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Create an online redistricting map

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Anyone in the city can use the city’s online tools to carve up the eight City Council districts and present their redistricting ideas to city leaders.

The mapmaking tool for the 2011 redistricting process is free to use, and the city welcomes maps from residents.

Maps developed and submitted by citizens will be shared with the City Council, the council’s redistricting advisory committee and the general public, said Maria MacGunigal, the city’s Geographic Information Systems manager.

Every decade, the city rearranges its council districts by applying U.S. Census data.The reordered districts should all have the same population, according to city staff.

“The primary objective of redistricting is to balance population,” MacGunigal said.

Another concern is the makeup of the districts: The balanced districts must not disenfranchise various groups of people, MacGunigal said. Issues related to disenfranchisement of racial groups were discussed at a Feb. 28 Neighborhood Advisory Group meeting.

The deadline to turn in maps to the city is May 16. All maps must be designed using the online tools – the city is not using paper maps, MacGunigal said. The City Council will make final decisions on redistricting in September.

The city worked with a consultant, Environmental Systems Research Institute, to set up the redistricting tool. ESRI created redistricting software, MacGunigal said, and city staff helped set up its design, function and delivery to citizens.

The online tools are sophisticated and give users the ability to share their maps with others.

“You can share your plan, you can create a group and invite users of the tool to participate with you,” MacGunigal said.

Users can work on the maps in sessions by saving their online work and returning to it – they do not have to create the map in one sitting.

The Census data shows that the city’s population rose from 407,018 in 2000 to 466,488 in 2010. With the city’s population at 466,488, each district must have 58,311 people.

District 1 is the largest, with 106,729 people. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are relatively close in size, ranging in population from about 46,000 people to about 53,000 people. District 4, represented by Councilman Rob Fong, has 45,703 people, making it the least-populated district in the city.

The Sacramento Press tried out the online tools Friday for illustration purposes and to help citizens understand the process of making your own map.

First, a free account must be created. 

Next, read the city’s instructions on how to use the online tools to cut up the districts.

The “create” tab is where the redistricting action takes place. Using the tools here, you can move pieces of one district to another district. Remember, the districts will need to each have 58,311 people.

Divvying up the population in the city is like playing with a Rubik’s Cube. It’s not quick or easy to bring all the districts to the same population numbers. When a user moves a piece of one district into another, the population may bring one district to the 58,311 goal but make another district much larger than 58,000.

Here is the existing map of District 1 before The Sacramento Press took a stab at it.

And here is the map of District 1 after The Sacramento Press brought it down to 58,313 people. (It was too tricky to bring it down to 58,311 on a journalism deadline.)

The Sacramento Press test map shows that it is a time-consuming process. Once a user lowers or raises a population to 58,311, the other districts may fall out of balance. While Ashby’s district was reduced to 58,313, District 2 now has too many people, with 80,119 people.

In addition, The Sacramento Press did not account for any of the crucial demographic data and how the map would affect neighborhoods. The online tool allows users to see the racial breakdown of how their maps affect communities.

City staff will hold training sessions next week that will demonstrate how to use the redistricting software. Three one-hour training sessions will be held at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday, April 11, at La Familia Center Computer Lab, 5523 34th St.

Training sessions will also be held at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, at North Natomas Library Computer Lab, 4660 Via Ingoglia.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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