Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thoughts on California's Redistricting Commission's Meeting June 27th

I attended the May 19th commission meeting in Santa Rosa, Ca. My analysis of that meeting is here:
In that meeting, most of the attendees were residents from the North Coast, Sonoma County and Marin County. Only one San Francisco resident attended. Most of the commenter’s advocated for not placing Marin in the same district with San Francisco. The commission listened to the commenter’s by not placing San Francisco and Marin in the same district. Instead, the commisssion's initial plan placed Marin and Del Norte Counties in the same district instead. I also attended a rally on June 18th in San Rafael, Ca and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) said we should write to the commission to declare our opposition to the new lines connecting Del Norte and Marin Counties. I believed that because of the subject's local attention, many people would attend the June 27th meeting to oppose the new lines the commission drew for the congressional district. I arrived early to get a good spot on line. I was speaker #16.

While waiting, I talked to a few people in the lobby. I talked to a couple from Mendocino County who disliked the lines connecting Marin County to their district. Also, I talked with a group that wanted fair representation for Asians under the new lines. They disliked the State Senate lines that combined Daly City and San Francisco because they believed that Daly City would be underrepresented in the new district. I also talked to a member of the American Cancer Society. She was a resident from American Canyon and later, I would learn that she was not the only one.

The first speakers spoke about redistricting in the South Bay. "Put East Palo Alto in the 12th district," one of them said. Another wanted the tri cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto to be in the same district. A few people advocated for uniting Fremont in one congressional district instead of splitting it between two districts. I believe that Fremont should be split the way it is because I want to increase the Asian percentage in the Milpitas area district to increase the likelihood that this district elects an Asian representative once Mike Honda (D) retires. A group who worked with Napa Valley Winegrowers argued that Sonoma, Lake and Napa Counties belonged in the same congressional district. They did not want Marin with Sonoma but as the speakers in the May 19th meeting indicated, Marin residents did not want to be in the same congressional district with San Francisco.

Finally, the commission called #16 so I went to the podium to speak. I advocated for keeping Marin and Sonoma Counties in the same congressional district because we are connected by the SMART train, dairy farms and Route 101. We also are filled with transplants from San Francisco. I explained how Mendocino County was mostly rural with an economy based on wineries and tourism and Humboldt County also had a tourism based economy. Other facts I highlighted include that Del Norte County is a six hour drive from Marin and that Santa Rosa had around 160,000 people so it belonged in a district with a more urban environment. Marin and Sonoma combined would create a more urban/suburban environment that would be a community of interest with Santa Rosa. I highlighted how the commission's initial plan placed Santa Rosa is in the same congressional district as Yuba City and some Sierra Foothills and I asked the commission what Santa Rosa had in common with those areas. The only road connecting the Sonoma/Napa area to Yuba City is a curvy road through the mountains. If people want to go to Yuba City from Napa, they would drive on Route 80 to Route 5 and this drive passes through four other congressional districts. I also mentioned that Yuba City has a larger agricultural economy while Santa Rosa has less agriculture.

Here I am presenting:

After I spoke, I heard speakers express concern for creating that congressional district that extends from Sausalito to Crescent City. Residents in Crescent City probably disliked the new lines but would not drive six hours to San Francisco to testify. Scott Weiner, the representative of District 8 in San Francisco, argued that San Francisco should be in an odd State Senate district. If San Francisco is in an even one, San Francisco will have no State Senate representative until 2014. He wanted Diamond Heights and Castro to be in the same district. After Weiner spoke, a man wearing a "Don't Tread on me" jacket came and suggested that the districts should be divided by zip codes. A Redwood City resident later said he did not know who his representative was because his zip code was split. I disagree with the zip code idea because while drawing districts, the commission needs to examine factors such as the Voting Rights Act and zip codes do not always combine minority communities effectively. A speaker from Dana Point in Orange County spoke at the meeting too, advocating for combining Monarch Beach and Dana Point in the same district.

Speaker #28 was the first of many speakers working with the California Conservative Action Group (CCAC). They drew maps for California's districts that they say will address the concerns of California's residents. Chris Bowman and Alan Payton drew the maps. Speaker #31, Jerry Diaz with the CCAC said that the congressional plan would combine Marin and Sonoma Counties while Redwood City and Scotts Valley would be in the same congressional district too. Another CCAC speaker criticized the State Senate map that placed Gilroy and Lompoc in the same district. I hope the commission alters this district by dropping the Santa Barbara County portion containing Lompoc because this district will be contested and northern Santa Barbara County leans Republican. #32, Sue Carol with the CCAC argued that the commission should not create district with the same voters but should combine voters by the same regions. If commissioners combined voters by regions, not only would they violate the Voting Rights Act, they would help the Republicans. The current 18th and 20th congressional districts are represented by Democrats because the districts combine Hispanic urban and farming communities across the Central Valley. Even if they do not live near each other, Hispanic farm workers in Fresno and Kern County have similar concerns involving fair treatment and wages. White voters in Clovis and Hispanic voters in South Fresno will have different concerns. #37 also advocated for a congressional line change that will help the Republicans. #37 said that Antioch should not be in the same congressional district with northern San Joaquin County. San Joaquin County is a swing area (it was one of the few counties Boxer lost and Brown won in 2010,) but Antioch leans Democratic and brings the Obama percentage in that district to 58%. By removing Antioch from the district, the San Joaquin County district would have to add more Republican areas such as Manteca and perhaps some Republican leaning parts of Stanislaus County.

After most of the CCAC group members spoke, we heard from many of the LGBT groups in San Francisco. Usually, groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and Equality California do not join forces but they did for the commission meeting. Dan Brown, a leader with the Log Cabin Republicans said they want an Assembly District with more same sex couples. I also heard from some residents of the DPL area (Dublin/Pleasanton/Livermore) who wanted to be in a congressional district with San Ramon and other communities in the San Ramon Valley. Mark Cameron, a city councilmember from Cotati in Sonoma County disagreed with the congressional lines connecting Cotati with Yuba City and said, "We share a common agricultural history with Petaluma and Sebastapol." #43 drove from Siskiyou County on the Oregon border and invited the commission to Siskiyou County because the commission had not been to the Oregon border area in Northern California. I even saw Brian Leubitz, the founder of Calitics, a prominent blog for California politics. He wanted to keep Marin and Sonoma Counties united and wanted more LGBT representation.

Speaker #47 was Mark Joseph, an American Canyon council member and one of the many speakers from American Canyon. Although American Canyon's population is 19,000 people, its residents were well represented at the meeting. A bus from American Canyon brought residents to the meeting and the American Canyon residents had food provided for them. Joseph said that Napa needed to be kept whole and that American Canyon is the industrial base of Napa County with wine bottling and warehousing. 20 years ago, the wine industry in northern Napa County disliked American Canyon but the Assemblywoman they shared worked to unite American Canyon and the rest of Napa County. Speaker #48 was the Napa County Supervisor from American Canyon. He said that, “[the commission] has rallied Napa County like no other.” He also mentioned how American Canyon was treated as “North Vallejo,” and American Canyon did not want to be treated that way. Another speaker referred to American Canyon as “a great little city,” and severing American Canyon from Napa would stifle its voice. One of the most convincing speeches though was delivered by Brenda Knight, Speaker #56 and the chair of Napa Valley College. She described American Canyon as “the most diverse city in Napa. We had to fight for our zip code and post office. We are now accepted in Napa. The new districts erase everything we fought for.” After Knight finished her speech, the American Canyon mayor Leon Garcia announced that he had a petition with 1,103 signatures for keeping American Canyon in the same district with all of Napa County. Speaker #59 was Susan Lee with the American Canyon Chamber of Commerce. She said local business owners oppose the new districts. Speaker #65 said, "Keep Napa Napa." After the American Canyon residents had finished their presentations, Commissioner Peter Yao said he hears American Canyon, “loud and clear.”

Overall, I believe American Canyon did a fantastic job organizing their opposition to the new lines. Not only did they bring in many speakers, they brought a diverse array. They had elected officials, education officials, business representatives and residents. They had representatives of almost every aspect of American Canyon. My advice is that if your town/city wants to advocate for a cause, do not bring one part of the town, and bring people who represent all aspects of the town, suggesting unanimous support for a cause. Not only did American Canyon’s presentation teach me about their town and struggle for acceptance, it taught me how to effectively organize a town for a cause such as fair congressional representation.

Other highlights from this meeting include that only a few Marin residents came to protest the new congressional lines connecting them with Del Norte County. In the May 19th meeting in Santa Rosa, Marin residents were motivated to come and advocate for not being combined with San Francisco. In this meeting, only a few Marin residents appeared to advocate for being combined with almost all of Sonoma County. This could mean that Marin residents are happier with the lines extending to Del Norte County. If one Marin and one North Coast politician face each other in a top two primary, the Marin politician would probably win because of the higher population in the congressional district’s southern part. Also, a few Sonoma County residents attended and many of them wanted to combine Sonoma County in a congressional district with Napa and Mendocino Counties due to the presence of winegrowers there. If the commission combines Napa, Sonoma and Lake into the same congressional district, they may combine Marin County with San Francisco. Although I dislike the congressional district that combines Marin and Del Norte Counties, I would prefer this North Coast district to a San Francisco/Marin district.

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