Escondido tables discussion on budget increase for redistricting outreach – Coast News

ESCONDIDO — The Escondido City Council decided to revisit a discussion about allocating $50,000 for enhanced public outreach after questions arose about the Independent Redistricting Commission’s spending during a Nov. 17 council meeting.

Since its creation, “the commission has hired Dr. Karin MacDonald (Q2 Data) to serve as the demographer; finalized the times and locations of the nine map-drawing Public Hearings that will take place in January and February of 2022; and formalized an outreach plan that will be carried out by the City of Escondido Communications Department,” per the staff report.

In January, the City Council unanimously approved a budget of $200,000 for the Escondido Independent Redistricting Commission. Due to the pandemic, however, the commission will hold its required nine public hearings in-person and online.

To ensure “maximum public access to its proceedings,” the commission is hoping to offer real-time translation services to those attending hearings online. The cost to provide translation services online is approximately $23,100.

Furthermore, the commission requested an increase to its marketing budget, bringing the total budget adjustment request to $50,000. The funding would be taken from the city’s leftover 2020 election budget, according to City Clerk Zack Beck, who was speaking on behalf of the commission.

The commission’s outreach plan includes citywide bi-lingual mailers, social media marketing, posters and magnets at city facilities and on city vehicles, print media advertising and more.

“It’s important for the community to know that these efforts are happening and that they participate because we need that testimony for this process to work,” Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez said, supporting the allocation.

Councilman Mike Morasco and Mayor Paul McNamara, however, expressed concerns about the amount of money that was being requested after an already significant budget was allocated to the commission.

“Your public outreach budget went from $20,000 to $70,000, and you’re asking us to give you the money and trust that you’ll spend it wisely,” McNamara said. “I feel we owe the public a little more detail on that.”

After a heated discussion, the council decided to table the issue and ask the chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission to come to the next meeting and formalize the request with a more detailed outline of the budget.

Martinez urged that the council revisit the discussion as soon as possible so as not to sacrifice translation services in upcoming meetings just to “save money.”

Redistricting occurs every 10 years, after the federal census, wherein city councils, school boards and other public agencies that use the district voting system redraw their boundaries to balance the district populations and reflect demographic changes.

In addition to MacDonald, the seven-member commission includes Robert Case, Carolyn Clemens, Amy Dao Doan, Kristy Jurgensen, Xochitl Reyes and Mariela Saldana.

Escondido’s initial map drawing will take place in January and February, followed by City Council revisions and final approval in March. The deadline for the final redistricting map is April 17.