- The County’s Redistricting Process Has Been a Shambles, and the Maps it is Now Considering are Both Measurably Worse Than the Status Quo
Yesterday afternoon, the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee picked the least fraught option before it: It decided to give a thumbs-down to all the maps produced under its direction so far, and instead left the Board of Supervisors to figure out the county’s new political maps for itself.
The decision followed more than an hour of public testimony, nearly all of which asked the committee to reject both the draft maps we wrote about earlier in this week, and most particularly to reject Draft Map A2, the one that split off Old Town, downtown and the northwest corner of Eureka and joined them with the Arcata-based Third District. Most of 25 or so members of the public who spoke said that it the committee felt that it had to pick a map, then Draft Map C2 was the better option.
The committee eventually voted 4-0 – with committee chair Brian Mitchell absent at the end of the meeting – to forward neither map to the Board of Supervisors.
One thing that became particularly clear by the end of Wednesday’s meeting: Almost all the momentum that was behind defining West Eureka and Arcata as a singular “community of interest” that should have its own supervisorial district came from people who lived in neither place. That is, people from outside those communities were attempting to tell people who lived inside what their “communties of interest” were.
One of the few people who spoke in favor of Draft Map A2, who went by the name of “Patrick,” said that he was a long-time resident of Eureka’s West Side, but the majority of the people who spoke of the benefits of linking Eureka and Arcata up in this fashion live outside the area. Among them were Ryan Rice, president of the Humboldt Prosperity Alliance and a Hydesville resident, and Sonja Sundberg of Fieldbrook.
Most importantly, one member of the advisory committee – Lisa Russ, of the Elk River area – continuously pushed for Draft Map A2 to remain in the mix of options to forward to the Board of Supervisors, and was not shy about stating her reasoning.
“The landscape of Humboldt County is almost entirely rural,” Russ said at one point. Cramming as many urban dwellers as possible into two geographically small districts, no matter how oddly shaped, would leave that rural landscape with a larger voice in the other three.
After the public comment, Russ put forward a motion that would have forwarded both Draft Plan A2 and Draft Plan C2 to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for a vote. The motion died for lack of a second. Later, she joined the other three commissioners who were still at the meeting – Camilla Zapata of Arcata, Lisa Dugan of McKinleyville and Roman Rubalcava of Loleta – in voting to forward neither plan to the board.
But Russ had one more opportunity to register her support for the idea of cleaving off part of Eureka and tacking it onto Arcata’s Third District. That came when the committee considered a motion that, in the absence of specific maps to consider, would provide some guidance to the Board of Supervisors as it sets out to make a new map of its own.
After batting around some ideas, committee members came up with a list of five recommendations based on what they had learned at the end of their months of considering the question:
1. Provide data that breaks down the Native American population, which had been missing in the committee’s mapping attempts.
2. Try to put Glendale and Blue Lake in the same district.
3. Do not split Eureka into east and west parts.
4. In general, make minimal changes to the 2010 map.
5. Review the community of interest testimony the committee has received.
Russ declined to vote in support of this list if it contained item number 3. The Board was perfectly capable of reviewing the record that the committee had received on its own, she said, and she was not convinced that the record supported the third conclusion, in any case. So the committee voted 3-1 in support of the five recommendations, with Russ dissenting.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will discuss its first steps at its next meeting, on Tuesday, Nov. 2. It seems likely that it will move forward with a 2020 map based largely if not completely on existing lines.