OROVILLE — The Butte County redistricting process has come to a tentative end as the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on the map labeled A5C.
Supervisor Tod Kimmelshue introduced the map during the board’s special meeting on Dec. 6 as one he drew with help from his family that was based on a map that had been discarded by the board in a prior meeting.
Map A5C creates two agricultural districts on the west side of the county while moving Cohasset into the foothill district with Forest Ranch and Paradise. It also keeps Mechoopda together, uses the Feather River as a natural dividing point between Chairman Bill Connelly and Supervisor Doug Teeter’s districts and maintains Bidwell Park in a Chico district.
However, the map also keeps some of the more controversial decisions. Chico is divided into four districts and Oroville into three. A large portion of Chico that is heavily populated by students as well as a larger Latino community is being split three ways on the west side of the city, possibly diluting votes, particularly in more Democrat-centric areas while creating one singular district with a heavy Democratic majority.
One thing that has been brought up many times by members of the public as well as supervisors Debra Lucero and Tami Ritter has been a possible push to make sure the heavily backed candidate Peter Durfee remains in Lucero’s district so he can run against her. The other three supervisors did not comment on this matter during the meeting.
The map was one of three that made it to the final day before the Dec. 15 deadline, both created by consultant Chris Chaffee of Redistricting Partners, a firm the county hired for $80,000.
Both Lucero and Ritter favored A7 and received considerable backing, mostly from Chico residents.
Lucero said there had been more than 900 comments submitted to Redistricting Partners and the county that supported keeping Chico in no more than three districts. During the meeting, Butte County Chief Administrative Officer Andy Pickett confirmed that the largest number of commenters were in favor of map A7. It was noted that there had been, since the beginning of the process, more than 2,000 public comments on the matter.
Map A7 would have kept Chico at three districts, Oroville at two and made one single agriculture district as there has been previously.
Another map created by Chaffee was A10, which he created based on input from supervisor Teeter and was presented on Dec. 6 during a special meeting. At the time the map had seemingly been favored by the conservative majority on the board as it was pushed forward with A7. During that meeting, Kimmelshue, who had presented his own maps, asked that A5C be pushed forward as well.
On Tuesday, map A10 faded into the backdrop as the vast majority of people who commented expressed support for A7 or A5C.
When it came time to vote, Lucero motioned to adopt A7 which was struck down 3-2 with support from Ritter. Lucero then motioned to support map A10 which was also voted out 3-2.
Teeter made the motion to adopt A5C which was backed by Kimmelshue and Connelly, securing the map for the next 10 years.
Leading up to the vote, each member of the board spoke on their positions and aired frustrations.
Lucero gave a lengthy statement highlighting the road to map A5C at which point she said she believed keeping Durfee in the race against her was the leading factor for the support from Teeter, Connelly and Kimmelshue. She also spoke on a map previously presented by Teeter that was created by Republican strategist Josh Cook.
Ritter said she believed the county needed to be more transparent in the process adding that she felt there had been multiple potential Brown Act violations throughout the process. Ritter went on to discuss the topic of agriculture being considered as a community of interest.
“The criteria in creating two agriculture districts is in direct violation of the Fair Maps Act,” Ritter said. “It requires that communities of interest should be included in a single district.”
When it was Kimmelshue’s turn to speak, he listed the things all three maps had in common as well as things only A10 and A5C had in common and finally things only A5C featured. He said the map kept Paradise in the lowest populated district to make room for growth, something the town’s mayor, Steve Crowder, has stated multiple times during public comment.
“I agree with the mayor of Paradise that the town will rebuild soon and once again be the second-largest city in Butte County,” Kimmelshue said.
Teeter expressed his support of A5C and pushed back on the notion that the board had violated the Brown Act, saying that the action in question was corrected via a special meeting.
“We’re going to get through this, I know that, here shortly,” Teeter said.
Connelly once again aimed frustration at Lucero and Ritter for the accusations of gerrymandering.
“I don’t think labeling gerrymandering on people without concrete evidence that I was involved is proper conduct,” Connelly said. “Your conduct toward me is not proper.”
Though the map has been solidified from the board’s perspective, there has been considerable talk and speculation regarding the potential for a lawsuit against the county.
Multiple people who commented have expressed concern over taxpayer money going toward possible litigation over a map that may violate the Fair Maps Act. Some have even threatened litigation.
Lucero and Ritter had both stated at previous meetings they wanted to avoid a lawsuit. On the other hand, Teeter at one point said he wouldn’t mind if there was one as there has yet to be a court ruling around the relatively new Fair Maps Act.
As of the decision, an official litigation announcement has not been made public.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors generally meets at 9 a.m. on the second and third Tuesday of the month at its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. Meetings are free and open to the public. Those who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask while in the building.