Public gets its say at Auburn hearing of state redistricting panel

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Thursday was a night to stand up and be counted in Auburn as speakers had their say before the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The hearing at the Board of Supervisors Chambers drew a standing-room-only crowd of at least 120 people, many who spoke on both the need for the committee and their own opinions on how new state and federal boundary lines should be drawn. The 14-member commission is hearing testimony throughout the state and then drawing maps for 53 Congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts, 80 California districts and four state Board of Equalization districts. As the commission moves forward toward an Aug. 15 deadline to approve the final maps, they’re charged with drawing districts that are of equal population, contiguous and compact, while respecting communities of interest whenever possible. Many speakers focused on the commission itself and the responsibility it was given by voters when they approved Proposition 11 in 2008 to establish fair and impartial map-making. “California is a mess,” Nevada County’s Todd Juvinall said. “The idea of fairness in representation has been missing for 50 years and we’ve had almost a dictatorship of one party since 1960. Bring back fairness. California is too valuable.” “We don’t want any more gerrymandering to protect some office holder,” said Wally Reemelin, president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers. Stan Forbes, a Yolo County farm owner and one of 13 commissioners present at Thursday’s session, said he hoped that the work the panel does in the next three months will be a model for other states. “This is the first time a citizen’s commission has had the final authority to draw lines,” Forbes said. “What we’re trying to do is change a system where the politicians pick their voters into a system where the voters pick their politicians.” Speakers stepping up to the microphone reflected a broad range of interests – from Southeast Asian community representatives in South Sacramento to rural Nevada County residents to Tahoe area residents who drove from the snowy high country. Richard Boylan from El Dorado County lobbied the commission to consider electoral districts that reflected Sierra values, including common histories, low population densities and similar eco-systems. “Keep us from the high density border cities,” Boylan said. “The tail will wag the dog and decisions will be made by large cities that could get drawn into the district.” Others argued that the north-south mapping along the foothills and Sierra allowed rural mountain communities to have one representative. “Rural areas shouldn’t be lumped in with coastal or city areas,” Grass Valley’s Donna Burley said. “No mega districts and keep the north-south lines.” Auburn City Councilman Kevin Hanley provided the commission with Auburn’s official opinion – to keep Placer County whole as lines are drawn.