Mister Phillips: Leave District 5 alone

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Mister Phillips: Leave District 5 alone
WCCUSD board member Mister Phillips shares his love of reading with Lake Elementary School students at the African American Read-in February 15, 2017. (Photo: WCCUSD)

By Mister Phillips

On March 21, 2018, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education voted to move from at-large elections to trustee area elections.

On June 27, 2018, the Board adopted a trustee area map after a series of public hearings and community meetings.

There are rumors being circulated that the trustee area map adopted by the Board is an attack on Latinos, and that I am leading that attack.

Those rumors are false, hurtful, and divisive.

Anyone who watched the public hearings knows that I consistently advocated for two Richmond districts, one Richmond/San Pablo district, one El Cerrito/Kensington district, and one Pinole/Hercules district.

Ultimately, the Board adopted a map that fits this description.

Districts 5 and 2 are Richmond districts. District 4 is a Richmond/San Pablo district. District 3 is an El Cerrito/Kensington district. District 1 is a Pinole/Hercules district.

District 4 (Richmond/San Pablo) is predominately Latino. That was intentional.

Latinos are an important part of our community, and they should have representation on our Board. In fact, I agreed not to run for re-election in District 4 to increase a Latino’s chances of winning that district.

Nevertheless, a few community activists are unhappy with the trustee area map adopted by the Board. They want to redraw District 5 to improve a certain Latino candidate’s chances of winning that district.

However, District 5 is predominately black. That was intentional too. Like Latinos, blacks are an important part of our community, and they too should have representation on our Board.

Furthermore, blacks have been very successful in the current at-large system. It would be unfair to move them into districts that they can no longer win. This process is supposed to empower everyone.

Therefore, I implore the community activists to leave District 5 alone, however well intentioned they may be.

Although it was difficult, the Board managed to protect both racial groups during this process. Redrawing District 5 will only upset a delicate balance.

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Mister Phillips is an attorney and clerk of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education. He lives in Richmond with his wife and four children.

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