Pleasanton Weekly

Column - July 22, 2011

An update on redistricting

by Jeb Bing

Paul Mitchell of Redistricting Partners, a Democrat, former legislative staffer and now a consultant focusing on legislative races and independent expenditures, is talking this week about likely court challenges to the Citizen's Redistricting Commission's final map of congressional, Board of Equalization, state senate and assembly districts that is based on 2010 Census data. The 14-member commission is responsible for redrawing the boundaries based on population shifts over the last 10 years, and also taking into account public input and the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects against "minority vote dilution."

Mitchell, in his update of the commission's progress last Wednesday, reports that the state's Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has begun looking for judges that can take on the workload. This should be an ominous backdrop for the commission as it completes its work this week.

Mitchell says the commission's redistricting plans would go to the Supreme Court if enough signatures were gathered for a referendum. This means that opponents could see what a court plan would look like by just completing that first step. It's easy to talk about gathering signatures to overturn a redistricting plan, particularly if you are one of the 67 elected officials who find themselves drawn into a district with someone else, as our Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-11th) appears to be with the 11th being moved east and out of Pleasanton where McNerney lives. Pleasanton would now become part of Democratic Congressman Pete Stark's 13th District.

But for those who would like to contest the commission's recommendations, Mitchell asks who would be willing to front a couple million dollars for that first phase? Is the differential between the commission product and possible new lines great enough to justify that cost, let alone the eventual campaign? Although individual politicians who are directly affected by the redistricting change might not bankroll a court challenge, organizations could. As Mitchell points out, the lack of involvement by anyone in the Jewish community is explored in the Jewish Journal's July 19 edition, which isn't happy about new boundaries that ignore the Orthodox community in Los Angeles. Making a single Congressman, State Senator or Assembly member responsible for the bulk of the Westside's Orthodox Jews likely would make those politicians more responsive to the community's specific concerns, the magazine states.

The African American community is also concerned. In an editorial last Wednesday, BlackVoiceNews.com complains "that the rights that African Americans have fought for are now being eroded and shifted to others" in the redistricting process. The African-American Redistricting Collaborative, an advocacy group fighting to protect black representation in the redrawing of California's political map, was scheduled to hold a press conference yesterday to protest what it sees as the "evisceration of traditional African-American communities."

A Latino rights group already has called the redistricting drafts a "worst case scenario for Latinos," noting that they stand to lose a congressional seat despite accounting for 90% of the state's growth over the last 10 years.

One of the biggest impacts of the new redistricting plan falls here on Pleasanton. Besides moving McNerney's district out of the city, the proposed new boundaries also appear to get rid of the three Assembly district split that the city's political leaders have found annoying for years (see map, above). It made no sense. With the city split into three separate Assembly districts, none of the three Assembly members considered their voting base here very important. While it's still unclear where the boundaries are in the 15th, 18th and 20th state Assembly districts, which are represented by Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi and Bob Weickowski, respectively, the redistricting commission has moved the boundaries east, west and north out of Pleasanton. What's left is so far a blank space with no numbered district or Assembly member. The city's hopes of returning to a single representative in Sacramento may finally be realized.

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