Ahmadi suspends City Council campaign, announces formation of committee to develop district maps

Jonathan Ahmadi announces he is running for Santa Clarita City Council in 2020. Courtesy of SchlickArt
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After announcing the launch of his campaign in January, Jonathan Ahmadi said Monday he’s suspending his run for Santa Clarita City Council to focus on starting a committee that will help develop district maps for the city as it looks to transition to district-based elections. 

“It’s become clear to me that the city will be moving forward with districting and it’s going to be more important to me to focus my time and efforts to develop maps for consideration for the 2020 election and engage public support and interest,” he said via telephone on Monday. 

Ahmadi served as the senior congressional district representative for the 25th District under former Rep. Katie Hill and took on constituent work in October following Hill’s resignation. He stepped down from that role in January to launch his campaign for City Council. 

The city of Santa Clarita declared March 19, during a special meeting at City Hall, its intent to transition from at-large to district-based elections after the city received a California Voting Rights Act letter by attorney Scott Rafferty, which alleges the local government’s at-large elections dilute the votes of Latino residents. 

With a vote to move forward with the transition, the city must now conduct public hearings to collect input from the community about the composition of the districts before the City Council considers an ordinance that would officially mark the switch to election by districts. 

The city is expected to retain the services of a demographer to assist in the hearings and map drafting processes. 

“During those hearings, the public can submit proposed maps, utilize online tools and comment on the city proposed maps,” said City Attorney Joe Montes during the March 19 meeting.   

Through that public process, Ahmadi said the independent committee he is looking to form will operate “because I want this to be as transparent as possible.” 

The committee, which would include six core members and five other members of the community, “will develop maps that would then be presented to the City Council through the process the city made available and then we would submit the maps for consideration.” 

Ahmadi said he has already reached out to some individuals to join the committee and that he envisions a group that is politically and academically diverse, as well as one that represents various ethnicities and genders. 

After learning about Ahmadi’s intent to start a committee, Rafferty said Monday via email, “I completely applaud what he is doing. I am glad Santa Clarita is committed to districting in 2020 because members elected at-large shouldn’t be drawing lines that will last an entire decade.” 

Due to current health guidelines limiting the gathering of people amid the coronavirus outbreak, Ahmadi said he plans to hold the committee meetings via teleconferences, such as on Zoom, a video conferencing application that could allow up to 100 people to join at once. 

“With up to 100 people that should satisfy that in the beginning, but if there’s more interest we will try to move to other ways that could include more people from the public to join.”

Ahmadi said he is not looking to run in 2020, and does not know if he will in the near future, as forming the committee and creating the district maps is his current focus. 

The districting process requires at least five public hearings.

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