By Janell Gore, South Kern Sol

Every ten years after the census data is collected the process of redistricting starts. Redistricting includes the City Council Wards to ensure that each council member is covering an equal number of constituents.

Wednesday the city council held their 4th public hearing regarding redistricting.

The final map must be posted online 7 days before their official vote. There were 6 draft plans as of Wednesday night’s meeting. By the next meeting, March 9th a plan needs to be selected to move forward with and have all final edits made.

Some of the draft plans submitted come from different members of the community such as a CSUB student, Angel Ruiz who is in the GIS program and submitted the map titled New Bakersfield.

He pointed out that his map was not made with any political parties in mind.

“The map was drawn on communities of interest. It was drawn on what I felt was best for the community, for the city of Bakersfield, for people that live here,” said Ruiz.

Harveen Kaur presented on the map submitted by the Jakara movement named the Unity Map.

Kaur emphasized that their map keeps communities together such as the Punjabi community, African American community, and the Latino community. They also took the time to speak to people from the communities about how they wanted the lines to be.

This map was put together including input from not only the Jakara Movement but also, Kern Equitable Maps Coalition, the Westchester/Oleander COI, the MLK/Lakeview COI, the System-Impacted COI, and other Bakersfield residents.

Kaur also spoke against map 2B that was submitted during her presentation and claimed that the map was an attempt at gerrymandering.

Elaina Honeycutt continued this concern for gerrymandering and said that Ward 2 was an example of incumbent protection gerrymandering.

Other community members spoke in favor of the Unity map because of the need for diversity and representation among the wards.

According to those who spoke, an equitable map will have the wards drawn in a way that accurately reflects the members that live there.

“When we are talking about the census and when we’re talking about redistricting, we’re really talking about representation. This is what this is all about so that all of the citizens and residents of Bakersfield will have equal representation,” said Dolores Huerta.

City manager, Christian Clegg, spoke to the maps after public hearing comments and stated that the city council is looking at maps that do look at the communities of interest and they appreciate the community’s input.

Bruce Freeman of ward 5 spoke against maps other than 2B because he felt it would affect the future growth of ward 6 however council member Eric Arias of ward 1 mentioned that it is illegal to take future growth into consideration. Sophia Garcia with redistricting partners confirmed that they can not look into future growth because they have to go based on 2020 data.

Gonzales made a motion to move forward with map 2B and submission 5 (Unity map) with slight suggestions. The motion was approved with 3 no votes from council members Ken Weir, Freeman, and Patty Gray.

This means that only these two maps will be considered in the next city council meeting.

“We are feeling so exhilarated and hopeful. This is such a big win for, not just the Punjabi Sikh community, but the whole community of Bakersfield,” said Kaur. “We are one step closer to achieving maps that accurately reflect and represent communities of interest and avoid gerrymandering here in Bakersfield.”

Kaur expressed gratitude towards the community for getting involved in the process of redistricting.

“We are extremely thankful to all of our community members for their enriching insight and input, our team who has been working tirelessly to adjust and perfect the maps, and our council members who recognize the value in the Unity Map,” said Kaur.