Supervisors pick their voters

Southwest Chico residents protest redistricting plan

In 2008, voters in California approved Proposition 11, which took control of state Legislature redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers, who were using it every 10 years to carve out safe districts for themselves. The measure instead gave that power to an independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

That effectively got rid of one of the worst conflicts of interest in government. No longer would politicians be able to pick their own voters—to gerrymander their districts, in other words.

But the measure doesn’t apply to county supervisorial districts, and in recent months Butte County’s five supervisors have been busily creating new districts for themselves. In a series of meetings beginning in March they have considered several plans, the last of which—called Plan 4—is agendized for the first time Tuesday, July 12, at 1 p.m.

This plan has residents of southwest Chico—the historic Barber neighborhood—worried because it would take them out of District 2, a largely urban district, and place them in District 4, a mostly rural district that includes Gridley, Biggs and Richvale.

In a hastily called press conference on June 30 and at the Tuesday (July 5) meeting of the Chico City Council, they pointed out that few residents of the district are aware of the change and how it will affect them.

At their request, the council voted to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors requesting that it “maintain confidence in local government” by creating an independent commission to redraw district lines and holding hearings throughout the county. We agree. Otherwise the supervisors may end up looking at a repeat of what happened 10 years ago, when the board carved up Chico in a heavy-handed, politicized way that provoked a successful—and, for the county, very expensive—referendum election.