Thursday, October 21, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on April 21st, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 8 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 8

Redistricting drama


Santa Barbara County’s Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission is supposed to lead to something better than the alternative: A fair process of redrawing the lines that outline Board of Supervisors’ districts to create a less politically driven, more representative elected board.

It’s supposed to be less controversial. 

And so far, it’s been anything but. 

Almost as soon as the first members were picked to serve on the 11-member board, people started complaining. The first five members—randomly picked from the pool of “qualified” applicants—were all white and the majority were male. Surprised? Nope. Nope.

At an October 2020 meeting, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann accused County Registrar of Voters Joseph Holland, who whittled more than 200 applications down to about 45, of creating “a skewed pool that is old, white, and male.” I guess she left out the word “Republican,” but no worries! Political consultant Mary Rose, who worked on Hartmann’s 2020 campaign, didn’t forget when she told the Independent almost the same exact thing a couple of weeks earlier: “It definitely skews white, old, male, and Republican.” 

Talking points, amirite?

Holland argued that he simply selected the most qualified applicants, saying the ballot initiative that created the commission “does not request of me to take into account gender, age, or ethnicity.” Even though that was definitely the whole point of the initiative that voters passed to create the commission in the first place. The 11 board members are supposed to be a reflection of the county’s demographic makeup. 

And the first five members sorted through the remaining applications to pick the rest of their colleagues. They needed to choose five women and one man, including five Latinos, one Asian, Black, or Native American member, one Republican, three under the age of 45, and two over 75. Easy! 

Obviously, that was impossible. They couldn’t do it, ending up with one more Republican and two Latinos. So the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce threatened to sue in December 2020. 

Democrats accused the first law firm the commission chose to represent it of being too biased toward conservatives. Then they accused the commission of choosing a demographer that was too biased toward conservatives.

In March, Andy “I will not be ignored” Caldwell used his Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business to sue the county because he likes that ol’ spotlight. He accused the attorney who replaced the “biased” one of having a conflict of interest, because he represented previous 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr when her challenger disputed her 2008 election win. The COLAB petition wasn’t successful.  

Since January, four of the commissioners have resigned from their posts. One left because he’s moving out of the county, another because she receives money that commissioners aren’t allowed to. Cary Gray, who was the first to leave, said he resigned to make room for another Latino or Republican representative. Laura Katz, who left in February, stated that she didn’t have the “endurance or strength of belief to continue.”

I’ll translate that for you: People are too crazy about politics right now. They’re making every decision more stressful than it should be. And we haven’t even started the actual redistricting process yet. We don’t even have 2020 census numbers yet. 

Just think about what the commission’s future holds. It won’t be pretty.

The Canary is wondering what happened to its application. Send help to

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