, May 23, 2022

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Vallejo City Council to decide on district boundaries map

  •   3 min reads
Vallejo City Council to decide on district boundaries map
A proposed new district map for Vallejo. Residents of the red shaded area could move from District 5 to District 6 under the new boundaries, which could result in them being unable to vote in two elections. Map: city of Vallejo.

VALLEJO – In a mostly anti-climatic move, the Vallejo City Council is poised to finish up redrawing election district boundaries on Tuesday as required following the most recent census.

The council will be presented with two maps which largely keep the current boundaries drawn in 2019 intact but would move 293 residents from District 5 - Central Vallejo to District 6 - South Vallejo to correct a non-contiguous issue with District 6 located around sections of unincorporated parts of the city.

A second map was drawn by the city’s demography consultant, National Demographics Corporation, following a Jan. 11 public hearing. Several council members expressed concern with the 293 residents being moved to a new district.

Those District 5 residents would be unable to vote because the district was not on the November 2020 ballot – District 6 was. Now, District 5 will be on the ballot this November, while District 6 won’t be.

The council also has the option of continuing to receive feedback from the community about how it would like to see the districts drawn. However, the city must complete its redistricting process by April 17.

Vallejo decided to adopt council districts after receiving a challenge letter from Southern California based-lawyer Kevin Shenkman in September 2018. Shenkman argued that the city’s at-large election format violated the California Voting Rights Act because there were no African American or Latino councilmembers on the council.

“African American and Latino residents that each make up nearly a quarter of the city have no one to speak to and for their struggles at the city government level,” Shenkman wrote in his Sept. 17, 2018, letter. “And their struggles are unique, and are exacerbated by the fact that they have no voice on the council.”

Months after the city received the letter, Vallejo voters elected Hakeem Brown, who is Black, to the council.

The electorate sent two Hispanic residents to the council in November 2020, the first election under the new format: Mina Loera-Diaz represents District 3 while Cristina Arriola represents District 6.

Council to vote on continued remote meetings

The council will also be asked to decide on whether to continue holding its meetings via teleconference or return to an in-person setting.

The council decided in early January to move all government meetings to an online format as the omicron variant of COVID-19 caused a surge in cases throughout Solano County and the rest of the country. The move was made, in part, to protect city staff from interacting with the public.

At least 59 city employees have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the year, interim City Manager Mike Malone wrote in a staff report to the council.

State law requires municipalities to vote every 30 days on whether it needs to continue to hold remote meetings.

While not making a formal recommendation, city staff is asking the council to consider that Vallejo has had the highest number of COVID cases in Solano County with 32%.

If the council decides to return to in-person meetings, the decision will also affect city commissions and boards as well.

“Several commissions have expressed concern about returning to in-person meetings and attendance, including obtaining a quorum of members physically present for in-person meetings may be problematic,” staff wrote in the same report to the council.

Staff further said that it would take time to transition from teleconference meetings back to in-person gatherings with March 8 being the soonest the changeover would occur.

The council’s decision will come a day after state officials announced Monday that they would be easing some of the pandemic restrictions, including lifting a statewide indoor mask requirement on Feb. 15.

While the state mandate will be lifted, Vallejo continues to be under a mask mandate which requires people 4 years and older to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while inside any buildings open to the public. Those spaces include grocery stories, office buildings, laundromats, and restaurants.

The council’s recent stay in its chambers lasted only about two months. The council returned to holding meetings in its chambers in November after holding meetings remotely for more than 18 months. But the surge in COVID cases forced the council back to virtual meetings.

The Vallejo City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday and will be held via teleconference. There are three ways the meeting can be viewed: Vallejo local channel 28, stream from the city website: www.cityofvallejo.net/Streaming. and/or join the Zoom webinar: https://ZoomRegular.Cityofvallejo.net.

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