Cities, county make decisions
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/11/2011 09:58:26 PM PST

Later this year, San Bernardino County leaders will have to redraw the boundaries of the county’s five supervisorial districts.

While the state’s redistricting process has been in the headlines for months, it’s not yet clear exactly when or how the county will redraw district lines.

“No one’s been assigned to do anything yet,” county spokesman David Wert said.

That’s true for not only the county, but also the cities and water districts that will have to redraw boundaries some time this year.

The cities of San Bernardino and Colton have city council districts that will likely need to be redrawn, as do the county Board of Education and at least seven local water districts. But not much has happened so far.

That’s because the process can’t start until local governments obtain the detailed population data from the 2010 U.S. Census. That information should be available before April 1.

“When the detailed data comes out, then everyone who elects using districts … will need to look at the numbers and see how in or out of balance they are,” said Douglas Johnson, a redistricting consultant and a fellow with Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government.

The first question for local governments will be whether they have to adjust boundaries at all. In some cases, it’s possible – though unlikely – that districts will have grown evenly enough that current districts still have about the same population.

“It’s virtually certain they’re out of balance and will need to be redrawn,” Johnson said. “Growth just doesn’t happen evenly.”

Once that decision is made, the next question is who will draw the new boundaries.

In 2008 and again in 2010, California voters chose to put the power of legislative and congressional redistricting into the hands of a 14-member citizens commission. That group will have the final say in how congressional, state Assembly and state Senate districts
are drawn.

While local governments have the option to appoint a citizens advisory commission, it’s unlikely any such group will be used. In the county and cities, at least, new lines are likely to be redrawn by elected officials or their staff.

“In San Bernardino County, the elected officials control the redistricting in every jurisdiction,” Johnson said.

Wert said the county’s redistricting process will likely be the same as it was a decade ago.

“The county will receive the data, the chief executive officer will appoint a team of county staff to oversee the production of various map proposals and invite proposals from the community,” Wert said. “At some point along the way, public hearings will be conducted, and then the Board of Supervisors will publicly deliberate and choose from among the proposals.”

The county will almost certainly have to redraw its district boundaries. A 2009 report estimated that the population of the 1st Supervisorial District, which covers most of the county’s High Desert, is about 21 percent larger than the population of the 5th District, which covers Rialto, part of Fontana and most of San Bernardino and Colton.

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