County’s New District Map Really Fuzzy Around The Peripheries

To the dismay and confusion of thousands of residents at over a dozen locations throughout San Bernardino County, the board of supervisors this week committed to a map of the districts in which they and their successors will serve over the next ten years which is so inexact in certain respects that it is not clear in which districts more than 60,000 voters will reside.
At press time, despite the widespread confusion, no clarification was forthcoming from the county or its officials.
Reapportionment is conducted across virtually all political jurisdictions in the United States following each decennial census, from the federal down to the local levels. That includes the states’ addition or subtraction of Congressional seats in the House of Representatives, the determination of the size of each state’s representation in the U.S. Electoral College, the geographical lines of congressional districts and state legislative districts, districts within counties for the offices of county supervisor and council wards within cities which utilize by-district voting in choosing city council members.
In accordance with that practice, multiple proposed new supervisorial district maps were submitted, some of which were generated in-house by the county, some of which were proposals put together by a county consultant, Northern California-based Redistricting Insights, and others that were suggested by various county residents. The county held 18 public meetings at various places around the county to allow a geographically diverse participation in hashing out the new districts.
The criteria set for determining districts in certain respects is contradictory. In the case of the supervisorial districts, they are supposed to be roughly equivalent in the number of voters. Under federal and California equal voting rights laws, minority voting rights are to be respected and maintained, equal representation is to be ensured and race or ethnicity is not to be considered in the drawing of lines. Still, to meet the requirement of guaranteeing equality of representation and the voting rights of what are defined as “protected minorities,” which include virtually every categorization of race except Caucasians, such a goal is virtually unachievable if the race or ethnicity of those being conformed into districts is not considered.
San Bernardino County, like most other jurisdictions, danced around this requirement in deriving the district options it looked at.
Despite paying lip service to the concept of considering district maps submitted by citizens, the county board of supervisors made no serious consideration of maps various county residents presented. There was no comprehensive or overarching dialogue that went on between county officials and residents over the course of the 18 meetings held for the purpose of considering the lay of the new districts, and there was no mechanism provided for making comparisons between the maps, few of which were available in a format that would allow for comparisons of the relevant and contrasting geographical constituencies thereto.
In a few locales, there was what appeared to be a concerted effort by residents to consolidate regional areas or what were termed communities with a commonality of interest into a single district rather than being spread across two or more districts. The rationale for keeping these communities of interest together was that the dilution of those residents’ votes into more than one district made it less likely that they collectively could elect a supervisor committed to representing their interests. This manifested most strongly in the San Bernardino Mountain communities, which from 2012 to the present have been represented by Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford on the west side of the mountains and by former Third District Supervisor James Ramos and current Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe on the east side of the mountains.
The meetings the county held to gather input and virtually all public input with regard to the proposals was hampered by the lack of availability and the resultant lack of provision of clearly demarked maps to allow members of the public to visually understand where the borders were in many cases. Moreover, there was no comprehensive inclusion of a listing of which districts the county’s cities and communities fell within on the various mapping proposals.
As a consequence, it became clear early in the process that the public input provided at the meetings was so ill-grounded and lacking in meaningful particularity and comparison as to be practically useless.
Moreover, it became apparent more than six weeks ago that the board of supervisors was already gravitating toward map options which would make as little change as possible from the existing maps. Thus, by late October, only three maps were being given any sort of serious consideration, and one of those – indeed, the map that the board has now committed to – was for all intents and purposes the frontrunner on a decided course for inevitable selection.
Still, despite the consideration that the board was committed to that map, neither its members nor County Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hernandez nor Matt Rexrod, the principal in the county’s redistricting consultancy, Redistricting Insights, bothered to provide either a clearly drawn map showing where the district boundaries are relative to the county’s cities or a list of the county’s cities and communities with a notation of which district they lie within.
The one map provided by the county showing the entirety of the county geographically with the boundaries drawn offers only the cities of San Bernardino, Victorville, Barstow, Twentynine Palms and Needles as reference points.
The county also provided five maps, each depicting one of the five districts. Unfortunately, those maps, while referencing some of the county’s cities and showing that they are within the district depicted, are not comprehensive enough. In particular, the maps are inexact as to multiple unincorporated areas and cities that lie near the periphery of the district borders.
For the last nine-and-three-quarters years, the First District included Hesperia, Adelanto, Wrightwood, Amboy, Wheaton Springs, Apple Valley, West Cajon Valley, Argus, Oak Hills, Bagdad, Nipton, Baker, Oro Grande, Baldy Mesa, Vidal Junction, Big River, Saltus, Cadiz, Searchlight Junction, Calico, Pinon Hills, Cima, Daggett, Earp, Newberry Springs, El Mirage, Spring Valley Lake, Essex, Fenner, Goffs, Helendale, Hinkley, Phelan, Homer, Kelso, Ivanpah, Lenwood, Mountain Pass, Needles, Randsburg, Ludlow, Red Mountain, Rice, Kramer Junction, Silverlakes, Havasu Lake, Summit Valley, Fort Irwin, Trona, Victorville, and Yermo.
In the same time frame, the Second District included north Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, the westernmost two-thirds of Fontana, Devore, Lytle Creek, San Antonio Heights, and Mt. Baldy as well as Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, Lake Gregory, Blue Jay, Cedar Glen, Valley of Enchantment, Twin Peaks, Cedarpines Park and Green Valley Lake.
The Third District included the eastern portion of San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Highland, Redlands, Yucaipa, Big Bear Lake, Angeles Oaks, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms and Barstow.
The Fourth District included Chino Hills, Chino, Ontario, Montclair and the southern portion of Upland, Guasti, Carbon Canyon, Prado and Frontera.
The Fifth District consisted of Colton, east Fontana, Rialto, San Bernardino, Bloomington, El Rancho Verde, Glen Helen, Arrowhead Farms, Muscoy, Little Third and Rosena Ranch.
The districts to go into effect next year are not as clearly defined as the current ones.
With regard to some of the county’s cities and communities, the district in which they are to be located from 2022 until 2032 is succinctly spelled out, documented or mapped, based upon the available maps and public statements made by some county officials. Within which district certain communities lie remains a mystery.
Understood is that Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair, Ontario and lower Upland fall within the new Fourth District.
North Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and all or most of Fontana are located within the new Second District.
Rialto, Colton, and a major portion of San Bernardino remain in the new Fifth District.
Grand Terrace, east San Bernardino, Redlands, Yucaipa, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Barstow, Amboy, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, Fenner and Goffs are in the new Third District.
The First District will continue to encompass Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville, Adelanto, Oak Hills, Four Corners, Helendale, Silverlakes, Oro Grande, Trona and most or all of the northern part of the county north of Highway 40 with the exception of Barstow. The First District will lose a huge swathe of the largely unpopulated southern portion of the Mojave Desert.
There is a lack of clarity as to why so much low population or unpopulated territory was transferred from the First District to the Third District. The visual impression looking at the comprehensive county map is that going forward, the First District, which for a century has been the largest district geographically, will be rivaled in size by the Third District. The county did not provide exact square mileage of the districts.
Based upon objections that Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford raised, it appears that virtually all of the San Bernardino Mountain Communities that currently come under the Second District’s authority – Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, Lake Gregory, Blue Jay, Cedar Glen, Valley of Enchantment, Twin Peaks, Cedarpines Park and Green Valley Lake – have been wrested from her responsibility and the responsibility of her successor. It is not clear, however, whether they have been moved into the Third District or the Fifth District. The maps put out by the county, including the entire county map and the Second District map, seem to indicate that the easternmost third of Fontana currently in the Fifth District is to move into the Second District. Nevertheless, the detailing on the map is insufficient to show whether the entirety of Fontana all the way to its city limits against Rialto is going to the Second District or if a sliver of east Fontana is to remain in the Fifth District.
It is not clear which district – the Fifth or the Third – will lay claim Loma Linda, Big Bear, Forest Falls and Angeles Oaks over the next decade.
It is ambiguous as to whether Mount Baldy is to remain within the Second District or now come under the jurisdiction of the First District.
On December 7, four of the board’s members – supervisors Curt Hagman, Joe Baca Jr., Dawn Rowe and Paul Cook – voted to accept the map, which was officially designated Map 2 Version 2. Supervisor Janice Rutherford voted against accepting it.
County officials have not said why they have not provided clearly demarked maps of the districts and have simultaneously limited the information relating to which districts will oversee many of the county’s communities. It has been suggested that since the board is scheduled to make a formal approval of the map at its December 14 meeting and the supervisors are weary of having to deal with the redistricting ordeal, they purposefully are keeping the public in the dark, as most people who might otherwise be inclined to weigh in on December 14, conscious that the board of supervisors has them at a disadvantage, will choose to remain silent rather than risk speaking out with regard to a topic about which they have insufficient information to speak cogently.
-Mark Gutglueck

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