RICHMOND -- Alarmed at the prospect of being lumped into a congressional district that also includes Oakland and Berkeley, the City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing the proposed change.
The state redistricting commission has come up with a legislative map that shifts Richmond out of the district held by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who has represented the city since 1975, into the Oakland-based district of Rep. Barbara Lee.
Five of Richmond's seven council members voted to petition the commission for a return to their Contra Costa County-based district, mostly on the grounds that Oakland would overshadow the city's interests.
"Politically, we know that you respond to the largest constituency that you have," said Councilman Nat Bates, who introduced the resolution.
Miller's chief of staff said Wednesday that while the representative's office is staying out of the process, the city would be best served in its existing district.
"I think it would be better for Richmond to be part of the Contra Costa County congressional district, but it's not up to us," said Chief of Staff Daniel Weiss. " I think people have made the argument that Richmond is potentially at risk of under-competing with other big cities like Oakland and Berkeley."
Both Richmond and Oakland and are trying to attract more commerce to their ports, and the cities are competing for a shot at housing Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's proposed second campus.
Council members praised Lee for her outspoken anti-war stance and dedication to the African American community, but said they believed the city would have a better shot a securing grants and other federal help with Miller in their corner.
Councilman Tom Butt said that embracing the proposed redistricting would be akin to a business hiring a firm already representing its direct competitor.
Rep. Lee's office declined to comment on the matter.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin abstained from the vote. She argued that with its emphasis on smart growth and green industry, Richmond has more in common with Alameda County than suburban Contra Costa.
She asked that the resolution not be recorded as the will of the council as a whole, drawing shouts of, "That's not right," and, "Doesn't look good,-- from audience members, many of whom had spoken in support of the petition.
Council member Jovanka Beckles also abstained, saying she wanted to respect the goal of keeping politics out of the process this time around.
The proposed changes are the work of a newly constituted independent commission, which drew its lines without regard for incumbents' home cities or party affiliation.
Beckles noted that the state had invited residents to participate in the commission through radio ads and other forms of outreach.
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus has expressed disappointment with the proposed changes, saying they would weaken Richmond's political clout and increase racial homogeneity in both districts, and the Contra Costa Building and Trades Council has filed a letter of opposition citing similar reasons.
The commission will be taking comment throughout the summer and will adopt final maps by Aug. 15. The proposed lines are not expected to change significantly.
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier