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State redistricting commission to gather testimony in Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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State Assembly and Senate boundaries are changing and Auburn will be given a voice Thursday when the state’s Citizen’s Redistricting Commission holds a hearing in the city. It’s an opportunity that comes along every 10 years after the Census is taken and something Christian Valley resident Pam Robie Hart, a League of Woman Voters of Placer County director, said shouldn’t be taken lightly. And this year, instead of the politicians carving out districts, a voter-approved commission will do the heavy lifting. “This is hard work for them,” Robie said. “And when you look at some of the districts we have now, you have to say, ‘What the heck? How did they come up with those lines?’” For Robie Hart, the biggest issue is the separation of Christian Valley and much of North Auburn from the 1st and 4th Assembly Districts that take in the city of Auburn. Instead, Christian Valley and North Auburn residents vote with Grass Valley and Nevada, even though they identify with the Auburn community, she said. “There are subtle changes that can be made to help define local communities and that’s important for people to discuss,” Robie Hart said. Formed as a result of the Voters First Act approved as Proposition 11 in the November 2008 general election ballot, the commission was a reaction to district redrawing by state Assembly and Senate members in 2000 that essentially protected both Republican and Democratic Party seats. Commission member Stan Forbes, a Yolo County farmer who served four years on the Davis City Council, said Friday he’s not allowed to even talk with politicians while the process leading to Secretary of State certification of final maps is underway. Eight members – three Republicans, three Democrats and two persons registered as decline-to-state voters were randomly selected last November from a field of 60 qualified candidates. The eight then chose two members from each of the Republican, Democrat and decline-to-state sub-pools. “One of the goals in 2000 was to protect incumbents but that’s not one of our goals,” Forbes said. “By law, elected officials can’t contact us.” The 14 commission members will be hearing testimony in Auburn that will help define boundaries for state Congressional, 40 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and four State Board of Equalization districts. Draft maps will be drawn after commission direction June 3. A second draft of maps will follow in early July after more hearings, with a final map directed by the commission in August. The commission must approve the maps by Sept. 15. Forbes said the commission will be attempting to form districts that reflect communities or regions, based on a population target of 465,000 people in the case of Assembly districts. The panel has heard from several communities that have been divided by re-districting, including Whittier, a city of 80,000 in Southern California that has been split up into three different Assembly districts, he said. “We’re asking people ‘Who do you want to get hooked up with and who don’t you want to get hooked up?,” Forbes said. With as many as 151 speakers at one meeting, the commission is limiting time for each presentation to two minutes. Maps or specific boundary information would be helpful for speakers to bring along, Forbes said. Speaker numbers may be obtained an hour before the start of the hearing. The commission is also encouraging the public to submit written testimony by e-mail at votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov, fax at (916) 322-0904 or by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 1130 K St., Suite 101, Sacramento, CA 95814. -------------------------------------------- California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission Hearing in Auburn When: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 19 Where: Placer County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn