State government

Yolo sticks together in new districts

By July 28, 2011


The state commission that’s redrawing California’s political boundaries has unhinged Sacramento and Davis, which one commissioner called “a suburb” of the capital city.

It’s a victory for local politicians who lobbied to put Yolo County in a single district for each body. Splitting it up into two, or even three, districts would diffuse the county’s power, they told the state Citizens Redistricting Commission.

“These maps look great,” said Andrew Fulks, a member of Yolo County’s Parks, Recreation and Wildlife Advisory Committee. “Having one person in each of those levels of government … it’s basically a one-stop to deal with any issues we might have.”

The commission votes on the most recent draft maps Friday. If approved, it opens up a 2 1/2-week public review period. The commission then plans to vote on the final maps Aug. 15.

The newest maps give Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, a district that stretches from the western banks of the Sacramento River out west to Napa but stopping short of Santa Rosa. The district also goes north to include Interstate 5 towns like Arbuckle and Williams as well as the Clear Lake area, but excludes nearly all of Solano County, which Yamada currently represents.

Her new district would include all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.

State Sen. Lois Wolk also would find herself representing a drastically different constituency. Her district, too, would hug the Sacramento River and run west to include Napa, Vacaville, Fairfield and Vallejo. It would run north to include the Capay Valley and south to capture Rio Vista, Isleton and Walnut Grove. Wolk would no longer represent Stockton.

The first maps carved the county into nine districts, three each for the state Assembly, Senate and U.S. Congress. The new boundaries keep all of Yolo County (except West Sacramento) in single Assembly and state Senate districts.

Lobbying for countywide issues would have meant communicating with six different members of the state Legislature who are representing districts made up of people who aren’t Yolo residents.

“That’s a pretty big challenge,” said Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, “and we would have been a pretty small portion of each of those districts.

“Our interests would have been small compared to the total concerns of an Assembly member’s district.”

Fulks, who advocates for an environmental nonprofit, said the sheer logistics of trying to get that many people on the same page and unified behind a a cause would have been tough.

“When you start splitting them up, it makes it harder to achieve watershed-wide projects,” Fulks echoed,” because you have to convince more people, and that’s always going to make it more difficult.”

Rallying behind a single Assembly member or senator is much more effective, Saylor said.

“If that community is united in a single legislative district, then the members of the Legislature have a coherent body to represent,” he said. “And members of the community they represent can come together, and the Legislature can be far more effective.”

The new maps also have the county staying in an odd-numbered state Senate district, which allows voters to elect a senator in 2012 as scheduled. If Yolo’s district switched to an even number as was proposed in the first draft maps, a state senator would have been appointed until residents in even-numbered counties vote in 2014.

Wolk, a Davis Democrat who earlier chastised the commission for disenfranchising Yolo voters, lauded the commission’s work in an email to The Enterprise.

“I think their maps for the Assembly, Senate and Congress make good sense and unify many similar communities,” she wrote.

The newly drawn 3rd Senate District “brings together a region that shares many common interests, including agriculture, the Interstate 80 corridor, the delta, several watersheds, two universities and, of course, the center of California’s wine industry.”

Saylor tipped his cap to the commission for going through with “a very complex undertaking” that he called “an experiment in democracy.”

Members of the state Legislature used to create their own districts, a power that California voters stripped from them.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the lines drawn in such a transparent fashion,” Saylor said. “In the past, they’ve been defined through sheer political interest by the legislators themseves, and no one really knew how (the districts) were constructed.”

— Reach Jonathan Edwards at [email protected] or (530) 747-8052.


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