July 29, 2011
After months meeting with demographers and preparing possible iterations of county supervisorial lines to reflect changes recorded in the 2010 census, a split County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on July 26 to tentatively approve a map presented by a citizen's redistricting committee.
Supervisors Fernando Armenta, Simon Salinas and Jane Parker agreed that the county's lawyers should bring on experts to evaluate whether the maps can withstand a Voting Rights Act challenge before signing off on the proposal.
If county counsel determines a challenge is likely from the City of Salinas, the Board will consider an alternate plan that would give Salinas more unified representation. Under existing and proposed lines is divided up into four districts. The committee's proposal would move about 4,000 voters from North County to Salinas, [http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/w...], preserving the lines very much as they are today.
The City of Salinas would prefer its population be split into only two districts, not four, making for stronger city representation on the Board. "What's fair for Salinas isn't fair for everyone else," Susan Lyons, supervisorial redistricting coordinator, said at a community meeting in Castroville in June.
But Lyons says better representation for the city is unnecessary since city residents have city services like police, planning and public works, and rely less on county services than those who live in unincorporated areas, which took precedence in the proposed maps.
The draft proposal prepared by Salinas City Attorney Vanessa Vallarta and demographers contracted by Salinas splits the city into Districts 1 and 2 (currently represented by Supervisors Armenta and Lou Calcagno, respectively). leaves only the Salinas Valley and South County in District 3 (Salinas) and would stretch out District 4 (Parker), giving the district the county's north coast up to the county line and keeping Seaside. District 5 (Dave Potter), the only district that does not include a portion of urban Salinas today, would stay the same, covering Monterey in the north and extending to Big Sur.
"The issues raised by the City of Salinas of empowering minority populations to elect a representative of their choosing is especially important in a community as diverse as ours," Parker said in a statement on her vote. "These are not concerns to be taken lightly, and I believe that the Board has a responsibility to seriously consider all options intended to enfranchise voters."
Jean Gobalet, the demographer hired by the redistricting committee, found that early options the committee considered for dividing the city of Salinas into two or three districts would actually dilute the Latino vote, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
The Board of Supervisors will vote again at its next scheduled meeting Aug. 23.