San Luis Obispo County Supervisors’ redistricting fiasco

August 23, 2011

Stew Jenkins

OPINION By STEW JENKINS

Media coverage of the Board of Supervisors re-drawing their own election districts for the coming decade has missed the crucial defect in the process. Templeton is right to complain that its division deprives that community of the ability to influence any Supervisor.

But this pales in comparison to the way the Supervisors have diluted the vote of the largest and oldest incorporated city in the County (San Luis Obispo), splitting it three ways in their map.
By itself San Luis Obispo’s population nearly equates with the population of one supervisorial district.

The reality is that representation of voters is most faithful when districts are created based on communities of interest in compact, geographically sensible ways without regard to who hold a representative office like county supervisor.

The community of interest of citizens living in the same incorporated city is as strong as it gets when judging which voters should be grouped together in one district. There is no reason that each Incorporated city in this county cannot be nested wholly within one supervisorial district.

County staff reported in preliminary workshops that our current Supervisors specifically instructed them against drawing San Luis Obispo into one district.

There is little evidence that the residents of the San Luis Obispo’s Laguna Lake and Ferrinni Heights neighborhoods share more common interests with voters in the city of Morro Bay and the community of San Simeon with whom they share District 2 than they share with other San Luis City residents. Certainly these neighborhood have more in common with other SLO city residents living by the Mission (who themselves are drawn in with Atascadero, eastern Templeton and California Valley in the 5th District), and more in common with SLO City residents living South of Marsh Street who are in yet again drawn into the 3rd District.

The almost plausible argument one will hear is that the city will receive representation by three supervisors; but by splitting a city or a community in so many directions the reality is that such a city loses the ability to elect any one of the supervisors. Real representation of city resident’s interests is diluted to the point of non-existence.

Those elected to represent us should not draw their own elective districts.  The conflict of interest created by this practice is too great for even good people to resist.  Voters should consider creating San Luis County’s own Citizens’ Redistricting Commission.

Stew Jenkins is a San Luis Obispo city resident and attorney.


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10 Comments

  1. Bluebird says:

    At one time the northern part of Atascadero was in District1. Except for the Atascadero voters who lived in District 1 no one else said anything about splitting Atascadero into 2 discticts.
    The Templeton voters could not agree on one option. Meacham and one speaker liked B1, 4 Templeton speakers liked C.
    SLO County because of its topography and growth patterns is difficult to divide up. Having the largest city in the county divided into different districts makes sense to me and I can’t think of any instances where the final votes would have changed. District 1 & 5 have been represented by conservatives. District 2 for a long time has been represented by a liberal. Push District 5 north of the grade and you will most likely end up with 3 conservatives. There were manyAtascadero council persons who wanted it that way. They called it community interest!

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. r0y says:

    If anyone is interested in contacting the Board of Supervisors, their CONTACT PAGE IS HERE – either via e-mail or web-form.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. Vagabond says:

    I wonder if the disaster of Los Osos would have been prevented if they had been represented by more than one County board of supervisor, If they had been represented by three different supervisors ( a board majority) would the mistakes of building houses willy nilly have been allowed?
    In other words, for undeveloped or unincorperated areas it may be better to have more supervisors, not less.

    (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
    • NorCoMod says:

      No.

      The disaster in Los Osos was started with poor initial leadership on the part of SLO County Public Works and the Board of Supervisors in the late 1980’s and forced to it’s current state by a recalcitrant group of gadflies and activists within that community. Lay people with no knowledge of engineering were introduced into the decision making process. Sometimes Patterson’s “Let’s let the stakeholders weigh in” has unintended consequences.

      Feckless leadership is feckless leadership whether you have one or a hundred of them trying to make a decison. I’d get rid of all five of them!

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
      • justme says:

        “…gadflies and activists…” So which is it, bad Gov. or bad citizens who recognized the fact?? Can’t be both.
        More venting at the expense of the L.O. people who just got used and abused by all the “feckless” leadersship that never included any L.O. citizens against the gravity sewer.

        (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
  4. SLORider says:

    Politically motivated redistricting is illegal. The Supes have no business drawing lines for themselves.

    (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
  5. rogerfreberg says:

    Oh boo hoo…

    This happens all the time… I am part of a small sliver next to Laguna Lake that is part of the ditrict that includes Los Osos, Morro Bay and — I believe Cambria… I guess they wanted to connect all those areas connected by water!

    The supervisors will be designing the districts to protect themselves… it never changes boys and girls.

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • r0y says:

      Oh yes it does, Roger. It’s just not pretty when it does.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
  6. Mr. Holly says:

    Very sad what has happened to the folks in Templeton. I attended one of the meetings that were held regarding these issues. Almost the entire meeting was about the fact that the people of Templeton wanted to be represented by 1 Supervisor and not divided. The least part being that the area should have included the school district within that district.
    This is not passing the smell test, especially with an election coming up.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  7. racket says:

    Good points.

    One contrary observation, however, is the comparative lack of influence the BOS has on the day-to-day life of residents of SLO. Residents of SLO (and MB, and all other incorporated cities) go to their city council for land use permits, public works issues, etc. It is the residents of the unincorporated portions of the county (Templeton, Creston, Oceano, etc.) who are governed by the Supervisors.

    (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down

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