Did Kings County Board of Supervisors listen to its constituents? Community says no.

·6 min read

Community members are questioning the integrity of the Kings County redistricting process after the board of supervisors on Tuesday morning approved on a 3-2 vote a map that was submitted anonymously.

No public comment was allowed on the new map which surfaced last Friday after the board had settled on two sets of maps that will determine new district boundaries following Census data that shows Latinos with 56.8% of the population.

Supporters of a community map said the supervisors’ action showed they are following their own agenda and working against the public’s best interests. Others called Map 120 the “incumbent protection map.”

Supervisors Craig Pedersen, Richard Fagundes and Doug Verboon voted in favor while supervisors Richard Valle and Joe Neves voted against.

“I voted no from the fact that there was zero thought given to this map. No one had the courage to say at the beginning of the meeting, ‘Hey, I support this map. Let’s give the opportunity to the public to speak to it.’ To me, it’s a disgrace to what public service is about,” said Valle after the public hearing. “The public, they’re the bosses, not the county board of supervisors. We didn’t listen to the public.

Supervisor Richard Valle voted against adopting public map 120.
Supervisor Richard Valle voted against adopting public map 120.

“This right here is just a slap in the face to the system, the integrity of the system, and I’m very disappointed,” Valle said. “I have to go home tonight. Now look at this map and figure out what my district is for the next 10 years. I still don’t know.”

Pedersen, who currently represents Armona and parts of Hanford, made the motion to approve Map 120 while Verboon, who represents north Hanford, the Island District and north Lemoore, seconded.

Fagundes currently represents Hanford and Burris Park, while Neves represents Lemoore and Stratford. Valle represents Avenal, Corcoran, Home Garden and Kettleman City.

“I’ve been watching this process since the beginning and I’ve seen all of the community members come forward. And what happened this morning was the will of the people was completely subverted,” said Lori Pesante, civic engagement director for the Dolores Huerta Foundation after the hearing. “The process that unfolded can hardly even be called a process. It had no integrity about it whatsoever.”

The foundation worked with Valley Voices on redistricting efforts.

As part of the redistricting process, the board held its last public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday when community members could address the board either in favor or against the maps that were for consideration.

“I do think that public Map 120 does increase the numbers to a level where there are two majority (minority) districts and it does achieve the goals that have been laid out with this whole process,” said board chair Pedersen during the public hearing. “Just throw that out for a possibility for the board to consider. And with the chairman’s privilege I make a motion” to adopt 120.”

The Kings County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning approved with a 3-2 vote public map 120, a map that was submitted anonymously.
The Kings County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning approved with a 3-2 vote public map 120, a map that was submitted anonymously.

Before the board went to public comment, Valle asked the entire board if anybody had an opinion on the new maps including Map 120.

“It came before the board of supervisors on Friday and I asked that if anyone favored one of them to let it be known, then so the public to have an opportunity to talk about it,” Valle said.

“We’re not finished yet and there is an opportunity again before we approve the maps,” Pedersen told Valle, who then asked if the public would be allowed to comment.

The public was not allowed to make comments neither in favor or against Map 120.

“I’ve heard. I think the whole board has heard the direction of public testimony, and for me, I understand it. I’m trying to meet that goal. And so, with that, my motion (to approve map 120) stands,” Pedersen said.

However, the people who spoke at Tuesday’s final hearing as well as in previous hearing have favored Public Map 101, which was submitted by the nonprofit organization Valley Voices, which has been engaging with the community in Kings County by collecting community of interest surveys and hosting weekly redistricting Zoom meetings.

Cathleen Jorgensen spoke at Tuesday’s final hearing as well as in previous hearing in favored public map 101, which was submitted by the nonprofit organization Valley Voices, which has been engaging with the community in Kings County by collecting Community of Interest (COI) Surveys and hosting weekly Redistricting Zoom meetings.
Cathleen Jorgensen spoke at Tuesday’s final hearing as well as in previous hearing in favored public map 101, which was submitted by the nonprofit organization Valley Voices, which has been engaging with the community in Kings County by collecting Community of Interest (COI) Surveys and hosting weekly Redistricting Zoom meetings.

Valley Voices’ map did not take into consideration the location of any of the current board of supervisors’ residences, but rather used indicators such as the residential clustering of groups of voters with common interests, the locations of municipal boundaries or physical geographic features and the desire to keep a district relatively close together.

Valle asked, ‘Is there anyone that wants to claim Public Map 120?”

“I don’t understand how we got a second that quick, though the map, we didn’t talk about this map at all,” Valle said.

Valle asked fellow board members to not rush the vote. He pointed out that while Map 120 meets the bill of two Latino-majority districts, it brings down the citizen voting age population (CVAP) for Latinos to 52 percent in District 4, the lowest percentage of the maps the board had previously considered.

Public Map 101 has the CVAP of Latinos at 60 percent for District 4.

Kings County is one of the 11 counties in California with a Latino majority. Valle is the only Latino on the five-member board. Even though Latinos represent the majority of the population in Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera and Merced counties, there are only six Latinos serving on those boards.

While the Kings County population decreased by just under 500 people in the last decade according to the 2020 Census, the ethnic makeup of the county changed significantly with the percentage of the Latino population ballooning from 51% to 56.8%.

“We just found out about 120. So, we’re going to have our demographer analyze the specifics and compare it to our Map 101. I am confident, just with a quick visual that we had, 120 is the incumbent protection map all the way,” said Claire Fitiausi, community outreach for Valley Voices. “The changes are limited from what we currently have, which does not offer representation for the majority of citizens here in Kings County.

“So, we’ll take a look at the numbers and we’ll be back on Tuesday and discuss how Map 120 is not a good choice for Kings County,” said Fitiausi.

Claire Fitiausi, Community Outreach for Valley Voices. spoke at Tuesday’s final hearing as well as in previous hearing in favored public map 101, which was submitted by the nonprofit organization Valley Voices, which has been engaging with the community in Kings County by collecting Community of Interest (COI) Surveys and hosting weekly Redistricting Zoom meetings.
Claire Fitiausi, Community Outreach for Valley Voices. spoke at Tuesday’s final hearing as well as in previous hearing in favored public map 101, which was submitted by the nonprofit organization Valley Voices, which has been engaging with the community in Kings County by collecting Community of Interest (COI) Surveys and hosting weekly Redistricting Zoom meetings.

“I feel that they had the decision made already, so pretty much everything we voice was not heard,” said Lupe Chávez, a resident of Avenal. “It’s kind of discouraging, but that’s how it works.”

“Both as a resident and as a public servant, I’m thoroughly disappointed in the majority of the board. They are not working in the public’s best interest and definitely not paying attention to 100% of the testimony that was supporting Public Map 101,” said Avenal City Manager Antony V. López.

“Clearly they’re on their own agenda and probably working together on something not in the public’s best interest,” said López, who has attended many of the redistricting public hearings.

Every 10 years, county supervisorial districts must to be redrawn to ensure each supervisor represent approximately the same number of people.

Diane Freeman, county counsel, said the board selected the map today and will come back next Tuesday (Dec. 14) “for approval of the resolution that’s consistent with their action today.”

The board, because Kings is a general law county, needs only three votes to approve a new map.

The deadline for counties to adopt new redistricting maps is Dec. 15.

Supervisor Doug Verboon voted in favor of adopting public map 120 on Tuesday (Dec. 7) public hearing.
Supervisor Doug Verboon voted in favor of adopting public map 120 on Tuesday (Dec. 7) public hearing.
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