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City Council rejects State Senate redistricting plan

Turlock should be with Valley cities, not foothills, says mayor

POSTED August 9, 2011 10:11 p.m.

The Turlock City Council on Tuesday took a stand against a statewide redistricting plan which would slot Turlock into a State Senate district comprised of foothill communities, separating the city from its Valley neighbors.

“The proposed Senate district that includes Turlock appears illogical,” said Michael Cooke, interim assistant to the city manager. “It cuts Turlock off from its San Joaquin Valley neighbors.”

The redistricting process intends to equalize the populations of all State Senate districts based on population counts from the 2010 census.  For the first time, district lines are being drawn by a citizens’ redistricting committee, approved by voters in November 2008, rather than by state legislators.

The finalized boundaries for Turlock’s proposed Foothill district includes cities such as Rancho Cordova, Sonora, Jackson and Clovis, as well as Stanislaus County neighbors Hughson and Oakdale. The district also includes numerous state and national parks, such as Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park.

The wants and needs of those cities don’t line up with Turlock’s legislative priorities, the council said. State Senators tasked with representing the district may end up focusing on foothills issues, leaving Turlock without a voice in the State Senate, according to Mayor John Lazar.

“For whatever reason, they did it again,” Lazar said. “I don’t know why they can’t just leave us whole with adjoining neighbors who have common interests.”

Foothill economies are largely based on tourism and natural resources, rather than the Valley’s agricultural focus. Foothill cities aren’t members of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, as Turlock is. Existing highways – such as Highway 99 and State Route 165 – don’t logically connect Turlock to the foothills. And the California State University, Stanislaus service area doesn’t stretch to the foothills.

Instead, the Turlock City Council supports joining the “Merced” Senate District 12, which includes cities like Ceres, Patterson, Newman, Hilmar, Merced, Madera and Salinas.

“We feel that District 12 is much more aligned with our issues,” Cooke said.

While council unanimously supported shifting to the Merced district, the final decision rests with the citizens redistricting committee.

Even if Turlock remains in the Foothills district, the city has a chance of being heard in Sacramento, Councilman Forrest White said. With population centers in Turlock, Clovis, Hughson and Oakdale, the few, large Valley towns may control the candidates elected from the Foothills district, White said.

“That’s going to be the power center of this district,” White said. “The bigger players will control the issues.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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