Bad timing for redistricting re-do

Oak Park residents opposed shifting UC Davis Medical Center out of their City Council district in 2011.
Oak Park residents opposed shifting UC Davis Medical Center out of their City Council district in 2011. Sacramento Bee file

We agree it was a mistake to split UC Davis Medical Center from Oak Park in the 2011 Sacramento City Council redistricting. But reversing that decision is not worth the effort being expended by Mayor Kevin Johnson.

As the mayor himself says, this would be a symbolic gesture. If Johnson wants to prove he still has power despite the overwhelming defeat of strong mayor on Nov. 4, there are many more urgent issues that need his attention.

Just for one example, he could lead the new City Council in seeing through a smarter, faster and less costly way to complete the installation of water meters.

The other problem with this redistricting fix is that it contradicts a more important Johnson push – a proposed independent commission to redraw council districts. The whole idea behind it is to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, who proved again in 2011 that they can’t be trusted, trashing maps suggested by a citizens advisory group and drawing their own behind closed doors.

But now Johnson wants politicians to take the highly unusual step of changing council districts before the next census in 2020 – when there’s no voting-rights violation or other urgent issue.

A mere half-dozen voters will be shifted from District 6 back to District 5, according to the staff report going before the City Council on Tuesday night. So the change will have no impact on the special election April 7 to replace Councilman Kevin McCarty, who is stepping down from his District 6 seat after winning a state Assembly seat.

At least Johnson had the good sense to avoid gratuitous political hardball by putting off a vote until Dec. 16. Under his original timetable, it was difficult not to see this move as a slap to McCarty, who added the medical center to his district and who has opposed the mayor on the arena deal and other issues.

The new schedule avoids a vote on Dec. 2, the night of McCarty’s farewell reception.

Even better, however, would be to move first on the independent commission and let it decide whether it makes any sense to revisit the 2011 redistricting.