Does new census data mean Mono redistricting? Count-y on it!
If you participated in the U.S. Census conducted last year, congratulations. You helped Mono County get its share of state and federal funding. You also unwittingly contributed to what’s known in politics as an “unintended consequence.”
On Tuesday, the County’s Geographic Information System Specialist Nate Greenberg briefed the Mono Board of Supervisors on just released information from the nation’s 2010 Census. According to data available as of the first part of March, the County’s population saw roughly a 10.5% increase, most of that in Mammoth. According the data, the Town now sports a population of 8,234, an increase of about 1,200 persons, while Mono County as a whole came in at 14,202.
Based on the distribution, however, what that basically means is that at least 4 if not all five of the county’s supervisorial districts will have to undergo at least some kind of redistricting, to get them aligned closer to about 2,800 persons each. That figure includes a 10% margin derived from the average between the most and least populated districts.
The Board has its choice of methodology, the first option involving having plans drawn up in house by staff. Not wanting to risk a perception of gerrymandering, the supervisors have quickly embraced a second option of forming a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, a combination of staff and citizen members. The Board would have nothing to do with the process, except to review and pick from the CAC’s final proposals.
John-Carl Vallejo from the County Counsel’s office advised the Board that, while it would the have final decision on any new districting, “Geography can be a discretionary factor, but the numbers will be a guiding factor.” Chair Hap Hazard told The Sheet that criteria made him more at ease, indicating it removes any perception of gerrymandering and makes the process more scientific or mathematical in nature.
The Board speculated on a few scenarios, including what might become of Mammoth, parts of which already fall within three of the five districts. “Maybe we’ll end up with something radial, in which all of the districts have a piece of Mammoth,” posited District 1 Supervisor Larry Johnston.
“It should be a transparent, public process, but it doesn’t have to be that long or involved,” Supervisor Vikki Bauer remarked, estimating the committee could complete its work in perhaps five meetings, hopefully fewer.
Supervisor Byng Hunt said he supports a “separate entity” approach, but wasn’t, however, sold on subdividing Mammoth among all the board members. “A slice of Mammoth across the board would dilute the base,” Hunt suggested.
Perhaps the most apprehensive of all was District 4’s Tim Hansen, who, depending on what the committee comes up with, might see his already large territory expand to include parts of June Lake, and perhaps Benton. District 4 is already the largest in terms of sheer square miles, currently covering everything from Lee Vining north to the state line.
“It would be sad to split up a town such as June Lake. Someone on the Board should live in the affected areas,” Hansen commented. “Tweaking Mammoth a block or so is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely when it comes to the small towns I represent.”
Benton has always been considered a south county area, and arguably is a community in which Hansen has little or no experience with the specific needs of its constituents. The Board, however, kept its cool and adopted a position of “let’s give the committee a chance to do its work and present ideas.”
“If it comes to splitting up Mammoth among all five supervisors, I want the pick of the litter,” Hazard joshed …
Bye, bye, Buck?
And the Etch-A-Sketch work doesn’t stop at the local level. Mono County also may be in for state and congressional representation changes. One scenario has Mono grouped in a new district along with Inyo, Tulare, Merced and Tuolumne counties, while another had Mono grouped with a more northern cluster.
One major change Mono County can almost bank on is that it might end up with a new U.S. Congressional representative. Currently, Mono is represented in the 25th District by Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, who not only just won re-election, but also recently became Chairman of the influential House Armed Services Committee. McKeon’s district, however, took a giant leap in population and now might have to shed some 200,000 voters, likely including Mono County’s. Bauer and Hazard agreed that it’s not definite we’ll share an Assembly district with Inyo County or that we’ll lose McKeon. In the case of the latter, however, Bauer assessed that, “It’s almost a foregone conclusion.”
Expect things to happen quickly. The 14-member Independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which held its first meeting in Bakersfield on April 14, must present its recommendations to Secretary of State Debra Bowen by Aug. 15.