September 15, 2011

San Bernardino County: Board considers new boundaries

Proposed San Bernardino County redistrict map. (San Bernardino County)

by Imran Ghori

San Bernardino County -- Supervisors will take up a redistricting ordinance today but remain split on the plan, which has drawn criticism from some mountain and Latino residents.

The board approved a draft proposal on a 3-2 vote last month at its fourth meeting since May on how to draw the county's supervisorial district boundaries.

The new map shifts parts of the San Bernardino Mountains -- from Lake Arrowhead to Running Springs -- from the 3rd District to the 2nd District.

The proposed map would also move Barstow, Lucerne Valley and Twentynine Palms from the 1st District to the 3rd District and half of Upland from the 2nd District to the 4th District.

The county's consultant, National Demographics Corp., recommended the option out of five maps considered as the best able to meet different county criteria.

Changing demographics from the 2010 census required the county to decrease the size of the High Desert 1st District, which saw the largest population increase, while adding to the 4th District, which needed to grow the most to ensure the districts are equally balanced, according to county spokesman David Wert.

Supervisor Neil Derry, who represents the 3rd District, voted against the plan along with 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. Both remain opposed.

Derry had proposed two alternatives that would move all of the San Bernardino Mountains into his district -- an option supported by a large group of mountain residents who spoke at the public hearings of wanting to unify the area under one district.

"The public has come out and spoken and been routinely ignored," Derry said of the plan favored by the board majority.

Board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales, who represents the 5th District, said she is satisfied that the plan is as fair as it can be given the different regulations governing redistricting.

"We go into the redistricting process knowing we're not going to make everybody happy; that includes ourselves, the supervisors," she said.

Gonzales said she believes the mountain area is better served by two representatives on the board instead of just one.

The plan also came under fire earlier this month from Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, who joined a Latino advocacy group in accusing the county of refusing to create a second Latino majority district.

County numbers, however, show that Hispanics would have a majority in two districts in the proposed plan -- 57 percent in the 4th District and 69 percent in the 5th District.

The group, the League of United Latin American Citizens Inland Empire chapter, held a news conference to criticize the county plan but did not contact county officials, Wert and Gonzales said.

"I'm at a loss as to why they've not contacted me or the CEO," Gonzales said. "We'd be happy to listen to them."

Gonzales sent a letter last week to Joe Olague, president of the group's Inland Empire chapter, inviting him to submit the group's proposed maps. In his response, Olague reiterated the group's criticisms but did not offer its maps.

Wert said the figures cited by the group in criticizing the Latino population represented in the districts are false.

The board meets at noon at the County Government Center at 385 N. Arrowhead Ave. in San Bernardino.