Mono’s Redistricting Committee pares options
After a series of public meetings and deliberations about how to best redraw Mono County’s five supervisorial districts, the County Redistricting Committee has narrowed the field of choices from 16 to 4.
Another four are still in play (and can be seen on the County website), but are not being pursued further according to Committee Chairman Bob Peters.
The Committee was formed in the wake of the 2010 Census, which showed enough population shifts to warrant redistricting. Much of the dilemma comes down to population centers. With much of the county’s geographic area unpopulated, only 500 of Mono’s 3,000 census blocks are actually inhabited.
That leaves the Committee to pull numbers from more concentrated areas to get the five districts more closely aligned to the 2,840 figure needed to balance all five districts.
What’s emerged amounts to something of a taffy pull, with communities that may or may not be split up as district shapes change with the number jockeying.
“Nobody wants their community split, no matter where they are,” Peters observed at a Monday night redistricting committee meeting in Mammoth, “whether it’s June Lake, Mono Basin, Long Valley or Mono City.” Mammoth will have to remain divided, as it has been. The question is will it be in three parts or as many as five?
So far, the four leading options are: 1a & 1b) Variation “a” has 2 core Mammoth districts, 1 core unincorporated district — presumably Hap Hazard’s District 2 — and 2 split districts … part of what is now District 4 moves into Mammoth and part of District 3 moves into the Mono Basin. In variation “b,” District 4 takes on the look of a rural, “agrarian” east-west corridor, and would run from Topaz, Coleville and Walker down the east side of the county into Benton, Hamill, Chalfant Valley, Swall Meadows and Paradise.
In the case of 1a, with 3 Mammoth districts and 2 unincorporated districts … it’s most conducive to keeping Sierra Valley Sites intact, whereas 1b would likely be tough on District 4 Supervisor Tim Hansen’s mileage allowance … if he’s not zoned out of his own district entirely!
4a) Leaves June Lake whole, but may require Sierra Valley Sites in Mammoth to be split somewhere along its easternmost portion … a variation on this (called 4c) would move Paradise and Swall Meadows out of District 2 and into District 1; 4b) Probably the most similar to the current layout, it would have 2 core Mammoth districts (5 & 1), and 1 core unincorporated, District 2, with 2 split Mammoth/unincorporated districts (3 & 4).
Then there’s concept 5) In the so-called Radial approach, each district has a percentage of Mammoth, derived essentially by averaging the unincorporated areas, adding 1,200 to each district and then backfilling with Mammoth population until the balance is right. In that version, however, Sierra Valley Sites would be the most split up.
Concept 5 was the most controversial at Monday’s meeting. Some critics, such as Sierra Valley Sites resident Bill Sauser, were wary of the Radial approach, partly based on concerns about how the percentages may appear to favor Mammoth-centric voting. Sauser also was concerned about a lack of synchronicity between population and voters, suggesting that the majority of SVS residents aren’t necessarily registered voters. He still liked the idea of 3 balanced Mammoth districts, and not over-splitting the town.
John-Carl Vallejo from the County Counsel’s office said the Committee can look at voter data, but in terms of electing representatives, it’s assumed that a supervisor will represent all of his/her constituents, voters or not.
Rich McAteer’s main problem with the Radial approach went to the “Community of Interest” criteria as that the Committee is charged with adhering to. “You can’t treat Mammoth as a whole community of interest,” he posited. “The only communities that come close are June Lake or Crowley. With the Radial concept, there’s no way you can take Mammoth and say Topaz is a community of interest to it.” Based on Mammoth’s share of the county’s population, McAteer indicated the town should logically be represented by three-fifths of the Board of Supervisors.
Speaking as both new Mammoth Lakes Town Manager and former County Administrative Officer, Dave Wilbrecht seemed to agree with McAteer. “Mammoth is its own special place,” he opined. “The Radial approach tries to stitch together too many disparate communities.” Mono, he illustrated, is really made up of 3 parts: north, which is akin more to Nevada, Mammoth and south, which has more in common with Inyo County. “You’ll never get agreement or consensus on anything,” he said. “And meetings … can you imagine going from Walker to Mammoth or vice versa?”
Thom Heller echoed the problems created by Radial districting. “You’re adding to the transit of four supervisors instead of two,” Heller pointed out. “With concept 5, I’d be in the same district as folks in Walker and Topaz, with whom I have nothing in common.”
Robin Hart, however, spoke up on behalf of June Lake, which she wanted to see left intact, ideally as part of District 3. “Students from June Lake go to Lee Vining, and [Supervisor] Vikki Bauer has part of Mammoth and June Lake, and does a good job for both,” she said. Hart also suggested that June’s 600 residents could stand to lose its collective voice on the Board, were it to be split.
Bill Taylor said the Committee “desperately tried” to work out the north-south and east-west splits in Sierra Valley Sites. “The numbers work, but the geography looks terrible,” he acknowledged. “Bottom line is there’s just no alternative that will please everyone … the population just doesn’t lay out that way. Frankly, if Crowley had 150 less people and June had 150 more, we wouldn’t even be sitting here.”
Radial districting had some modest support from parts of the Committee. Cindy Kitts said it might open up more voting power to Benton, Hamill and other parts of Tri-Valley. Peters, pointing to his County service as both Interim Supervisor and on the Mono Tourism Commission, said there’s “lots of the north county that likes Mammoth.” The Radial approach, he indicated, has exhibited success in other in counties.
“I’d like to see at least a version of it on the list of the final 3, but it’s not there just yet,” he conceded. Peters added that one of the Committee’s overarching responsibilities is “not drawing for any particular supervisor or collection of residents, but for representation for the next 10 years.” The 3 concepts requested by the Board of Supervisors are due on Tuesday, July 19. The concepts and various options can be viewed at www.mono.ca.gov/redistricting.
See The Sheet’s calendar of events for dates/times of the final two public meetings on redistricting.