San Diego area residents address the California Redistricting Commission for the first time since the first draft map is released.
Local residents had their chance last night to voice their concerns over the way the California Redistricting Commission had drawn their State Assembly, Senate and U.S. Congressional districts. The 14 member commission released the first draft of their plans to redraw the boundaries of their representative government on June 10th and have embarked on a whirlwind listening tour to gather residents’ input.
The Redistricting Commission is tasked with redrawing Assembly, State Senate, and Congressional boundaries based on population, that are drawn according to contiguous geographic areas, yet also consider communities of common interest. No political considerations are to enter into the discussion. (See the complete rules governing the redistricting process here.)
Among the speakers to address the commission, the main topics of concern were the representation of Imperial County, Mira Mesa/Rancho Peñasquitos/Rancho Bernardo/Poway, parts of the South Bay, and East San Diego County.
The Commission was presented with a challenge regarding Imperial County: It is a very sparsely populated region with very unique needs, but by necessity it must be paired with a more heavily populated area that will likely share very little in common with the predominantly agricultural communities to the East of San Diego County. During the preliminary phases the commission received countless letters from residents specifically asking not to combine East County communities such as El Cajon, Santee and Lakeside with the Imperial County.
In the redrawn Congressional district, residents got their wish. With the Assembly and State Senate districts, not so much.
The fear on the part of Imperial County residents is that by combining the predominantly poor and Latino population with East County communities that they share very little in common with, the agricultural communities will be overshadowed and left behind. A state representative will be left juggling very different areas with largely diverging needs.
Instead, implored speakers from Imperial County communities of Brawley, Calexico, and El Centro, place the Imperial Valley in districts combined with Riverside County’s Coachella Valley, a region that shares a very similar socio-economic, cultural, and ethnic makeup. Instead of expanding West, in other words, the commission is urged to expand North.
Similar concerns were expressed by residents of Mira Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos and Rancho Bernardo area, where their current districts are combined with Poway. However, in the redrawn State Assembly district, Poway would be removed from those communities—all communities with large Asian and Pacific Islander populations. It would also have the effect of dividing the Poway Unified School district into two separate Assembly districts.
In the South Bay, residents expressed concerns over the way parts of Chula Vista and National City are carved up into separate districts. And in the Uptown community, the Talmadge area, which shares a planning board with Kensington, gets placed with La Mesa, while Kensington/City Heights/Normal Heights are placed with Coronado.
Other speakers expressed concerns that the San Diego Unified School District was being parceled out into several different districts at each level of government. However, keeping the school district together could turn out to be a monumental task given that it is the second largest school district in the state, behind only the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In order for the commission to make changes, they must be able to find a way to shift and equal number of residents into a district. For example, if they were to place Talmadge back together with Kensington, they must find an equal number of residents to shift back into the La Mesa-San Diego district.
The commission is tasked with forming districts with specific population targets as determined by the 2010 United States Census. For Congressional districts, the commission must divide the state into 53 districts of equal portions with 702,905 people, with an allowable deviation of one person; 80 State Assembly districts with 465,674 people each; and 40 State Senate districts consisting of 931,349 people. The Assembly and Senate districts are allowed for a population deviation of 1% by state law.
The Commission has until August 15th, 2011, to present a final map to the public.
For more information about the California Redistricting Commission, see the commission’s website here. To see where your district boundaries are drawn in the first draft, you can visit the Re Draw CA website.