Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - September 16, 2011

Public debate on redistricting continues

For those still puzzled by the new federal and state legislative districts in California, organizations are offering seminars, webinars and even luncheon presentations in the days ahead in an effort to make some sense out of what a 14-member multipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission accomplished. Voters went to the polls to make sure elected officials couldn't have another crack at redistricting, which is required every 10 years based on the new national census. But even before the commission released its new maps of the 177 newly created legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district, complaints started coming from Latino, African-American and politically focused organizations as well as sitting politicians who suddenly found the district they were elected to serve was no longer where they live.

Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) is one of those, whose current 11th Congressional District has been renumbered with Congressman Pete Stark (D-Fremont) taking over Pleasanton and McNerney now seeking re-election in a new district that is largely in San Joaquin County. Of interest here is that a young Indian-American law student at UC Berkeley, Ranjit Gill, 24, is also aiming for election in McNerney's new 9th Congressional District, which includes his home and many supportive constituents, including a large Sikh community in the Lodi area.

Today, the Urban Habitat organization -- yes, the same affordable housing advocacy group that successfully sued Pleasanton to force it to build more low- to middle-income housing -- is hosting a seminar on what the redistricting moves mean "for our communities." The program will include a number of speakers, the chief executive of the Community Coalition of South Los Angeles, where many of the redistricting complaints are based, and Paul Mitchell of Redistricting Partners, a Democrat, former legislative staffer and now a consultant focusing on legislative races and independent expenditures. In his report this week, Mitchell quotes Claremont-McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney as suggesting that the lessons of the recent redistricting in California could not be understood by reading the Federalist Papers, but instead by reading or watching the movie "The Godfather." But Mitchell adds that before anyone starts downloading either the book or redistricting commentaries, they should be warned that there can be a lot of profanity "and we're, of course, talking about both redistricting and the movie."

In addition to the Urban Habitat seminar, Public CEO is also offering what it claims is the first-ever webinar discussing government redistricting. This group has assembled a team of redistricting experts, including Mitchell, to focus especially on areas where the redistricting commission's actions are especially controversial, throughout the state but extensively in Southern California. That 60-minute webinar, though, is pricey at $175 per registrant. A less expensive and perhaps more congenial forum about the redistricting process and what it means to the greater Bay Area is scheduled for noon Friday, Sept. 30, at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley. This free afternoon discussion is organized by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. For information, contact Jennifer Baires at (510) 642-1474.

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