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Bill Kennedy: Let’s work to get the valley whole again

Posted: June 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

“Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.” — James Garfield, former U.S. president.

It has been said about salesmen that they have one of the easiest low-paying jobs in the world and one of the most difficult high-paying jobs. The implication that individuals ultimately have the greatest influence over their own destiny and that their well-being is directly related to effort can be applied to our democracy, as well.

Active engagement in the process is important — and sometimes even more important than the mere act of voting. Such is the case with the current redistricting process, and if we want it done properly, it behooves us all to work hard.

Every 10 years, following publication of revised census numbers, California has a redistricting exercise, drawing lines for electoral districts to balance the number of people in each to fulfill the principle of one person, one vote.

Historically, the redistricting task has been left to the legislature, which one pundit has observed, is like letting teenagers set their own curfew and other guidelines. By 2008, California voters awakened to the folly of this practice and approved Proposition 11, the “Voters First Act,” which assigned the redistricting task to an independent commission representing the voters, not elected officials. The goal was to allow voters to elect more accountable legislative and congressional representatives.

Most voters assumed their job of reform was complete with the passage of Proposition 11, but that was merely the beginning. Those who want to realize the full benefit of the reform know much work remains to be done.

The most important task is to influence the redistricting process by sharing our opinion with the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, which has, thus far, been very receptive to citizens’ inputs.

Indeed, after the commission proposed splitting the Santa Clarita Valley on some early versions of their election districts, they ceded to suggestions by Santa Clarita residents and corrected the fault in all cases but one. 

The exception is in their current draft of congressional districts, where the commission has aligned part of Newhall with the San Fernando Valley in an effort to provide proportional representation for minorities.

The proposal to assign portions of our beloved valley to two congressional districts is unsettling because it could marginalize our influence while cleaving Newhall, which lies at the heart of the heritage of this valley.

Please help correct this failing by expressing your views to the commission and emphasizing the importance of our unity. The commission needs to know that geography may have originally pushed us together, but it is common ethos and shared vision that have kept us together. All parts of our community working in harmony form the magic of the Santa Clarita Valley.

We value our unified independence as reflected in deed, not just words, and the SCV consistently steps up to challenges from which others retreat. Great consensus building here has led to such achievements as One Valley, One Vision and an expanded enterprise zone, for example. Further evidence of that spirit is reflected in the community’s mostly successful engagement of the redistricting commission to date.

The commission held their most recent public hearings last Wednesday, but are accepting written testimony on its first round of draft district maps until June 28. Only a few days remain, and we will have to live with the consequences for the next decade. Act now!

Testimony can be submitted online to votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov, by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 901 P St., Suite 154-A, Sacramento, CA 95814 or by FAX at 916-651-5711. You can also visit its website at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov. Click on the “Tell Us What You Think” button on the menu in the upper right of the home page.

The strength of the Santa Clarita Valley is in our unity, and we must fight to preserve it by keeping the SCV intact in a single congressional district. Let the commission know.

For the sake of our future, do it, Right here, right now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting, Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, and Planning Commissioner. Contact him at wkennedy@wingspanbusiness.com

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