SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Mayor London Breed and two city supervisors agreed with State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in his assessment that the elections commission considering replacing members of the Redistricting Task Force undermined the latter’s independence.
There are 11 districts in San Francisco, each represented by a single supervisor. Every 10 years, these districts are re-drawn based on census results. The task force has until April 14 to submit a final map.
Multiple issues have been raised with proposed maps. On Wednesday, LGBTQ activists protested at City Hall because of a proposal to split south of Market and the Tenderloin.
The activists have accused the task force of not doing its job by ignoring community input that it’s supposed to take into consideration.
“The task force has flagrantly ignored queer and trans voices, communities, neighborhoods, and cultural institutions — from all political sides. This is about ensuring our communities and our minority voting rights are not illegally disenfranchised or diminished,” Edward Wright of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club told KRON4. “The integrity and independence of this process has already been damaged by task force members ignoring their legal obligations and public input.”
Others have expressed concern over Haight-Ashbury being removed from District 5 and the Valencia Street corridor being moved from District 8, which includes the Castro, to District 9, which includes the Mission. Indeed, as KRON4 reported, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman wouldn’t be able to run for re-election in his district under one proposal.
The League of Women Voters, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the ACLU of Northern California had concerns that “draft maps … would
diminish the voting power of low-income, immigrant, renter, LGBTQ+, and people of color neighborhoods.”
“We call upon you to take action and speak to the Redistricting Task Force members who were appointed by the Elections Commission and reinforce to them their duty and obligations to give due weight to the public input of historically and systemically marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged communities,” the League of Women Voters and Asian Americans Advancing Justice wrote to the commission. “We also recommend you call a special meeting of the Elections Commission as soon as possible regarding these urgent concerns.”
In response to these concerns, the elections commission — which appoints three members to the task force (the mayor and the board of supervisors appoint the others) — announced it would schedule a meeting to consider replacing its appointed members of the task force.
This promoted Wiener to write a scathing letter accusing forces of undermining the task force for political reasons.
“Let’s be clear: The Elections Commission’s move, under political pressure, to replace its appointees would send a clear signal that San Francisco’s redistricting process is about raw, hardball political power and nothing else,” Wiener stated. “The public will understandably and reasonably view the redistricting process as hyper-politicized, which is exactly what the voters’ creation of an independent redistricting task force was supposed to avoid.”
He’s now been joined in that assessment by Breed, who issued her own statement Thursday.
“These are San Francisco residents who have given their time and effort, and who were all selected as part of a thorough and transparent selection process by the Elections Commission ten months ago. Now, at the last minute, they are being threatened with removal,” Breed stated. “This undermines and corrupts what is supposed to be a transparent and non-partisan process. This is neither transparency nor good government.”
Breed was joined by two more moderate supervisors: Catherine Stefani, who represents the Marina and Pacific Heights, and Ahsha Safai, who represents the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhoods.
“Make no mistake, this letter is not an endorsement of any proposed or potential redistricting map, but a reflection that the members of the task force have an enormously difficult and important responsibility and we must support and protect their ability to remain independent,” the supervisors stated in a letter to the commission.
Wiener called out District 5 (Haight-Ashbury-Western Addition) Supervisor Dean Preston and District 3 (Financial District-Chinatown-North Beach) Supervisor Aaron Peskin, alleging they are trying to influence the process.
“It also speaks volumes that Supervisor Dean Preston — supported by political campaign organizations aligned with him, as well as Supervisor Aaron Peskin — is leading the charge to get the Elections Commission to take this inappropriate, unprecedented step, based on his unhappiness with the proposed lines for his own district,” he stated.
Preston issued a statement in response Friday.
“Just as the Redistricting Task Force has for months ignored testimony from the public and erased the concerns of vulnerable communities, Senator Wiener seeks to erase the fact that independent, nonpartisan organizations – the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, and the ACLU of Northern California, San Francisco Chapter – are leading the call for the Elections Commission to intervene,” Preston stated. “The politically-motivated gerrymandering and attempt to erase vulnerable communities is deeply concerning, and it speaks volumes that nonpartisan voting rights organizations are sounding the alarm.”
Peskin staff, along with activists in favor of the elections commission’s decision, and the task force itself, have not responded to requests for comment from KRON4.