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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Observers will return to redistribution discussions next week

Oroville – The redistribution of Butte County has proven to be a difficult affair, mostly due to the Camp Fire dramatically shifting the populations of Chico, Paradise and Auroville.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors once again discussed and considered the proposed district maps during Tuesday’s meeting, during which passion among the board was high and discussion was put on hold until the next meeting.

Every 10 years, district local governments are required to use census data to change district boundaries as needed to maintain some degree of equal representation. The final map will have to be submitted to the state by December 27.

In 2018, the Camp Fire scattered most of the population of the affected area, meaning the newly selected map will likely look significantly different than previous iterations in decades.

The county is working with an outside consulting firm called Redestricting Partners, with Chris Chaffee assisting in creating a new map for Butte County. Chaffee led the discussion on Tuesday and set the guidelines for map creation.

“The guiding principle under fair maps that we’re following in all of these plans is that we want relatively equal-sized districts,” Chaffee said. “Let them all be contiguous, maintain communities of interest, follow as many cities and census-designated locations as possible, and then try to keep districts as compact as possible.”

Initially, observers expressed concern over the map of the fifth district shown.

Supervisor Debra Lucero expressed concern over the map, calling it the strongest map ever presented. Ultimately it was agreed to cancel that particular map.

A map endorsed by supervisor Doug Teeter, identified as number 69836, also created some discourse. The map shows four larger districts surrounding a smaller Chico-oriented district.

“It looks like it does what the Voter’s Rights Act says it shouldn’t,” Lucero said. “Breaking the compact areas together rather than dividing it into four supervisory districts.”

Teeter responded by citing the Camp Fire that mostly affected his district.

“You know I’m sorry we lost so many voters and civilians in the Camp Fire,” Teeter said. “Unfortunately I have to go somewhere.”

Chaffee explained that the problem with the map presented is that it would not meet the many requests provided by residents.

“It may not follow a lot of community interests that we’ve heard but it will follow some,” Chaffee said.

“This (online map tool) has been one of my challenges with the District, and I mentioned that in a public meeting, is that we can’t put communities of interest on this map,” Teeter responded. “You were supposed to put the communities of interest on the map. I think it (the map) clearly puts the communities of interest except Chico and Auroville but everyone else is breaking down Chico and Auroville.

Teeter said he has heard from several people in the Cohasset area that residents want to be part of the Chico District, although Chaffee said that most comments from people living in that area say otherwise.

“I am completely against this map,” Lucero said. “It makes Chico cut like a turkey before Thanksgiving and I think that goes against a lot of the evidence that’s been received.”

Lucero further stated that he believed that the purpose of the map presented by Teeter was to create two agricultural districts in Butte County.

“I don’t believe agriculture needs two reps,” Lucero said. “I’d love to see agriculture put together.”

Supervisor Todd Kimmelshu said he favors two agriculture-heavy districts.

“You can say what you like about the two agricultural districts,” Kimelshu said. “Historically we have had two agricultural districts. It is a big part of the economy, perhaps not in terms of employment, but it has a huge economic impact on the country. There are a lot of issues in the farming community and I think it’s really important that we have two representatives who represent agriculture on all those issues.

Kimmelshue, as well as supervisor and chairman Bill Connelly, joined Teeter in liking the map presented.

Another issue that came up was the possibility that Supervisors Ritter and Lucero could live in the same district, meaning that unless the two ran against each other, no one would be able to represent.

Chaffee explained that in creating the map they did not have information about where the representatives live and how this information could complicate or invalidate the redistribution process.

“I think we’re heading into an area that’s not specifically allowed in the Fair Maps Act,” Chaffee said. “So we have the criteria mentioned in the Fair Maps Act, but the other thing we can’t do is make maps to benefit an incumbent or a candidate or a political party. As a demographic we do as an exercise that we do not have your addresses. Our system doesn’t have voter registration information so we can’t see where Democrats live or Republicans live…”

Both Lucero and Ritter expressed dismay at the map proposed by Teeter because it was not part of the four submitted by Chaffee for consideration and was therefore not reviewed by the board. Ritter stated that the map submitted by Teeter was not required for discussion because Teeter kept it separate from the suggested maps and therefore did not have proper transparency to the public.

“It’s not a public process when we don’t know, when the other observers here don’t know, that we’re going to consider a completely different map that wasn’t provided by the consultants and that’s where Where I feel this process is a lack of transparency,” Ritter said.

A special meeting has been scheduled for Thursday to discuss the maps further.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors meets every second and third Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. in its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. The meetings are free and open to the public. Those who have not been fully vaccinated, it is mandatory for them to wear a mask while in the building.

World Nation News Desk
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