McDonald explained how they should keep neighborhoods of interest together as much as possible but some neighborhoods are going to be split but the council does the best they can.
“That is a misleading statement,” said Ogorchock. “That is false, not true. There are three maps that have been created by residents that do not do what she says. That is map 91, map 516 and map 521. You are the public, we should be listening to you. This is so important, that statement just says a lot to me.”
She then asked councilwoman Torres-Walker a question about why she went up Monterra and why she had a hard time saying Monterra to Asilomar down to Deer Valley off Country Hills.
“I just moved the lines,” stated Torres-Walker.
“Why? Did you know I lived there,” replied Ogorchock. “Did you know lived there.”
Thorpe then pounded the gravel to stop Ogorchock from speaking telling her to “hold on”.
Torres-Walker stated she had no idea where Ogorchock lived.
Ogorchock then went back to public comments about how residents should participate but were being ignored—stating residents created the maps and knew the communities of Antioch.
Under the Act, the City Council shall draw and adopt boundaries using the following criteria in the listed order of priority (Elections Code 21621(c)):
- Comply with the federal requirements of equal population and the Voting Rights Act
- Be geographically contiguous
- Undivided neighborhoods and “communities of interest” (socio-economic geographic areas that should be kept together)
- Display easily identifiable boundaries
- Be compact (do not bypass one group of people to get to a more distant group of people)
- Shall not favor or discriminate against a political party
She then went through the series of requirements (shown above) when drawing district maps where she highlighted how the council was failing the public from communities of interest, political favoritism, public participation while accusing her fellow councilmembers of gerrymandering.
“We are failing on that one, we are gerrymandering on that one, I am not,” said Ogorchock while highlighting geographic boundaries need to make sense. “Those lines on that map make no sense whatsoever. They are no easy to follow, you don’t know what the streets are and if a resident drives down the street they should know I am in District 4, I am in District 3, I am in District 1 I am in District 2. They can’t tell.”
She then stated according to criteria that District lines should be straight forward and the map as anything but.
“When we started this process, people came forward and talked about the communities of interest. We have ignored them. We have ignored everything (the criteria),” stated Ogorchock who should not deny communities of interest and not intentionally divide the community.
She specifically refereed to Garrow Drive being divided along with the Silverado foothills built in the 1970’s—you have original homeowners that are being divided. Dividing Country Hills at Jack London Schools.
“You have specifically created a map to put me in District 4. If that happens, I am announcing tonight I will be running for District 4,” said Ogorchock. “So if you guys put this map forth, I am telling you now, you are breaking everything that is in this packet. And you are opening us up for a lawsuit.”
Thorpe then interjected and thanked Ogorchock for her comments.
Torres-Walker stated that while they were talking about communities of interest, there are communities of interest that have been ignored for years.
“What I have heard is reference to ignorance or being ignorant and I am just going to have to assume this reference around ignorance is being pushed towards those on the council who just happen to be black,” stated Torres-Walker.
With audience getting loud, Mayor Thorpe attempted to cut off Torres-Walker who kept speaking over the audience and Thorpe pounding the gavel.
Walked continued during this point in the meeting.
“What I also heard that was absolutely ignorant was a reference to a circus and when you are talking to people of color, black people particular, you do not reference a circus because we are not monkey’s and we are not clowns,” stated Torres-Walker.
Thorpe then got control of the meeting asking the city clerk to cut Torres-Walker’s microphone before Walker again spoke up.
“You can say I am a monkey all you want but that just references your ignorance,” said Torres-Walker.
Thorpe then got control of the meeting stated people may not agree or may agree but not to interrupt the meeting.
“I am just tired of the racial references, the constant attacks on my leadership and the leadership of color on this council. This process is not personal. Its not personal for me anyway. Like I said, we are supposed to choose a map. When this came to the council, I said lets have a community process, lets have a public process where this council voted to move this process forward, “ said Torres-Walker. “I am so tired of being attacked up here and again you have to be careful about the language you are using when you are talking about people of color, black people and especially indigenous folks wherever you are. But when you come to this council and make a reference around a circus and ignorance to the inelegance of people color and black people. You don’t get what you want by attacking people, you get what you want by trying to work with people. I just don’t appreciate it.”
Vice Mayor Barbanica said he supported Map 91 because he thought it was the best map for the city regardless of where anybody lives and only knew of general areas of where councilmembers live.
“Map A Modified does a disservice to our community,” said Barbanica. “It does a disservice because it splits up well established neighborhood and we have been directed since day 1 that communities of interest should not be split.”
He continued by highlighting there is no justification for the splitting of Mira Vista Hills which was established in 1977 right down the middle. If you are on the west side, you are in District 2, if you live on the east end you are in District 4. He also spoke of Asilomar, Country Hills and Garrow which are split.
“This is a disservice to our community and if we pass this tonight we are not listening to our community because we have person after person supporting Map 91 and 521 saying let’s keep the neighborhoods together and forget about where everyone lives,” explained Barbanica. “This is doing a disservice to the community and shows we are not listening.”
Thorpe then proclaimed everybody lives in the City of Antioch and districts were simply a mechanism of how people get elected. He also went back to when District 1 was formed and people told the council to listen to the community, it passed 3-2 with former Mayor Sean Wright and Councilwoman Ogorchock voting no.
He also accused Ogorchock of trying to take Monica Wilson out and the council let Ogorchock go through the process but they were respectful and the council said “no”.
“I don’t know why that double standard always exists for everyone else but this is the process,” said Thorpe who took a roll call vote for Draft Map A Modified as in the agenda packet.
Councilmember Monica Wilson then spoke prior to the vote as she was at the meeting remotely.
“40 comments do not make up 115,000 and I have had comments from all sides,” said Wilson who noted she had just as many comments for all maps. “I’ve heard accusations thrown at me, made me think which is now I know what Massachusetts felt like. Accusations that were not true. I also want to really support and thank councilmember Torres-Walker for her words tonight because when we go through this process not everybody is going to be happy. We do the best we can.”
“Throwing these accusations of gerrymandering, I saw gerrymandering on councilmember Ogorchock side as well. We need to be very careful,” said Ogorchock.
It passed in a 3-2 vote with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting