Supervisors to return to redistricting discussion next week

OROVILLE — Redistricting Butte County has proven to be a difficult matter, mostly due to the Camp Fire dramatically shifting the populations of Chico, Paradise and Oroville.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors once again discussed and considered proposed district maps during its Tuesday meeting, during which time passions were high among the board and the discussion was held off until the next meeting.

Every 10 years, districted local governments are required to use the census data to change district boundaries as needed in order to maintain somewhat even representation. The final map must be submitted to the state by Dec. 27.

In 2018, the Camp Fire scattered most of the affected area’s population meaning that the newly selected map will likely look considerably different than it has in previous iterations over the decades.

The county is working with an outside consulting firm called Redistricting Partners of which Chris Chaffee has been aiding in creating a new map for Butte County. Chaffee led the discussion Tuesday and laid out the guidelines for mapmaking.

“The guiding principles under the fair maps act that we’re following in all of these plans is that we want relatively equal size districts,” Chaffee said. “They all should be contiguous, maintain communities of interest, follow cities and census-designated places as much as possible and then try to keep the districts as compact as possible as well.”

Early on, supervisors expressed concerns over the fifth district map shown.

Supervisor Debra Lucero expressed concern over the map calling it the most egregious map presented. Ultimately it was agreed upon to scrap that particular map.

A map favored by Supervisor Doug Teeter, which was identified as number 69836, also created some discourse. The map showed four large districts surrounding one small Chico-oriented district.

“It looks like it does exactly what the Voters Rights Act says not to do,” said Lucero. “Dividing it into four supervisorial districts rather than keeping compact areas together.”

Teeter responded referencing the Camp Fire that mostly affected his district.

“You know I’m sorry we lost a lot of voters and citizens in the Camp Fire,” Teeter said. “Unfortunately I’ve got to go somewhere.”

Chaffee explained that the issue with the presented map is that it wouldn’t meet many of the requests provided by residents.

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

“That’s been one of my challenges with (online map tool) Districtr, and I mentioned that in a public meeting, is that we can’t put up the communities of interest on this map,” Teeter responded. “You were supposed to bring communities of interest on a map. I think this (map) does keep communities of interest except for obviously Chico and Oroville but everyone is breaking up Chico and Oroville.”

Teeter went on to say he’s heard from many in the Cohasset area that residents want to be part of the Chico District although Chaffee said most of the comments from those living in that area say otherwise.

“I just am completely against this map,” Lucero said. “It slices up Chico like a turkey before Thanksgiving and I think it goes against many of the testimonies that have been received.”

Lucero went on to say that she believes the point of the map presented by Teeter was to create two agricultural districts in Butte County.

“I do not believe that agriculture needs two reps,” Lucero said. “I’d love to see agriculture kept together.”

Supervisor Tod Kimmelshue said he was in favor of having two agriculture-heavy districts.

“You can say what you like about two agricultural districts,” Kimmelshue said. “Historically we have had two agricultural districts. It is a large part of the economy, maybe not employment-wise, but it does have a large economic impact on the county. There are a lot of issues in the agricultural community and I think it’s really important that we have two reps that represent agriculture on all those issues.”

Kimmelshue, as well as Supervisor and Chairman Bill Connelly, joined Teeter in liking the presented map.

Another issue that came up was the possibility that supervisors Ritter and Lucero might end up living in the same district, meaning one would no longer be able to represent unless the two ran against one another.

Chaffee explained that in drawing the map he does not have information as to where representatives live and how that information can complicate or even invalidate the process of redistricting.

“I think we are going to an area that is specifically not allowed in the Fair Maps Act,” Chaffee said. “So the Fair Maps Act has the criteria we mentioned but the other thing we cannot do is draw maps to benefit an incumbent or a candidate or political party. One of the things we do as a practice as a demographer is we don’t have your addresses. We don’t have voter registration information in our system so we can’t see where the Democrats live or where the Republicans live …”

Both Lucero and Ritter expressed frustration over the map proposed by Teeter as it was not part of the four presented by Chaffee for consideration and therefore was not reviewed by the board. Ritter said the map presented by Teeter was not one expected for discussion as Teeter brought it up aside from the suggested maps and therefore it did not have reasonable transparency to the public.

“It is not a public process when we don’t know, when the other supervisors up here do not know, that we are going to be considering an entirely different map that was not provided by the consultants and that is where I feel this process lacks transparency,” Ritter said.

A special meeting is slotted for Thursday to discuss the maps further.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. every 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.

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