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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Malia Cohen's Foray Into Redistricting

March 22 Working Draft Map
I will go on record as saying that I am FOR moving the remainder of the Portola into District 9.  It's not that I don't like the Portola - I go there often and have many friends there.  I even sit on the Portola Neighborhood Association board.   But I believe that the Portola will be better served in D9, and Potrero Hill should remain in D10.

At Thursday night's redistricting meeting, which you can watch here, supervisor was pitted against supervisor, and community members who had trekked to the meeting faced a recorded message created by political consultants in a battle that has once again made the Portola a pawn in the city's power brokerage machinations.  Apparent confusion amongst many of the "Portola in D10" speakers reigned supreme.  An entire group of speakers from a local chapter of APRI had been asked to attend to advocate for keeping the Portola in D10.  What not a single one of them seemed to be aware of was the fact that by doing so, they were advocating severing their own communities of interest by eliminating Potrero Hill from D10.  At the time of writing this piece, I had not yet heard from anyone at APRI regarding their testimony to the task force.

By the end of the testimony period, I counted 11 people who'd stood up and spoken on behalf of putting all of the Portola in D9.  Among them were Portola resident Irene Crescio, former D10 supervisor candidate Tony Kelly, who read a letter from Portola resident N'Tanya Lee, Bayview's Espinola Jackson, Potrero Hill's Eddie Kittrell, and residents from the Mission and Bernal Heights who felt connections with the Portola.   Also there speaking on behalf of the current working map and for keeping the Portola in D9 was D11 Supervisor John Avalos. 

On the "Portola in D10" side were three members of the Dwayne Jusino family, who presented a video that included four Portola residents: besides Jusino himself, only one of those residents in the video, former D10 supervisor candidate Teresa Duque,  could be heard actually saying on camera that she wanted the Portola to remain in D10.  The other two, Howard Lee and Sululagi Palega only advocated for keeping the Portola together.  Interestingly, the video was something that an Oakland-based political consulting firm, Jim Ross Consulting, was trying to use to get pro-D10 Portolans to speak on camera.  They had approached several members of the Portola Neighborhood Association and other influential Portolans asking for their on-camera support.  That they only got two people to do so, both of whom may once again care to run for D10 supervisor, is telling.  That those two people's future candidacies would have significantly improved chances if Potrero Hill were out of D10 says even more.  Two of the D10 supporters were more interested in McLaren Park and stated that because of their advocacy for it, they wanted more than anything to live in the same district as the park.  Interestingly, both currently live in D9.  As one D9 supporter later mentioned, although he's certain that the D10 supervisor can do a good job advocating for McLaren Park, that in and of itself should not be a reason to keep it in D10, and that the movement of Potrero Hill to D6 is a far more important consideration.

As Supervisor Avalos said Thursday night, moving Portola "to District 10 would remove the Potrero neighborhood from District 10 out to District 6, and that would break with some of the principles that [the task force] has been working with over the past few months," and that he likes "the current configuration of the Portola as a whole in District 9 - it makes sense."  His support of the redistricting map that has seen months of work go into it to get it to its current state is far different than that of Supervisor Cohen, who along with advocating that the Portola remain whole, admitted that she "would like to see [the Portola] in 10 and I would welcome them to be a continued part of the community."  She then asked the task force "to listen closely and critically to the members of the people that live here in the community," leaving the difficult decisions to be made as to what would be the future of Potrero Hill to "their infinite and wise wisdom."  

According to Supervisor Cohen, whom I spoke with today at length about this, moving all of Portola into D10 doesn't absolutely mean moving Potrero Hill out.  Although these have only ever been the two real options on the table, she offered today the possibility of moving parts of Visitacion Valley or Sunnydale to D11 as an option that would keep Portola and Potrero in D10.  This has never been seen in any of the working draft maps, and so to do this would also create havoc within the process and would result in a need to go back to the drawing board and redraw the rest of the lines across the city.

Supervisors have a lot of influence over some things, and not so much over others.  To date, Supervisors Chiu and Avalos, and perhaps others, have commented on the process, small tweaks to the existing map, and conversations they've had with community members.  None has mentioned the kind of large scale and contentious border movements that Supervisor Cohen did at Thursday's meeting.  I reminded Cohen that her thumb on the scale has the weight of 74000 constituents, and so I told her today that the smartest thing for her to have done would have been to keep quiet about redistricting altogether.  She could simply tell the various neighborhoods that she's a member of their community regardless of what happens, and that she'd be honored to continue representing any of them.  Instead, as reported in the Bay Guardian, people in a whole part of her district are wondering if she's abandoned them for what appears to be a political reason.

The largest number of votes in D10 are found in the Bayview, with over 18000 registered voters, and 8500 ballots cast in 2010.  1183 (13%) of those Bayview voters came out in force in 2010 for Supervisor Cohen.  In contrast, Cohen only received 302 (5%) first round votes from the 5900 Potrero Hill ballots cast.  By comparison, Tony Kelly pulled in five times that many votes, and was the clear favorite of Potrero Hill voters.  So, to lose a politically unfriendly Potrero Hill may seem to be to Supervisor Cohen's electoral advantage.  Although Portola voters make up a much smaller block, and even though Cohen only received 219 first round votes from there, losing to Teresa Duque, perhaps she considers the northern part of the Portola more friendly to her, and so is perhaps less threatened by Duque in the Portola than she is Kelly in Potrero Hill.  I'm not sure she's right.

Based on the top eight vote-getters in 2010, some thought experiments can be done about a 2014 race, with one bad and one even worse no-win scenarios for Supervisor Cohen.  It's a large assumption, but I'm assuming in this that Lynette Sweet, Teresa Duque, and Tony Kelly are the only people willing to step in the ring again in 2014.  Of the remaining top eight, Steve Moss, DeWitt Lacy, Chris Jackson, and Marlene Tran's votes would get split in somewhat predictable ways based on where their second and third round ballots went in 2010.

In the first scenario, with Tony Kelly now in a D6 Potrero Hill, Cohen would be in a tight three-way race with Duque and Sweet.  She could conceivably lose the Portola and Visitacion Valley to Duque, who beat her last time in both (252 to 219 and 421 to 369, respectively).  With no Marlene Tran in the mix, her 217 Portola and 942 Visitacion Valley votes would head over to Duque, who could crush Cohen in these two neighborhoods.  In this scenario, Cohen could also conceivably lose the Bayview to Sweet, who was within 30 votes of Cohen last time, or both could lose to Duque again if she ends up getting Tran's 747 Bayview votes added onto the 680 she got last time.

And why I think Cohen finds herself in a no-win situation, and thus should have kept out of commenting on redistricting altogether, is that the other scenario is probably worse.  This scenario perhaps reveals why she wants Potrero Hill out of D10 and is more willing to fight it out with the Portola in D10.  If the Portola were to be in D9, she'd have to compete against Tony Kelly in Potrero Hill, where she could very likely see a repeat of his 1550 to 302 romp there.  As in the first scenario, Sweet or Duque could take the Bayview and Visitacion Valley could go to Duque.

As I told her today, if as she said she has no say in the process, then Supervisor Cohen either should have said nothing Thursday or simply stopped at saying she wanted to see the Portola kept whole.   Any position in any other direction was bound to lead to her stepping in a pile of shit that she would be wise to avoid at all costs.

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