Three public hearings will be held to determine the boundaries for future City Council elections. The hearings are scheduled for Monday, April 6, April 20 and May 4. The April 6 meeting is scheduled to be held at the Visalia Convention Center, 303 E. Acequia Ave. All hearings will be held during the regular session of the City Council meetings, which begin at 7 p.m. The April 20 and May 4 meetings will be held at City Hall, 707 W. Acequia Ave.
The City of Visalia must develop five City Council districts for use starting with the 2016 City Council election. Legal requirements and traditional criteria for the drawing of the lines were approved by the Council at its Aug. 4, 2014 meeting with Resolution 2014-34. The legal requirements are: equal population in each district; comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act, and race cannot be the ‘predominate factor’ in the drawing of lines.
The traditional “good government” criteria approved by Council to develop districts include: keep together communities of interest, including school and park-connected neighborhoods, rural or urban populations, city planning areas, social interests and agricultural, industrial, or service industry interests; use visible features as district boundaries where possible; keep districts compact and contiguous; avoid pairing incumbents; and accommodate planned population growth to the degree possible.
An initial round of community forums was held on Sept. 25 and 30, to help the public understand the process and the criteria to be used to draw the districts. Free public participation kits were made available on the website and at City Hall to provide the tools to the public to enable them to submit their own boundary proposal for discussion and consideration by citizens and the City Council.
A total of 12 maps were submitted by the public from Oct. 1 through Nov. 14. These maps, and their demographic summaries, were posted on the City’s website for public review. Those plans, along with three other plans prepared by the City’s districting consultant (NDC), were presented to Council on Dec. 2, 2014, and the map authors provided the thoughts and goals behind their plans to Council.
Two additional outreach meetings were held Jan. 20 and 28 to allow the public the opportunity to review all of the maps, to comment on what they liked and disliked about each map, and to submit any additional maps. The second series of outreach meetings focused on gathering public input on the draft plans developed in the earlier public engagement process. The City conducted an extensive public notification campaign for each round of public forums. The discussion at each of these forums was in-depth and provided useful input defining communities of interest in the city and comparing the relative merits of the plans.
For more information, visit the City’s website, www.visalia.city.