Is Sac County quietly accepting redistricting losses?
EDITOR’S NOTE (Nov. 11): Last evening, the Citizens Redistricting Commission released its fourth version of maps. At the Congressional level, these changed just as dramatically as the first versions. See end of story for current Sacramento area map. They won’t finalize until Dec. 27, and much could still change. So all should assume the value of public input will remain just as important until then.
On Monday, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission released draft #3 of its state and federal district maps. Unfortunately, this continued a map trend that has made Sacramento County one of the bigger Congressional redistricting losers so far. Though the county has enough population to fully contain two Congressional districts, current maps would give it just one full district and divide the rest of the county among farther flung districts.
But analysis by the Sacto Politico shows part of the blame for this potential dilution is how relatively unengaged Sacramento civic leaders and residents have been in the process so far . Through Friday, Sacramento County appears to have accounted for just 39 of 4,450 overall comments received by the commission. This is less than 1%, while the county comprises 4% of the state population.
By comparison, Napa County has one-tenth the population as Sacramento County but accounted for more than 50 comments. Yolo County with one-seventh the size submitted more than 100 comments. And the City of Long Beach in southern California with 500,000 residents leads all areas with hundreds of comments asking to not be divided between districts.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the commission has addressed many of the major map concerns from these areas but none involving Sacramento County. Timothy Murphy, CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange, believes the Sacramento area needs to quickly step up its participation or see its Congressional power diminished for the next decade.
“If we don’t speak up for what I think is a huge injustice for our region, then we are going to get stuck with the lines that have been recommended because other communities were more active,” he said. “This process is basically a freight train barreling down the hill, and there is not a lot of time.”
The commission has said it will take public input until December 27 when it must turn in final maps.
Murphy admitted the Congressional map changes had snuck up on him too. He previously was more focused on the State Senate and Assembly maps. But when he saw the Congressional maps last week, he said, “It was kind of like ice water being thrown in your face.”
Specifically, he was shocked to see West Sacramento lumped in with far-off East Bay communities and Elk Grove grouped with Stockton 36 miles to the south. One recent map even assigned Folsom to the Sierras.
He quickly submitted his feedback on behalf of his group, writing in part, “The proposed set of maps cannibalizes our Metropolitan Service Area (MSA), spreading our communities of interest across six proposed congressional districts.”
“For the past two decades, our local governments have collaborated together to advance the regional priorities of the Sacramento region, leveraging this cooperation as we have sought federal funding for these priorities,” he continued. “Placing Sacramento-based communities of interest into other MSAs puts the Sacramento Region at a distinct disadvantage.”
The Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen have also submitted comments, but no other elected officials or major groups in Sacramento County have commented on the need to keep the county more in tact.
Elk Grove residents have been the most active of area citizens, but in some cases they have simply expressed a desire to keep Vineyard or Florin together in the same district as Elk Grove. This is the case with the latest map, though all three communities have been bunched together with Stockton. This means Elk Grove would go from being the largest city in the CA-7 to a distant mismatched part of the largely agribusiness-focused San Joaquin County district.
Many wonder why the commission tinkered so dramatically with Sacramento County’s two districts. The county’s current CA-6 and CA-7 districts contain about 95% of the county population, plus Doris Matsui’s CA-6 includes the Yolo County city of West Sacramento located across the Tower Bridge from downtown Sacramento.
Growing by 10% over the last decade, Sacramento County has also outpaced the state growth rate of 6%. Usually areas with greater population growth enjoy greater concentration of political power, not less. Plus the county’s growth put its 2020 population at 1,585,000, which is just 65,000 more than required for two districts at the 760,000 residents each.
Further, the combined populations of Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties equals 2.4 million, which is just a tad more than needed to fully populate three Congressional districts.
This is not to say all parts of the greater Sacramento metro area agree on a metro-wide approach. For instance, most comments from West Sacramento asked to be contained with all other parts of Yolo County and not lost in the shadow of Sacramento County.
Such was the case for West Sacramento Councilmember Norma Alcala, who wrote the commission back in June on behalf of herself and Mayor Martha Guerrero. Her comments echoed many others submitted from her city and throughout Yolo County.
She noted West Sacramento shares with the rest of Yolo County a county government, a sheriff department, district attorney and education districts. “This community of interest should be in a single Congressional District. Another ten years like this would be very harmful to West Sacramento. This redistricting is in desperate need of reform,” Alcala wrote.
The latest map didn’t fully remedy this, but it did at least group Davis and West Sacramento within a district separate from Sacramento. The district then runs south through multiple Delta communities before fish-hooking into southern Contra Costa County. Does West Sacramento have more in common with Contra Costa than Sacramento? No, but the squeaky wheel commenters in Yolo County have at least gotten half of what they hoped, which is far more than Sacramento County has achieved.
But redistricting is far from a finished process. Commissioner Sara Sadhwani even recently said, “Basically what we’re saying is the map is currently a hot mess.”
What this means is there may still be time to reverse the “cannibalizing” of the Sacramento area of which Murphy spoke. He said he plans to reach out this week to members of his organization and other business groups to encourage them to submit input to sway the commissioners.
“I hope so,” he said. “Where we have very solid Congressional representation in our area presently, we would see that just torn apart.”
EDITOR’S NOTE (Nov. 11): The Nov. 10 Congressional map for Sacramento area. These largely follow the current district template with a few small changes, such as how City of Sacramento is divided and Folsom and Orangevale shifting eastward to Tom McClintock’s CA-4. Most significantly, South County communities such as Elk Grove have returned to the Sacramento County districts.