In yet another dramatic turn, the Redistricting Task Force voted 5-4 Wednesday night to reject its final draft map, opting to violate the legal deadline set out in the San Francisco charter.
“We have taken the public on a rollercoaster ride,” said Jeremy Lee.
The wildest part of that ride has been over the last couple of days, when the task force of nine first voted Sunday morning 5-4 to reject what would become the final draft map, then reversed itself that same morning on the basis of one vote, a move that triggered a walkout by the members who voted against the map.
On Wednesday night, after receiving much criticism from Black communities and allegations that member Rev. Arnold Townsend had been influenced by his relationship with Mayor London Breed, Townsend changed his vote and the controversial map was again defeated by one vote.
“We have contradicted ourselves time and time again,” Lee said. “Just the location of Potrero Hill received a vote three separate times by this body and, when the votes changed, no explanation was offered. No explanation was given to the public for the change of heart.”
“It was at that moment I lost faith in the process.”
Before Wednesday’s vote, Pierce criticized the map she voted to reject for its apparent racial animus: “It looks like a KKK member’s dog ate this map and threw it back up.” And she beseeched Townsend, who had voted in favor of the controversial map, to vote his conscience.
While Pierce said she had great respect for Townsend, she added, “your actions to date, however, have appeared more like Clarence Thomas. And I am requesting today that you step up. … This is our Selma, and I’m requesting that you step up and behave like the good Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
“I didn’t join this process to throw a wrench in the works,” said member Raynell Cooper, who earlier in the day told Mission Local that Townsend acknowledged to him in a private conversation that he felt pressured into voting a certain way because of his “longstanding friendship and relationship with the mayor.”
“It’s one thing to be influenced by an elected official. It’s another to vote with that elected official against the overwhelming tide of comment, and against one’s own conscience,” said Cooper. “The votes immediately preceding my walkout were unbecoming of this body, and everybody up here knows it.”
On Sunday morning, Townsend twice voted to approve the final draft map. But, on Wednesday, he decided to reject it and joined members Jeremy Lee, Chema Hernández Gil, J. Michelle Pierce and Raynell Cooper, who voted to reject the map on Sunday morning. Vice-Chair Ditka Reiner and members Chasel Lee, Matthew Castillon, and Lily Ho voted to approve.
“I think we just need a little more time,” Townsend said. “If it requires us yelling at each other a little bit more, maybe that’s what we need to do.” Townsend did not directly respond to the recent allegations of undue influence in his prior votes.
“The comments here have been very toxic, hurtful and unjustified,” said Reiner. “Just because we disagree does not mean that one side has malicious intent.” She said that days with no sleep had left her exhausted.
“In my mind, I reversed my vote because I thought it would allow us to continue drawing and working together,” she said.
“Instead of working with us on making improvements and making this map better, you guys walked out,” said Ho, who voted to approve the map. “You left us holding the bag.”
Ho also criticized the anti-Asian sentiment emanating from some public commenters: “The anti-Asian racism that I have seen explode is untenable. I consider this a hostile work environment.”
Missing the final April 15 deadline leaves the task force at “risk of possible litigation,” according to Deputy City Attorney Ana Flores.
The task force decided to reconvene on April 21, the earliest date it could schedule, with a new deadline of May 2, dictated by the Department of Elections. It intends to have two more mapping meetings and one (really) final meeting to approve whatever map it creates.
Reiner said that she would be unable to join any meetings until April 27, due to prior commitments.
The task force’s line-drawing will start off with what has become known as the “blow-up map,” which was authored by Pierce last Sunday. It includes the Tenderloin in District 6, Russian Hill in District 2, and East Cut in District 6. Additionally, in the “blow-up map,” the Portola remains in District 9, and Potrero Hill remains in District 10.