City Attorney: Council members stay in districts until after elections

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

The City Charter calls for the eight current members of the City Council to continue to represent their districts until the winner of next year’s election for the new ninth district is sworn in, according to a legal memorandum released Wednesday by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Redistricting, done every 10 years to adjust council boundaries in accordance with updated U.S. census data, is especially complicated this time because not only are the lines being redrawn, but the ninth district is being added.

A major question has been who would represent the residents of the ninth district once the new map goes into effect next month.

Goldsmith and Deputy City Attorney Sharon Spivak wrote that the council members should continue to represent their current geographic areas until the new representative takes office on Dec. 3, 2012.

“We confirm here, however, that the Charter intended for the new district boundaries to take effect after the new 9th District council member is sworn in and represents the new district,’' they wrote. “This opinion ensure compliance with the constitutional requirement of fair representation.’'

Their finding conflicts with tentative plans announced last week by council President Tony Young, who proposed that his colleagues begin to represent their new districts next month — and that residents of District 9 would receive services from their current representatives for the time being.

“We understand and respect the City Attorney’s opinion and will give it full consideration during council discussions on this matter,’' Young told City News Service in an e-mailed statement.

The city’s Redistricting Commission, which has the last say on the configuration of district boundaries, is scheduled to vote on final approval of a map on Aug. 25.

Goldsmith also addressed two issues brought up by districts that have moved away from the current residences of their council representatives.

Regarding the odd-numbered districts up for re-election next year, he said Councilman Todd Gloria will have to move into the redrawn District 3 ahead of a 30-day deadline before the June 5 primary.

For even-numbered districts, Lorie Zapf will continue to be able to represent District 6 for the rest of her term, even though it will likely be shifted away from her home in Bay Ho; and the same will apply in case District 4 is moved away from Young’s neighborhood in Valencia Park, of which there is a small chance.