Photo of Palm Desert City Hall

The Palm Desert City Council last week held its first public hearing on the redistricting process that will divide the city into five single-member council districts for the first time in its 50-year history.

“The purpose of this public hearing is to inform the public about the redistricting process and to hear from the community about what factors should be taken into consideration when creating district maps,” Anthony Mejia, city clerk, said. “The public is requested to provide input regarding communities of interest and other local factors to be considered while drafting maps.”

Mejia said there were three criteria the city must follow when working on the maps. The first, he said, was federal law, which requires each district to have equal population and no racial gerrymandering. 

The second, Mejia said, is California law which mandates that districts be geographically contiguous, minimize the division of neighborhoods and communities of interest, have easily identifiable borders and do not bypass one group of people to get a more distant group of people in that order. State law also prohibits creating districts that discriminate against particular political parties.

“Once those two top criteria have been factored in, the city can consider respect of the voters choice, which would mean to avoid unnecessary pairing of incumbents and future population growth,” he said.

The council will hold another public hearing Sept. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers to hear public input on factors that should be considered when drafting the maps, though Mejia pointed out that draft maps will not be presented until after that public hearing per state law.

Mejia said the city will hold two map drawing workshops on Oct. 4 and 16 at 5 p.m. via Zoom. Members of the public will have until Nov. 1 to submit their map for consideration. 

The city will then hold another public hearing Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. where all submitted maps will be presented for consideration, and the council will be asked to choose which maps it wants to focus on moving forward. A full schedule of public hearings can be found here.

“When it comes to public participation, we are asking the public to provide input at an upcoming community workshop or public hearing,” Mejia said. “At the workshops, we will have Spanish and [American Sign Language] interpreters on site, and then for the City Council public hearings, Spanish and [American Sign Language] interpreters are available upon request.”

The board previously directed city staff to take the necessary steps to transition from its current configuration to five single-member districts prior to the November 2024 election at the June 22 meeting after previously asking staff if it was possible to delay the districting effort. The council subsequently adopted the redistricting public education and outreach plan at its Aug. 24 meeting.

In other council action: The Palm Desert City Council appointed Lori Davis to serve as the city’s inaugural poet laureate for a one-year term. In this role, she will be responsible for writing and reciting poetry in the city of Palm Desert at public events such as the city’s 50th Anniversary event, the State of the City and the city’s Independence Day event.

“I feel really grateful and honored to be the first poet laureate of Palm Desert,” Davis said. “I look forward to promoting the written and spoken word in our community, and to mentor a junior laureate. And I think you know that poetry benefits from any advocacy that it can get, so I just really want to say thank you for doing this.”

A video of the meeting can be found here on the city’s YouTube page.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.

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