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The push for a united SCV

Amid pleas, rumors and lobbying efforts, 14 commissioners will decide exactly where the SCV lies

Posted: May 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Despite unified pleas from local residents to keep the Santa Clarita Valley within the same state elective district, early reports indicate the commission drawing new lines for Assembly and state Senate districts which may split up the valley.

But a spokesman for the commission and some local leaders say it’s too early for alarm.

During two separate hearings before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission last weekend, more than two dozen local leaders and residents called for the 14 commissioners to keep the Santa Clarita Valley in one Assembly district. Since plans call for two Assembly districts to make up one Senate district, the valley would have a united voice in both legislative houses in Sacramento.

However, at separate hearings last Thursday in Norco, at least one commissioner reportedly said: “It looks like we will need to cut up the SCV. It’s not like it is one city.”

Reports from local residents who watched the beginning of the Norco hearing online said other commissioners expressed similar sentiments.

Commission insiders, however, say such rumblings and the stress they cause are happening up and down California during the unprecedented district redrawing in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Census.

Commission Communications Director Rob Wilcox, a former Santa Clarita Valley resident himself, says the state is abuzz with community representatives worried over preliminary plans discussed in re-drawing the electoral map.

“There’s some wild stuff out there in the absence of draft maps,” Wilcox said Friday. “I hear these concerns all day long. You’re always going to have rumors in the absence of concrete decisions.”

How “wild” do redistricting rumors get?

“I got one call from a guy who said he heard the commission was going to combine Salinas with Palm Springs.”

The two California communities are more than 400 miles apart.

 Commission hearings
Traditionally, California Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization districts, along with congressional districts, have been drawn by elected representatives themselves. But before the 2010 census Californians agreed to have an appointed commission to draw less politicized districts based on the new population figures.

The commission’s goal is to consider existing boundaries such as county and city lines, natural barriers and common interests to unite communities in districts, eliminating politicians’ self-preservation instincts and inclination to dilute points of view unfavorable to them.

The 14 commissioners, appointed in September, are also charged under federal law to preserve voting blocs of minority communities.

They have all summer to get the job done.

Commissioners are traveling across the state, hearing the concerns of people representing various communities defined by race, economic status and cultural heritage.

On May 1, nine local residents and leaders drove to Lancaster and told commissioners to keep the Santa Clarita Valley within one Assembly district.

The day before that, a delegation double that size carried the same message to commissioners meeting at San Fernando City Hall.

For commissioners, however, defining electoral districts comes down to a numbers game.

Their challenge is to draw the lines so there is the right number of constituents for each district. When it comes to the Santa Clarita Valley, that poses a challenge.

Not with the SCV
While the Santa Clarita Valley has slightly more than a quarter of a million residents, and Santa Clarita city is the fourth biggest city in Los Angeles County, the numbers here still fall far short of those required for a single Assembly district.

“My sense is that we are 57 percent of what they need,” said attorney Hunt Braly, vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, who addressed the commission publicly on April 30. “So, whether you go to the south, east or west — there’s nothing to the north of us — we have got to be combined with somebody.”

After two straight days hearing from scores of residents to the south, east and west of the Santa Clarita Valley, commissioners likely came away convinced that no one wants to be combined with the SCV.

Antelope Valley residents, who delivered their message May 1 at a Toyota dealership in Lancaster, said they want to be aligned with Bakersfield and desert communities around Palmdale.

Over the same two days, more than two dozen speakers from Ventura County expressed a desire to be partnered with Fillmore, Piru, Camarillo and Santa Paula - but not with the Santa Clarita Valley.

And San Fernando Valley business leaders who testified early during the hearing in San Fernando said they don’t want to be teamed with the Santa Clarita Valley, either, one local observer said.

Not alarmed yet
Santa Clarita City Council member Frank Ferry, who addressed commissioners in Lancaster, said it’s too early in the game to become upset over whisperings of splitting communities.

“In fairness to the commission, there’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on,” Ferry said Friday. “Let’s wait until they put out their first maps.

“Once they bring out their initial maps, then we can get aggressive about what we’re hearing,” he said.

Ferry said the Santa Clarita Valley should mobilize regardless of the commission’s decision — after it’s drawn a preliminary map. Initial maps are due out in early June, after which another round of hearings is scheduled. Maps are to be finalized in August.

If the preliminary map puts the Santa Clarita Valley in one Assembly district, “We should show our support,” Ferry said. If it doesn’t, “Then we should voice our opposition.”

Councilwoman Laurie Ender said the commission is paying particular attention to numbers ­— asking locals repeatedly in Lancaster, for example, about the population of the Santa Clarita Valley and noting in interim reports how many people appear before them and the communities they each represent.

“Santa Clarita residents should step up and make themselves heard, write letters, send emails.”

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