San Luis Obispo County Supervisors’ redistricting fiasco
August 23, 2011
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.