Charges Fly Over Vote on Redistricting : Remap: Opponents call the City Council's stormy approval a sham to help keep Councilman Filner in office.


In a hotly contested 5-4 vote that drew prompt allegations of political favoritism, the San Diego City Council on Monday approved a redistricting map that, proponents said, gives Hispanics a majority in District 8 and splits representation of the fast-growing urban area along Interstate 15 among four council members.

But, after the council meeting, former Chicano Federation Chairman Jess Haro branded the redistricting a "sham" that Councilman Bob Filner orchestrated in the "back rooms" of City Hall in order to remain a viable candidate in the 8th District. "We're going to court tomorrow morning," Haro said Monday.

Haro, whose organization won a federal court settlement that mandated the creation of a Hispanic-majority district, maintained that the vote was a "farce . . . it puts the city in violation of the (federal court) settlement . . . the map they drew up was a back-room map."

Proponents of the adopted map argued that it gives Hispanics a slim, 51% majority in District 8, which Filner now represents. Haro, who disputed that figure, had supported a competing map that he said would have given Hispanics a "clear" 52.2% majority.

Haro "should take us to court," an angry Mayor Maureen O'Connor said after the meeting. O'Connor, who volunteered to serve as the "first witness," described the vote as a "political redistricting . . . the one thing that we didn't need . . . in a voting rights case."

Voting for the redistricting map were Filner and council members John Hartley, Wes Pratt, Linda Bernhardt and Abbe Wolfsheimer. O'Connor and council members Judy McCarty, Bruce Henderson and Ron Roberts voted against the map.

Haro and O'Connor raised questions about how the five-vote majority evolved at Monday's meeting, given the fact that the winning map wasn't submitted until just minutes before Monday's 2 p.m. council meeting.

O'Connor complained that too many important issues--specifically, redistricting and growth control--seem to be generated in private by some council members. "I'm very disturbed about what's been going on in City Hall," O'Connor said after the vote.

"There's a possible Brown Act violation here," Haro said after the meeting. The Brown Act prohibits council members from meeting in private to discuss upcoming votes.

Council members who voted for the map denied that any secret meetings had occurred. Bernhardt called O'Connor's suggestion "ridiculous."

The map adopted Monday includes significant changes for San Diegans. It allows Filner, who recently moved to a home near Burlingame, to remain within District 8.

It also transfers about 50,000 residents of Henderson's existing District 6 to other council members. And, it switches Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch from Bernhardt's district to Wolfsheimer's.

The map also splits several other communities among different council members. And, it will eliminate elections for some San Diegans who were scheduled to vote next year. Half of the council is elected every two years, and those areas will be shifted to districts that will have their next elections in 1983.

Hartley, who introduced the controversial map, described it as an "environmental map" to protect the I-15 corridor from development by dividing it up among four council members.

That split would help to insulate council members from the influence of developers by making it more difficult to win, Alan Sakarias, a member of the Sierra Club's executive committee said after Monday's meeting. The Sierra Club helped to design the map, along with San Diegans for Managed Growth, another environmental group.

Sakarias denied that the "environmental map" was crafted at the expense of Latinos. He maintained that creation of the Hispanic district was always a "key element" of the environmental groups' plan.

The approved map drew harsh comments from council members who opposed its adoption.

"This is the worst case of political gerrymandering that I've ever seen," Henderson said after the meeting. "The map doesn't make any sense."

Roberts called the map "a thinly veiled attempt to get at one member (Henderson) of this council. . . . The labeling of this as an environmental map is a misnomer."

"It's a sham to say that this is a good government map," McCarty said. "It's a sham to say this is an environmental map." McCarty blasted the city's environmental organizations for waiting "until the eleventh hour" before unveiling the map.

Although City Hall was awash Monday in proposed redistricting maps submitted by individuals and organizations, it quickly became apparent that there were five votes in support of the map that Hartley introduced and Filner seconded.

Haro unsuccessfully urged the council to approve the redistricting map that a council-appointed redistricting advisory board approved in an 11-3 vote earlier this summer. Haro, who served as vice chairman of that committee, complained that citizens were unable to view the map that surfaced at Monday's meeting.

During a public hearing on Monday, numerous speakers reminded council members that, by law, the redistricting is driven by two factors: the need to rectify district population imbalances that have occurred since the last redistricting a decade ago and the Chicano Federation's 1988 lawsuit that challenged the city's electoral system as unfair to blacks and Hispanics.

Haro advised council members that they were duty-bound not to consider "other factors which are not recognized either under federal or state law." The map adopted on Monday "was for the benefit of Filner at the expense of everyone else," Haro complained.

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