Esri geographer taking personal interest in mapping diversity in Redlands

REDLANDS >> As a geographer with Esri, Jim Herries works every day to make maps that matter.

And as a personal interest, Herries has recently expressed his interest to city officials on mapping inequality and diversity issues in the city.

“Making maps about race, ethnicity, income, crime, issues involving police — these are all extremely sensitive. You can’t just treat it like any other data set,” Herries said.

Herries attended a Human Relations Commission meeting in November and addressed commissioners on his desire to make a map.

The commission has discussed several race-related issues in the city and surrounding communities, including the “Gangsta Day” photo incident at Redlands East Valley High School, the Black Lives Matter movement, cultural appropriation and diversity discussions going on at University of Redlands.

Knowing this is a personal interest of Herries, a co-worker of Herries suggested he check out one of their meetings, he said.

Herries wants to sit down with the commissioners, students at University of Redlands — who also attended the meeting — elected officials and police to build a map or collection of maps addressing these issues and look at the whole picture.

“I want people to have a collection of maps on any given topic where this is the right set of maps that helps us inform our policy,” he said. “The trick is getting people around the table almost literally to agree this represents a slice of reality we can agree to.”

Herries moved to Redlands in 1994 for an internship at Esri. He made the move permanent in 1995 when he began working for the company. He met his wife, a Redlander, and they are raising their family here.

Part of his job at Esri is to make maps to assist public officials in understanding information within context.

“I’ve only done race and ethnicity mapping for 20 years and I feel like I’m still learning constantly,” Herries said. “I get how to do it, but what does it mean and how do people react to it?”

Herries has curated several maps related to the subject that could be beneficial to Redlands, including maps on diversity and the unemployment rate in Atlanta, poverty and income, voting and predominant education level.

He has created an “Atlas of Redlands,” which includes information on diversity, housing, income, energy, businesses and access.

Herries said Redlands is probably the most diverse town he has lived in and has a lot of interesting economic, race and ethnicity patterns.

It also has the 10 Freeway, which divides the town physically.

“I listen, as a geographer, to what are the geographies we have active control over and what are the geographies we don’t?” he said. “I think in Redlands, when they put that freeway in, it divided the town and that also had a race and ethnicity effect.”