Screenshot of the Elections Commission special hearing on April 8.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. on April 9.

Instead of voting to remove any of its nominees to the Redistricting Task Force, the Elections Commission tonight voted to “applaud the appointees for their hard work” and affirmed the body’s independence. 

The decision was unanimous and came at 9:25 p.m., after eight hours of generally civil discussion.

The Elections Commission scheduled their special hearing for late Wednesday evening, after receiving letters from the San Francisco ACLU, the League of Women Voters and the Asian Law Caucus suggesting that the task force had been minimizing the input of marginalized communities of interest. Almost 100 members of the public also raised concerns.

The Elections Commission was responsible for appointing three members to the Redistricting Task Force, Vice-Chair Ditka Reiner and members Chasel Lee and Raynell Cooper, who could have been removed at the commission’s discretion.

Some commissioners did acknowledge problems with the task force’s process and gave Chair Arnold Townsend recommendations on how to improve. They included having translators available throughout meetings, spending longer explaining decisions to the public, and attempting to schedule more meetings before the task force’s looming deadline.

But after listening to representatives of the organizations that submitted letters, as well as several hours of public comment, none of the commissioners suggested recalling any of the appointees.

“I think this commission should be embarrassed,” said Charles Jung, the mayor’s appointee to the Elections Commission. He said it was wrong to have entertained a “remedy as drastic as removal” before having more information about the task force’s work.

“I feel very badly that I am any part of this,” said Jung.

Vice President Chappell agreed that removal was unwarranted: “There are some shortcomings of process, but the remedy is not removing any of our appointees.” 

The other members of the Election Commission include President Lucy Bernholz, Cynthia Dai, Christopher Jerdonek, and Robin M. Shapiro.

The commission said that they intend to create a series of recommendations in a later meeting to inform the process of the next task force, in 10 years’ time. One of the main recommendations discussed today was to clarify exactly who had oversight over the task force. Another was to start the mapping process earlier.

“It is just unrealistic to think you are going to get meaningful public input without anything to react to,” said Dai. She added that she was “happy we had this meeting” and “not at all embarrassed.”

“We were asked by the public to have a hearing,” she said. “We provided a forum.”

In the last two days, political heavyweights have sparred on Twitter over the Elections Commission’s meeting. Mayor London Breed and Sen. Scott Wiener released statements condemning the special hearing. Matt Haney wrote that he disapproved of recalling task force members, and Hillary Ronen responded that Haney was standing up for “gerrymandered districts” and that she was “disgusted.”

The majority of public comment during the special hearing was against recalling the appointees, although a significant minority spoke out against the task force’s apparent dismissal of marginalized communities. Some voiced their displeasure with the map while also criticizing the idea of recalling task force members.

“I think it’s too late for better or different members,” said commeter David Pilpel, who served on the redistricting task force in 2012. “But it’s not too late for a better map.”

While the Elections Commission heard public comments, the Redistricting Task Force was mapping elsewhere in city hall. As of 11 p.m., their meeting was still going.

“The fact that this happened is still disappointing,” said Cooper, one of the task force members who was appointed by the Elections Commission. But he said he was happy with the result, and thankful for support from the public and his fellow task force members.

“This was a very pivotal moment for me,” he said. “If we were removed it would have been a tragic thing.”

The task force’s next meeting starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 9. They are expected to have a near-final version of the map by the end of the day.

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DATA REPORTER. Will was born in the UK and studied English at Oxford University. After a few years in publishing, he absconded to the USA where he studied data journalism in New York. Will has strong views on healthcare, the environment, and the Oxford comma.

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9 Comments

  1. At least two of the commissioners stated they were glad they had held these hearings, as there had been troubling statements made at the Wednesday hearing. The commissioners were confused about their role, saying the City Attorney would need to tell them if they had an “oversight role” over the Task force, or who had an oversight role. They never really considered the question and answers as “testimony” strangely. But it would be an unfair characterization to say that all the commissioners thought this was “embarrassing.” One said that. The others felt it was “Democracy at work” as one put it.

  2. This important, transparent hearing was held because of the bizarre votes by the RDTF where they completely disregarded the majority of public comment. That glaring truth is clearly documented in the hours and hours of video from these recorded meetings; a tally of the hundreds of public comments clearly shows the TF is disconnected from the public in their actions and mapping votes. When asked by the Commission about a system of tallying the public comments for individual maps, the 3 T effers indicated they were not using system for doing so. Why? How, after 10 and 12 hour sessions, could any T effer have the presence of mind to remember this? Which begs the question: who is directing the TF? It’s good that the Dept. Of Elections Commish held this hearing. The DofE asked mostly good questions but the 3 TF appointees did not have answers. The 3 T effers were unresponsive when questioned. This process has been badly bungled and rushed, mainly because of the TF’s self inflicted wasting time with drastic departures down dead ends in mapping and vote reversals. Nowhere in the City Charter does it state what happens if the TF takes additional time to do proper due diligence in this impactful decision making. They should take more time. More time is required. The deadline must be aborted because the process has been tampered with. As one commenter stated: Townsend should be given an Oscar for his acting performance at today’s hearing; it’s no wonder the TF has run out of time.

  3. Game over, nonprofit poverty progressives. It should be entertaining to watch the game of nonprofit musical chairs once new more conservative supervisors are elected and the whip is cracked on funding nonprofits that do more political manipulation than poverty mitigation.

    The best, absolutely best, part will be watching the caged death match where East Bay commuter poverty nonprofiteer Randy Shaw owns Calvin Welch’s supervisor while Shaw makes inroads into Elberling’s territory.

    The progressive nonprofiteers were warned, long warned, that converting progressive politics into “others have it worse than you, so shut up” would end the project. The warning signs were evident to anyone who bothered to look.

    1. Comment is timely given the recent article from the Daily Mail on how SF non-profit provide little to no benefit despite the amount of money showered on them by the city.

      “San Francisco’s $19m open-air drugs market has referred just EIGHTEEN of its 23,367 visitors for treatment.”
      “Local anti-drugs advocate Gina McDonald, who compiled the statistics, says most visitors to the facility instead use it to get high”
      “I think Gary is just making up random #s,” wrote Dr. Rob Hoffman, Special Project Manager with the San Francisco Department of Health, in a February 8 email to other city employees including ones with the Department of Emergency Management and city homeless service agencies.

  4. I think people don’t respect the difference between a deliberative process by a officially tasked group and a community organization meeting. The responsibility of redistricting isn’t making a recommendation based on counting how many people have shown up with a particular position. In a community organization meeting, that’s typically it adopts positions on issues because the group represents the opinions of the members who show up. Redistricting task force gathers it’s own data as well as hearing people who speak at meetings. What they hear at meetings is supplemental information to amplify and validate their data and give opportunity to any group that wasn’t been included in the data to identify itself and prompt the task force to gather data on that group.

  5. > In the last two days, political heavyweights have sparred on Twitter over the Elections Commission’s meeting. Mayor London Breed and Sen. Scott Wiener released statements condemning setting up a special hearing. Matt Haney wrote that he disapproved of recalling task force members, and Hillary Ronen responded that Haney was standing up for “gerrymandered districts” and that she was “disgusted.”

    I swear figuring out the underlying and shifting coalitions in San Francisco politics is a full-time job that would drive even a seismologist crazy.

    Lulz though at Ronen’s calling out Haney’s ever-changing politics of ambition

    @marcos, I wish you could expand on that, though cynically, I suspect there are enough bucks the non-profits can make available to “more conservative” supervisors that they won’t really be challenged and will even end up better off. (Maybe with some Recology lubricated deals)

  6. Not quite as cynical as Marcos yet but totally agree with Mr. Nadar regarding his remark on deliberative process v community organizing. Unfortunately, District Elections is all about identity politics so no surprise the process of redistricting would bring out the worst in “organizing”.

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