By Eliza Partika
The City Council discussed the formation of its first City Council districts at its meeting on Tuesday, with the possibility of six Council districts with distinct boundaries and a directly elected mayor replacing the five at-large Council seats and a mayor who is chosen by the other Councilmembers on a yearly rotation.
If the plan is approved by the voters in March, it would take effect beginning with Council elections starting in 2026, according to the city’s website.
In the current system, all registered voters in Glendale have the ability to vote for all five City Councilmembers in citywide elections. In the vote-by-district system, each of the newly created six districts will vote for a representative who lives in and is elected by voters in their district. Glendale voters may also have the opportunity to vote directly for their next mayor. Each district would contain approximately 32,830 people.
A presentation on the process of redistricting, including an overview of the legal requirements, criteria for district formation and a timeline of the process, was followed by comments and questions from Councilmembers and the public, where many voiced their displeasure with the Council’s plans and concerns about the effects redistricting will have on their neighborhoods.
“The direction from Council and from staff that we are helping to implement is to really get out there in the community, get the word out and engage with the community,” said Doug Johnson, president of the National Demographics Corporation, the Glendale-based entity working with the Council on the redistricting process and outreach.
By changing to voting by district, Glendale is potentially avoiding a lawsuit that other municipalities have been subjected to, claiming that the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. Burbank is undergoing a similar process, but in the neighboring city’s case, the vote-by-district plan was triggered by a lawsuit that claims that city was in violation of state law.
The first hearing last week on the redistricting process focused on community education and inputs to begin drafting maps of the new districts. Through July 27, the community will have the opportunity to workshop maps of new districts at community workshop days held virtually and in-person on June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Council in Your Neighborhood and a Pop-Up at Pacific Park on June 21 at 6:30 p.m.
The second City Council public hearing, to be held July 11, will give a summary of the first feedback forums. Another community workshop will be held via Zoom on Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m.
Councilmembers discussed the importance of community input and emphasized the need for a transparent and fair process. Members of the public expressed their concerns about the potential impact of redistricting on their communities and urged the Council to consider the needs of all residents.
Overall, the discussion highlighted the importance of community involvement in the redistricting process and the Council’s commitment to ensuring a fair and equitable outcome.
Councilwoman Paula Devine asked if the decision to have an elected mayor versus a non-elected mayor could be left up to Glendale voters.
“Do you want an elected mayor? If you do, that’s what we should do. If you don’t, then we should look at seven councilmembers and rotate the mayorship like we’ve always done,” she said.
Residents who participated in public comment were concerned that redistricting would be carved by ethnic group, and that community resources will not be evenly distributed.
“Glendale is a great city. Every ethnic group lives all over the town, every part of the town, north, south, east west,” said one commenter.
“Will each district have an equal number of fire stations? Will each district have an equal number of libraries?” asked another resident.
The city is planning for six separate council districts that will be primarily determined by characteristics defined by community members. Johnson explained some ways to define communities who may need to be districted together, including geographic area, a shared social or economic interest, language, or shared impact by city policies. By law, districts are not allowed to be considered through affiliation with a particular political party, candidate or incumbent, he said.
Neighborhoods are the building blocks to use for creating the districts, especially in Glendale, according to NDC’s Johnson. On MapGlendale.org community members can send emails, and there is a community interest survey form where they can describe their needs. Survey forms will be reported back to the council. Flyers with QR codes that link to the MapGlendale.org site will be put up around town.
To ensure each district has approximately the same number of residents, the most recent U.S. Census data will be used to determine the boundaries of each district. If approved by the Council, the new districts would take effect beginning with the 2026 City Council elections.
The proposed changes will be put before voters on the March 2024 ballot. The next two public hearings will occur at the Glendale City Council chambers on July 11 and Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. The city’s calendar page has the most updated information on the public hearings, as well as access to the paper and online mapping tool kits for Glendale residents to draw their ideal districts, to be shared at the July 11 council meeting.
According to a city press release, residents can get involved by attending public hearings and community workshops, and are highly encouraged to share thoughts on which neighborhoods should be kept together in a single district, “to ensure district lines respect neighborhoods, history and geographic elements.”
Residents are also encouraged to submit draft maps of proposed district lines, attend public hearings and provide feedback on the maps drawn by the community and the National Demographics Corporation during community workshops.
The National Demographics Corporation, the city’s professional demographer, has assisted states, counties, cities, school districts, community college districts, community service districts, water districts, health care districts, airport districts and others with demographics data, districting and redistricting. The firm has assisted the Glendale Community College district in the past, and is also helping the city of Burbank.
For more information and dates of community meetings, go to MapGlendale.org.
First published in the June 17 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.