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Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Draft of Citizen Redistricting Group Strikes Fear Into Incumbents

COMMISSIONERS SAID TWEAKS MAY BE MADE TO DRAFT MAPS; JUNE HEARINGS COMING TO SAN JOSE, SAN FRANCISCO
By Steven Tavares
steven.tavares@eastbaycitizen.com
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When voters approved handing the reins for redistricting California in 2008 without regard for incumbents or political favors they may have imagined the congressional draft map produced Friday by the Citizens' Redistricting Commission.

Eleven proposed congressional districts will contain two incumbents along with three composed of three incumbents.

The sheer enormity of juggling nearly 20 percent of the state's congressional delegation may be without precedent. "It will have a chilling effect," said Commissioner Gabino Aguirre of Ventura County, "In some ways the fix is in no matter what you do and that has a chilling effect on the incumbent."

When asked by a reporter if Aguirre had heard from lawmakers, he said the commissioner are not allowed to speak with them, but said, "I think if you call them, they are quite concerned of how these districts came out."

Alameda County's significant drop in new residents over the past decade coinciding with an exodus towards the Central Valley may force 19-time Democrat Rep. Pete Stark to face-off with fellow caucus member Rep. Jerry McNerney. The draft map presented Friday by the commission reconfigures most Alameda County to Stark and McNerney's former districts.

The CRC will hold a series of 11 hearings this month to accept further suggestions and testimony before presenting a revision on July 7. A final draft must be presented by Aug. 15.

The commissioner, some looking haggard, after months of testimony from over 1,500 citizens, appeared content with their initial stab at restructuring how politics is played in California. "These maps are our best first effort," said Commissioner Stan Forbes of Yolo County.

Yet, grumblings are sure to arise in the next few months, especially with a handful of cities and areas of interests still split in the first draft maps. "There are problems with some things we can work out given more time," admitted Aguirre.

The commission will continue to alleviate problems within the maps where "squiggly lines" still exists, something proponents of Propositions 11 and 20 aimed to eradicate with the CRC, but because of several auxiliary issues, said Aguirre, primarily the Voters Rights Act protecting the political strength of minority groups, the maps are not perfectly drawn boundaries or as he recounted a resident saying, "Life ain't fair, just draw squares."

Local hearings will be heard this month in San Jose, June 25 at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., 2-5 p.m., and in San Francisco, June 27 at Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater, 6-9 p.m.

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