Redistricting options whittled to three
What started out Wednesday evening as a “straw” poll to get a sense of where members of Mono County’s Redistricting Committee stood on the 7 concepts before them ended up setting the stage for the final 3 to be presented to the Board of Supervisors next month.
After numerous public meetings and staff work on as many as 16 concepts, including considerable input from the public as well, just 7 made it to the final public meeting for consideration. At the close of the straw poll, clear majorities of the Committee went for concepts A1, B1 and C2, while B2 and B3 came in with tepid support. Eliminated from going forward: C1 and D1, which featured the controversial Full Radial concept. Both ended up with 0 votes.
Committee Chairman Bob Peters queried the committee if there was enough consensus to call for a vote on selecting the top three concepts as polled, and a unanimous vote put A1, B1 and C2 on the fast track to the Board dais.
Not withstanding any nips and tucks the Board may opt to consider, Committee member Sally Miller pointed out that, “It’s virtually impossible to come up with neat, compact districts, except in the case of parts of Mammoth Lakes … we really struggled with this.”
The good news is that all of the concepts have been retooled to preserve the integrity of June Lake as a community. As a result of a recent meeting in June Lake, Peters said the committee made a commitment not to advance any concepts that would split any communities, with the exception of Mammoth. Even so, it also appears that in at least 2 of the 3 concepts, one key population center in Mammoth, Sierra Valley, could end up either mostly, if not entirely intact.
A1 retains the long, agrarian-based corridor, running from Topaz down the California-Nevada state line and picking up Benton, Hammil, Chalfant, Swall Meadows and Paradise. It also calls for 3 core Mammoth districts. Pros: It represents the communities of interest (agriculture, tourism and Mammoth Lakes) in a “logical way.” Cons: Some committee members suggested it perpetuates an existing rural-urban disconnect, and what is now District 4 will be hard to cover, and splits off Crowley from Swall and Paradise.“[That long district] is a nightmare, but it divides Mammoth the least and keeps like communities together. Everyone gets a voice,” Committee member Chris Carmichael observed. “Geography played into the problems with A1,” Committee member Bill Taylor noted.
B1 sets up 2 core Mammoth districts, a core unincorporated district and 2 split districts. In this scenario, District 2 is only modestly changed, but District 3 picks up Mono City and Lee Vining. Pros: Some on the committee seemed to think this option has the tightest population spread and the best balance of voting power; it also, they suggested, unites the Mono Basin and June Lake. Cons: Mammoth is pretty split up and part of the town is linked with the north county. “Mammoth is important, but that doesn’t make the rest of the county irrelevant. A shared approach is the best; it forces people from one area to be accountable to people in another area,” Miller said, adding she likes that B1 keeps the Mono Basin together. “It’s just about evenly split on voters, based on … census data,” Bill Taylor opined.
While the committee was generally in agreement that the Full Radial approach outlined in D1 wasn’t viable, Peters, Tony Taylor and Brent Harper advocated submitting a concept that had at least some form of radial approach to it.
C2 contains 1 core Mammoth district, and 4 radiating split districts. District 1 would get Crowley, Tom’s Place, Swall and Paradise, and as in B1 Mono City and Lee Vining go to District 3. Pros: It seems the best in terms of watershed boundaries, and gives Mammoth opportunities for potential voting power across as many as three seats. Cons: Mammoth is the most carved up, and shares community of interest with both north and south county regions. At press time, June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain ski areas would fall into separate districts, but staff was working on a possible alternative that would reconcile the two.
“It’s appropriate, especially given the population trends we’re looking at. In 10 years, Mammoth could be 10% more populated than it is now. A full radial approach isn’t a good idea, but it’s time to start [a radial] process,” Tony Taylor posited.
Other factors, such as percentage of voters and ethnic concerns, may have been a peripheral part of drafting the concepts, but the Committee agreed that all the concepts generally met with the four main criteria: topography, geography, cohesiveness and community of interest.
The results of Wednesday night’s votes, including the four concepts voted down and the others that didn’t make it that far, will be forwarded to the Board as part of their agenda packets for the meeting.
“You [the commitee] were charged with doing what’s most reasonable. Reality is that is based on population. There is no real answer, and I know you struggled with it,” commented Rich McAteer during public comment.
The Board will take up the three concepts during its July 19 meeting, starting at 10:30 a.m. in the BOS meeting room in the Sierra Center Mall in Mammoth.