It’s the most wonderful time of the decade.
The Mono County Redistricting process is upon the Board of Supervisors once again, following the conclusion and findings of the 2020 census.
In January 2021, the Board elected, via 3-2 vote, to handle the process themselves rather than hand it off to an independent/advisory committee to do the leg work.
At that meeting, covered in the January 23 edition of the Sheet, Supervisors Bob Gardner and John Peters voted for a committee-driven redistricting process, with Peters adding that employing a commission would “protect us from each other and perceived bias.”
Supervisors Jennifer Kreitz, Rhonda Duggan, and Stacy Corless opted for the board to do the job themselves.
During the 2011 redistricting process, the supervisors chose to use a committee to tackle the process.
At the time, Gardner told The Sheet that one of his top priorities is meaningful inclusion of the Hispanic community in Mono County.
At the Board’s meeting on Tuesday, September 14, that topic was front and center.
First, some overview: every 10 years, counties in California go through redistricting, redrawing the lines for supervisor districts based on the results of the most recent census.
The idea is to balance a county’s population and lands as equitably as possible across the five districts.
New to the process this around is Assembly Bill 849, passed in 2019, also known as the FAIR MAPS Act.
The act requires cities and counties to engage local communities via public hearings, workshops, and outreach.
Tuesday’s board meeting was the public hearing workshop, with four more in the pipeline between now and the second week of November.
County Administrative Officer Bob Lawton said that the county had seen an overall population decline of about 1,000 residents since the previous census.
Lawton gave a few possible answers as to the decline: the Covid-19 pandemic, housing availability, and the inability to get in touch with residents.
In theory, that decline would necessesitate district redrawing as the population in each would no longer be balanced.
The raw data from the 2020 Census will be released on September 30; while the county has already received pre-formatted data about the local population, the raw numbers are integral to assessing census blocks accurately.
The following day, October 1, the county’s mapping tool will go live, allowing residents to look at existing districts, and then draw proposed new ones in the system.
The Board’s final decision on new districts must be made by December 15, although it may be pushed back if Governor Gavin Newsom approves new legislation on the matter.
Mono County has a pretty substantial population imbalance; the majority of the county’s residents live in one place, Mammoth Lakes.
As a result, to balance the supervisor districts fairly, four of five districts in Mono County? include pieces of Mammoth Lakes.
By far the strangest path to district equity is District 4’s current shape.
The district stretches from Topaz to the top of Conway Summit, around Mono Lake to the Nevada border, cuts back in along the south side of State Route 120 and touches the northwestern part of Mammoth in the Knolls.
District 3 cuts down along the Sierra Crest to from just below Conway Summit to the west end of Mammoth, including the ski area.
Speaking about the census block map, Supervisor Peters asked if there was any way to include the existing districts on the map as “I know a lot of people aren’t even aware what the districts are today.”
He suggested a general information presentation that he could bring to Regional Planning Advisory Committees (RPAC’s) to spread the word.
“If we were able to have some outreach to those that could not participate in this process,” Peters said, citing younger generations, “We could give the schools something that they can teach the kids, and help grandparents and parents navigate through the process.”
Speaking of the public, as the agenda item was a public hearing, there wasn’t much in the way of commentary.
Former District 2 Supervisor Fred Stump called into the meeting, encouraging the supervisors to hold at least one meeting during evening hours and to provide in-person opportunities to residents who may not have phone/interent access.
Stump’s comments were the extent of public participation in the hearing.
The remainder of the agenda item consisted of an outreach brainstorming session, with particular focus on engaging the county’s Hispanic and tribal communities.
On redistricting, Supervisor Duggan said, “We’re going to have to split the baby and who gets what, is going to be an issue.”
“Based on experience,” County IT Director Nate Greenberg said, “there’s only a handful of ways to split the baby. We might end up with 50 or 60 proposals what we’ll categorically fit into 5 or 6 proposals.
The next redistricting public hearing will take place at the Board of Supervisors meetin on September 21 at 1 p.m. at Suite Z in Mammoth.