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

Santa Maria Sun / News

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

Fourth commissioner resigns from Santa Barbara County Redistricting Commission

By Kasey Bubnash

James “Chris” Hudley is the latest to step down from his post on Santa Barbara County’s Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, marking the commission’s fourth resignation since mid-January. 

The county’s Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission has a new vacancy after James “Chris” Hudley resigned. Hudley, who accepted a new job outside the county, is the commission’s only Black member and the fourth to resign since January.

Hudley, a senior financial analyst at UC Santa Barbara, announced in a brief April 9 resignation letter that he’d accepted a new job and would soon move out of Santa Barbara County. That leaves the Redistricting Commission—an 11-member board that is supposed to reflect the diverse age, race, gender, and political demographics of Santa Barbara County and is tasked with redrawing the county’s supervisorial districts—without its only Black member and a District 3 seat up for grabs.  

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the commission for the past several months,” Hudley wrote in the letter, “and I offer my best wishes for its continued success.” 

Hudley’s decision is the most recent in a string of unrelated commissioner resignations that started with 4th District Commissioner Lata Murti in January. 

Murti, an associate professor of sociology at Brandman University and the commission’s only Asian American representative, announced her resignation in a Jan. 14 letter to the commission, stating that she regularly receives honoraria for local, national, and international presentations and publications. Such payments to commissioners, she said she learned during ethics training after her appointment to the commission, are not allowed. 

Murti’s resignation came as the Redistricting Commission faced backlash over its final commissioner appointments, which several groups said didn’t accurately represent the demographics of Santa Barbara County.  

The use of a redistricting commission is an attempt to create districts that will better represent the county’s current population based on new census data, but the Redistricting Commission selection process has been under fire since October 2020, when Registrar of Voters Joseph Holland released his list of the 45 most qualified candidates chosen from about 200 applicants. Community members from across the county, including 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, complained that Holland’s selection process had “created a skewed pool that is old, white, and male.”

The first five commissioners—four white men and one white woman—were randomly chosen from Holland’s pool of 45 and responsible for filling the commission’s remaining six seats. 

To accurately parallel the county’s demographics, the first five members would have had to choose five women and one man to fill the remaining six seats, including five Latino members, one Asian, Black, or Native American member; one Republican; three members under the age of 45, and two over 75. The Redistricting Commission ended up with just one Republican and only two Latinos, leading to a legal threat from the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in December 2020. 

Murti acknowledged the issue of representation in her resignation letter. 

“I understand that my resignation means there will be no Asian American representation on [the Redistricting Commission],” she wrote. “However, given that Asian Americans make up a much smaller percentage of the county’s’ population (6 percent) than do Hispanics/Latinx (46 percent) and Republicans (31.5 percent), I believe that it is more important that these groups be adequately represented on the commission. I am certain I am not alone in this belief.” 

Cary Gray, another representative of District 4 and one of the first five commissioners who were randomly selected by county officials in 2020, also resigned in January to make room for another Latino and/or Republican representative. In a Jan. 22 letter, Gray said he hoped his decision would help the commission avoid major delays to the county’s redistricting process. 

Murti and Gray were replaced with James Bray, a white Republican, and Amanda Ochoa, a Latina with no party preference. Then in February, retired nurse and 1st District Commissioner Laura Katz also resigned, stating in a letter that she didn’t have the “endurance or strength of belief to continue.” Cheryl Trosky, another white woman, took over for Katz. 

Glenn Morris, chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission, described the resignations as largely unrelated and individual decisions.  

“We appreciate those who have served, regardless of the length of their service,” Morris wrote in an email to the Sun, “and appreciate those who have stepped up to replace those who were unable to continue for whatever reason.” 

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