09:59 PM PDT on Friday, June 17, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Proposed draft redistricting maps analysis
Several Inland cities will be affected if the draft redistricting map unveiled recently is instituted.
Published: 6/17/2011 05:22 PM

Freshly unveiled maps proposing new political lines for California would splinter some key Inland cities between districts, prompting local leaders to question whether the lines would strain longstanding community ties or dilute their representation in Washington.

Under draft maps issued by the state’s redistricting panel, new lines would cut through Redlands, Temecula and Fontana — splitting the cities into two congressional districts that include distant communities sharing little in common with the Inland area.

The 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission is tasked with preserving likeminded “communities of interest” as the panel redraws lines. The idea is to keep together people of similar demographics who work in the same industries, use the same public services and face the same issues, so as to maximize their congressional representation.

But other priorities — complying with voters’ rights law and creating districts that contain as close as possible to 702,905 people each — take precedent, making some city and community fracturing inevitable.

Redlands is a prime example. Under the draft plan issued last week, about three-quarters of the city’s residents would be in a massive district that includes all of the San Bernardino Mountains, the entire High Desert and parts of Mono and Inyo counties. Thus, the more bustling Inland city would be represented in Washington by a lawmaker who also represents the far-flung resort town of Mammoth Lakes, nearly 300 miles away.

“I hear it’s a great community,” Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar said Friday. “We have much more in common with surrounding communities than with Mono and Inyo counties.”

Aguilar said he plans to appear Sunday at a hearing in San Bernardino, where the commission is scheduled to hear concerns and suggestions from members of the public about the draft maps. Aguilar said he would call upon the panel to keep the city intact and together with other eastern San Bernardino Valley cities, including Highland and Loma Linda.

“The region is best served by having elected officials that primarily represent the Inland Empire,” he said.

The western portion of Redlands would become part of a San Bernardino-Rialto-Colton area seat currently filled by Rep. Joe Baca. Meanwhile, Fontana would be split between the San Bernardino-anchored seat and one that stretches west to include Pomona, Upland, Chino and Chino Hills.

Baca, D-Rialto, suggested that the San Bernardino district could be shifted west in a manner that would keep both Redlands and Fontana whole.

But even that slight a change could create a domino effect, requiring the commission to make corresponding changes throughout the proposed map, which is the product of months of work.

other concerns

At meetings in Sacramento earlier this month, commissioners repeatedly questioned the panel’s line-drawing consultants about whether pre-draft “visualizations” split a city and whether it could be prevented.

Sometimes it could, by moving a line elsewhere. In other cases, it wasn’t that easy.

One of the visualizations split Rancho Cucamonga, a city of 165,269, into three Assembly districts. Some commissioners suggested moving other districts to reduce the divisions, but that created more problems. After half an hour, they gave up.

Southern California’s densely populated geography poses major challenges to keeping cities whole.

For example, the proximity of Corona (pop. 152,269), Riverside (303,871) and Moreno Valley (193,365) ensures that someone is going to be split, and possibly unhappy.

If a city has to be split, commissioners have said, then the dividing line should be logical. The current Assembly draft splits Riverside into two districts, with the Santa Ana River forming part of the boundary.

That makes sense, said Commissioner Jodie Filkins Weber, of Norco. But she still wanted to make sure that the rest of the boundary didn’t split neighborhoods.

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