SLO County’s contentious redistricting map heads toward adoption after tense discussion

·4 min read

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took the next step toward adopting a polarizing redistricting map that would drastically change representation boundaries.

Once again, the issue sparked acrimony, both from public commenters and among supervisors.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to advance the five-district map they selected on Nov. 30, which was drawn by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten and has been backed by the local Republican Party.

Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg cast the dissenting votes against moving the map forward to the adoption phase. On Tuesday, an ordinance to change the existing map appeared on the board’s consent agenda.

This is a typical precursor to a full hearing, when staff makes a presentation and supervisors engage in a discussion prior to adoption. The board usually approves all the items on the consent agenda with one vote, but the map ordinance was pulled from the other items for public comment and supervisor debate.

The board’s vote means supervisors will consider adopting the map at a meeting on Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Tense comment period dominated by Patten map supporters

Supervisor Lynn Compton, the board chair, said there were about 30 commenters who spoke at the meeting. The public discussion was rife with accusations of partisanship and illegal behavior as well as calls for the county to move on and accept Patten’s map.

“I am tired of the partisan rhetoric and talking of suing and all of the other things,” said Andrea Seastrand, a former Republican congresswoman.

At one point, a commenter whose three minutes were up continued speaking, prompting the next person to begin talking over her. Compton had to take a 10-minute break after a man in the audience stood up during the comment period and loudly voiced his disapproval of the meeting.

He didn’t say specifically what he was upset about, but he wouldn’t fill out a comment form and stormed out after Compton paused the meeting.

Many commenters spoke in favor of Patten’s map — now suddenly calling it by its technical numerical name, “Map 74786” — and thanked supervisors for selecting it on Nov. 30.

“Thank you for keeping most communities together,” said Nancy Shaw of Templeton.

Supervisors again push for partisan analysis of redistricting map

Some commenters falsely accused Gibson and Ortiz-Legg of committing illegal acts by asking for and viewing data on the partisan impact of the new redistricting map, which would show whether it would give Democrats or Republicans a political advantage.

County Counsel Rita Neal has said viewing such data is allowed under the state’s Fair Maps Act, as long as supervisors don’t use it to create a map that favors one party over another.

One commenter also suggested it was necessary for supervisors to collect data on the map’s partisan impact to be able to show its political impact.

Rita Casaverde, chair of the county’s Democratic Party, expressed disbelief that Supervisor John Peschong, a partner in a political consulting firm, had never looked at data assessing the politics of Patten’s map. Casaverde asserted the same of Compton, who’s running for re-election in 2022.

“The redistricting process needs to be nonpartisan,” she said. “It cannot be Republican versus Democratic.”

Ahead of the vote, Peschong asked that the ordinance be changed to assert that the board did not take political demographic data or current supervisors’ addresses into account when selecting a map.

Gibson, however, pointed out that the lack of data showing whether the map advantages Republicans or Democrats doesn’t mean it wasn’t drawn to help one of the parties.

“That particular finding doesn’t negate the conclusion that the map is drawn to favor a political party,” Gibsons said. “We can’t simply ... argue ignorance of this piece of information as an adequate defense of the result: that this map favors the Republican Party.”

Ortiz-Legg again — as she did at the Nov. 30 meeting — called for the board to ask its consultant, Redistricting Partners, to conduct a partisan analysis of the map.

Gibson also supported the action, but they were voted down by Peschong, Compton and Supervisor Debbie Arnold.

When is the next meeting?

To learn more about the redistricting process, visit the county’s webpage at bit.ly/3o1tmAo.

View a zoom-able version of Richard Patten’s map here. Click “data layers” and “municipalities” to view city boundaries.

The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting Patten’s redistricting map at a meeting on Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the county Government Center at 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

The county is accepting public comment on redistricting until 5 p.m. on Dec. 13. To submit a comment, send an email to redistricting@co.slo.ca.us.

To stream the Dec. 14 meeting online, visit the meetings, agendas and minutes webpage at bit.ly/3peLFBm. A link to listen to live audio or view live video will appear when the meeting begins at 1:30 p.m.

To watch the meeting live on TV, tune into cable channel 21.

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