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Changes Coming To State, County Voting Districts

Aired 6/13/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

We discuss how the state's legislative districts could change in the future, and why the county's redistricting process is different from the way the state now draws its districts.



Guest
Alison St John, KPBS News Senior Metro Reporter

The first draft of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission's map for the state's congressional districts.  For more information on the changes that are being proposed for California's legislative districts, go to: http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/maps-congress-1st-draft.html.

Above: The first draft of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission's map for the state's congressional districts. For more information on the changes that are being proposed for California's legislative districts, go to: http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/maps-congress-1st-draft.html.

Redistricting could change the political landscape in San Diego County and throughout California. We speak to Senior Metro Reporter Alison St. John about how the state's legislative districts could change in the future, and why the county's redistricting process is different from the way the state now draws its districts.

Guest

Alison St. John, KPBS News Senior Metro Reporter

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: New district lines mean new voters and maybe new careers for local politicians. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The proposed redistricting maps are out of for county, state and congressional districts. Some say the new lines are not as crazy as the old ones, others are not so sure. Then the creator of the surfing madonna mosaic in Encinitas talks about the public reaction to his work and where he hopes it ends up. Plus, lots of San Diegans enjoy growing food for the table, their own fruits and vegetables. We will talk about garden expert Nan Sterman with tips on planting a healthy edible garden. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next, first the news. Redistricting means high stakes horsetrading for local politicians and up in Encinitas the surfing madonna hangs 10. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The man who created the surfing madonna mosaic will tell us what he'd like to see happen to his popular but not entirely legal work of public art. And lots of people in San Diego like to grow their own vegetables. KPBS garden expert Nan Sterman will join us with tips on planting your edible garden. But for the first-time county districts, congressional districts politicians in San Diego are getting a look at the new proposed boundary lines for their constituencies. This redistricting is expected to bring about profound changes for some local elected officials and mere bumps in the road for others. KPBS Metro reporter Alison St. John joins us. Hi, Alison.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Hi, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Alison was at the County Board of Supervisors office downtown meeting as they discussed their new political boundary lines. So what are the changes that are under consideration?

ALISON ST. JOHN: Well this is of course because of the census and the community has changed quite significantly in the last 10 years so that all of redistricting is to make the same number of voters be in each district seat. You can imagine if for example the population has grown in the South Bay quite considerably. Now they have to make that district smaller. So for example Cox who represents the South Bay has to lose 30,000 people whereas Ron Roberts has to grow by 26,000 znd he represents sort of the more central city area. Basically it is attempting to make it more equal in terms of the number of voters but also in terms of communities of interest in ethnic communities and one of the things I think that was interesting, Maureen, was that the census for the first time in San Diego fell below 50% for white Caucasians and now there's only 48% of the community is white Caucasian and if you've ever seen the County Board they are all white Caucasians. Latinos have gone from 27% to 32%. The interesting thing about redistricting is that the only specification they have to follow is that they do not violate the voting act. So they've managed to draw the lines without violating the voting act but as you can see it hasn't really given Latinos much of an edge in the upcoming election but that's something that has made a great difference too.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it comes to the County Board of Supervisors districts who is drawing the lines?

ALISON ST. JOHN: There's a committee appointed by each of the five supervisors and we should make a point that there's a big difference in the way that the redistricting or redrawing of the line is being done at the county level. It's been done the old-fashioned way with the people who actually run for the seats get to decide where the boundary lines are. So the citizen advisory committee in essence that is going to be matched to the three supervisors and the supervisors will decide. But this committee has been meeting for a couple months. So meetings around the county to try to get feedback from people as to whether they would like to see any changes in the lines.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This morning the meeting you went to was shorter than you expected it to be and why was that?

ALISON ST. JOHN: That's why I'm sitting here instead of on the phone. That's because very similar to the budget hearing there were three people in the audience there is nobody showing up and this is something that the chair of the board Michele Anderson did say to me that he was disappointed that there wasn't more public participation. It's enough to make your head spin this kind of stuff. I mean I think until you get some specific maps to react to its very difficult really to put much input in.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have there been any maps drawn?

ALISON ST. JOHN: The county is finishing that job today. It's finishing a couple, winnowing down a couple of things that were suggested by committee members and according to the chair there were 24 people who did show up and say hey we would like to see these changes so they winnowed down and they now have three months to present to the supervisors at the end of this month.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are the next steps in the process as we go down the road?

ALISON ST. JOHN: So there is no chance early for the county to be giving any input to the county really big change to the supervisors are going to have to decide is whether to expand Diane Jacobs', the only big area to the east of the county should expand up to Scripps Ranch or should expand down to the Rolando, Navajo area. So there is a little bit of uncertainty there but otherwise the districts are pretty much the districts are drawn and one of the significant ones is Pam Slater Price loses La Jolla which could affect Democratic voters who will vote in that particular district.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Because the headlines coming out of this meeting that there's a significant change coming out of Pam Slater Price's district and perhaps Diane Jacobs'.

ALISON ST. JOHN: There's a lot of things for example in her example of South Bay there's people who thinks that (inaudible) out from Cox and into Roberts and most people said they wanted to stay with Cox and so communities are probably going to be happy to find that those communities of interest are still in the same district but yes, the question of how to several districts spread west to start taking in some of the more urban districts because you know we see growth spreading out to the east so inevitably that district is going to start needing someone who can represent suburban interests as well as several rural interests and understands letterpress whose district has always looked a very strange shape and you can only conclude there must be some political reasons for that is going to change to lose La Jolla this time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just once again is there any more chance for public input for county redistricting map?

ALISON ST. JOHN: On June 20 yes at 9 AM. The committee is not taking any more input however the public can still testify before the supervisors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to the state redistricting commission. They released preliminary maps for new voting districts on Friday. So how could San Diego State and Congressional districts change because of these maps?

ALISON ST. JOHN: Dramatically. Probably much more dramatically than the county because for the first time they are being drawn by this committee which is seeking input from the public and had instead of being drawn by members of the state and federal districts who stand to lose their gain by changing the districts so it's basically up to the community. So these look very different from the ones we're used to and it will take it all shift I think as people start to get used to the districts. Now Ron Nehring who is past chair of the California Republican chair party and is now a Republican strategist here in San Diego, I asked him a little bit about what he thought it would do to change the political makeup of the county and here's what he had to say.

(Pre-recorded) RON NEHRING: I think what we'll see in San Diego County is that we have some of our local officials running for reelection running in districts that have different communities than the districts they represent now. We see that with Congressman Brian Bilbray, Daryll Iser, Duncan Hunter, really all of the five House incumbents were going to have to run and represent people who may not know them.

ALISON ST. JOHN: But the important thing of course what we need to remember is right now we are in the grip of deadlock up in San Diego, they cannot pass the budget and why is that? That's because they're gerrymandered districts so you just can't break that deadlock and the hope is that the redistricting might make some of the districts a little bit more competitive and shift the balance so that the people of California are actually represented more accurately. It remains to be seen whether that's going to be happen but demographically I think the state is moving slightly toward the Democratic side of the ledger and that may be being reflected a bit in the way some of the districts have been redrawn in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The Democratic side of the ledger. Again to bring it home if you talk a little bit more about Democrat Susan Davis and Republican Brian Bilbray are two that could see some of the biggest changes to district boundaries.

ALISON ST. JOHN: That's correct and the 50th District which is Brian Bilbray's currently has always been a swing district if you remember there's been an attempt to change this from a Republican to a Democratic seat for a long time now but it has remained firmly Republican and it's going to move more toward the coast. It's going to lose Escondido in San Marcos and add Pacific Beach and OB and downtown. So you can see that one will be a little bit more in play when you consider that you have perhaps more conservatives in Escondido and perhaps more left wing leaning people in Pacific Beach so you know Brian Bilbray's district, the 50th anyway let's call it the 50th now, would change and the 53rd which is currently held by Susan Davis used to run all down the coast and be a lot of beach communities.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So she loses La Jolla and Pacific Beach and parts of Coronado.

ALISON ST. JOHN: She's going to be moving east and taking parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista and South of Chula Vista. So it completely changes the nature of her district and it will include more minority communities for example. So you can speculate how you like it may not change party but it is a very different kind of a district.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You spoke to Ron Nehring about that change as well.

ALISON ST. JOHN: That's right. Let's hear what he had to say.

(Pre-recorded) RON NEHRING: I think you could find both of those districts: competitive than either incumbent would prefer a note that members of Congress get very to tend to the representatives what changes take place there is little disruptive effect or so Susan Davis is going to introduce herself to some inland voters who don't necessarily have a relationship with her and Congressman Bilbray is going to reintroduce himself to some city of San Diego voters he has not represented during this time in Congress.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Of course that's assuming that people will continue to run for their spot in Congress. (Inaudible) district could say it sounds just as good a chance to run for the 50th District is Bilbray so she might not necessarily move to take the coastal districts again is not a done deal that the congresspeople will continue to run for the same district they had before.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As opposed to the County supervisor's redistricting plan community supervisors still have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed redrawn lines work and congressional districts in the state assembly districts in the state Senate districts, is that right?

ALISON ST. JOHN: That's absolutely right and in some ways is the exciting time for people to have their say on state and federal congressional districts because now the maps are a kind of apps are simply proposals bear like sort of a starting point and there will be at least 15 hearings around the state including just one here in San Diego which is June 20 and I believe it will be done at City Hall, city Chambers and so this is the point where if people do have strong feelings about how they would like to see their community I think it is a very difficult process but one that is worth taking a look at. Redrawthelines.CA.gov is the website and one of the things you can look at his years where I live, and now in this district. I really relate to the other communities around me, do I feel like this is a district where I can feel at home, or do I feel like I'm going to be a minority in this district and I'd rather have the boundary lines draw somewhere else. So it is a real opportunity for people to check out and have a say.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It is really more geared toward the idea of a community rather than one person who would like to continue to vote for their elected representative who is not going to be perhaps in the district anymore.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Yes the chips are all in here and now it really is a new day especially with the change also to the way the primaries are going to be handled in the next election I think we are seeing some big changes on the political scene for the voters.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you are helping us keep up.

ALISON ST. JOHN: I'm doing my best.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter Alison St. John. Thank you Allison.

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