The consulting firm hired by Elk Grove to redraw its city council districts has released its first report, and it contains some interesting fodder for both amateur demographers and those handicapping the fall 2012 elections.
The report highlights a major population imbalance among the city’s current five council districts, which range from just under 18,000 residents in District 5, represented by Councilmember Sophia Scherman, to over 50,000 residents in District 4, represented by Councilmember Gary Davis.
Davis’s district, which encompasses most of the area west of Bruceville Road and south of Laguna Blvd, saw its population increase by over 200% since 2001. It also experienced the greatest growth in Asians, Latinos and African-Americans, who together now make up a majority of Elk Grove’s residents.
“The population changes in the city are rather astounding,” said Paul Mitchell of Sacramento-based Redistricting Partners. “All over the state you have Latinos and Asians increasing in numbers, but Elk Grove is not just following the overall state pattern. You have neighborhoods where the Latino, Asian and African-American population has increased 300, 400, 600 percent. That puts Elk Grove in the position where they’re not just having a tweak of their existing districts but a real remapping of the city.”
Who Will Be Mayor?
Mitchell’s firm is tasked with reducing the five districts to four for next fall’s elections, when Elk Grovians will choose their first elected mayor. (In the past, councilmembers chose the mayor each year, taking turns among themselves.) While the election is still a ways away, speculation abounds about which of the current councilmembers will lose their seat—and which will compete for Elk Grove’s top job.
Scherman, current Mayor Steven Detrick and Vice-Mayor Jim Cooper all face the expiration of their council terms in 2012 and would have to choose between running again for council or campaigning for mayor. Detrick and Cooper have already said they will not go after the mayoral post, and instead will try to hold onto their respective seats representing the city’s third and first council districts.
This month, Scherman added a new wrinkle to the race when she filed paperwork with the California Secretary of State’s office indicating she plans to run for state Assembly in the fall. The longtime Republican councilmember seeks to represent the 10th Assembly district—one of two districts that encompass parts of Elk Grove—a post currently held by Democrat Alyson Huber.
Davis and Councilmember Patrick Hume, relative newcomers whose terms don’t expire until 2014 and whose districts saw the largest growth over the last decade, are both rumored to be interested in the mayor’s race. But the two are playing coy about their plans.
“I’m not prepared to make any announcements at this point,” said Davis, who has been busy burnishing his credentials with the launch of a new non-profit and a campaign to build a charter school in Elk Grove. “I will say that the year that I was able to hold the title of mayor I used that title to accomplish some pretty phenomenal things.”
Hume, who grew up in Elk Grove and represents the city’s rural east side, told Elk Grove Patch last month he likely wouldn’t run but is still pondering his options.
Elk Grove 'A Melting Pot'
Hume’s district, like Scherman’s, still contains large swathes where the population is mostly Caucasian. In other districts, different ethnic groups are dispersed fairly evenly rather than being segregated in a particular area—something else Mitchell says is atypical.
“Elk Grove is a lot more of a melting pot than most cities around California,” he said.
Mitchell and his team say they will aim for districts of roughly equivalent population that keep communities together—not those just those based on ethnicity, but other groups that share common bonds such as attending the same schools or churches. They’ll hold a series of workshops to get public input between now and the end of July, when they’ll present a recommendation to the current council, which will make a final decision.
Councilmembers Lack Enthusiasm for Mayoral Race
As for the mayor’s race, when Elk Grove voters decided against giving an elected mayor greater powers, they seem to have put a damper on enthusiasm for the race among councilmembers, leaving more room for an outsider to step into the race.
“Whether you’re the mayor or a councilmember, at the end of the day you’ve still just got one vote,” said Cooper. “I don’t have to have that center point on the dais. I’m OK on the end.”
What does Elk Grove’s new diversity mean for the upcoming elections? Will Davis’s current large district give him an advantage in the mayor’s race, should he run? And which outside candidates will step into the ring?
Elk Grove Patch will continue to follow the redistricting process and the mayor’s race in the coming months. The full report, presented to the city council Wednesday, can be downloaded from the council meeting agenda.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to city councilmember Patrick Hume as a "native Elk Grovian." In fact, Hume was born in Victorville and moved as a child to Elk Grove, where he grew up. Elk Grove Patch regrets the error.