SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria City Council has adopted a new map for the city's historic shift to district elections, the decision coming under the threat of a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act.
But the Council's chosen map, which splits the city into four major districts with equal populations, is not sitting well with those who supported district elections as well as the lawsuit that forced the switch from citywide, at-large elections.
The City Council has three maps to choose from at its meeting Tuesday night and the map they chose, identified as Map N, is being called gerrymandering by those who pushed for district elections in the city.
"There's a lot of things wrong with map N", said Councilman Dr. Michael Moats who was the lone voice of dissent in the Council's 4-1 vote in favor of Map N, "first of all its not compact, and you have District 4 stretching to Orcutt because it stretches so far south."
Map N was chosen over two other maps presented to the City Council after several weeks of public meetings and input.
"Not everyone is going to be happy with everything on the map", said Councilman Jack Boysen, "but for me Map N meets more of those criteria than any of the other maps."
The Council's choice was slammed as gerrymandering by those who support "Map J" saying it more fairly represents the city's Hispanic population and communities of interest.
"They didn't listen, there was not a single person that promoted Map N that they voted on, not a single person", said local resident Judy Burch who supported Map J, "every person in there who spoke, or didn't speak, had J, all their (Council) interested in is protecting their seats."
"As you've seen in a lot of different cities there's social gerrymandering to preserve seats", says Abraham Melendrez of local activist group CAUSE, "so even though we have the districts, they're doing it in a way that's not going to represent the community as well as it could be and its a shame."
The new voting districts will take effect for the 2018 elections.
The Mayor of Santa Maria will continue to be elected citywide, at-large.