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Final supervisorial redistricting map options presented to board

POSTED August 16, 2011 9:50 p.m.

After nearly eight months of planning, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday finally saw firsthand how their supervisorial districts may change, though a final decision on redistricting maps is still a week away.

“It’s hard to believe we’re here,” said David Jones, county spokesperson and director of the redistricting effort. “... It’s an exciting time.”

Since January, county staff and a citizens redistricting commission have been drawing and redrawing supervisorial district lines, conducting public outreach and struggling to draft districts which equally divide population while keeping communities of interest intact. Through the process, six maps were drawn, three of which were rejected for failing to keep the Westside intact, splitting municipal advisory councils in two, or grossly redistributing minority votes.

Throughout the process, the supervisors had no involvement. On Tuesday, for the first time, the supervisors were presented with three recommended options for redrawing Stanislaus County’s supervisorial districts.

The first two maps, released to the public Aug. 1 for review, differ in their approach to split the county. But both focus on keeping municipal advisory councils, cities, and school districts intact in one district where possible.

Option one would see South Modesto’s 14,000 residents subsumed into District 3 alongside the King-Kennedy area of Modesto, leaving District 5 to pick up all of Ceres and Empire to make up for the loss in population. Option two would, instead, place all of South Modesto in District 5 with most of Ceres, moving part of Ceres to District 4, and leaving part in District 2.

A third option, introduced by planners on Thursday, is essentially a cleaned-up version of option two, which fixes issues with school district boundaries in Modesto and Hughson. The option also returns the portion of Ceres in District 2 to District 5, splitting Ceres between only two districts rather than three.

That revision makes for two clear frontrunners among the three alternatives, according to Supervisor Bill O’Brien.

“I think the decision for us is going to be between option one and option two alternative,” O’Brien said.

In all options, Turlock, Denair, Hickman and Keyes would remain in District 2 while much or all of Ceres would be removed from the district.  In exchange, the proposals would add all land served by the Chatom Union School District.

The limited public comment at Tuesday’s meeting differed on whether option one or the revised option two reigned supreme. Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra backed option one, which would keep Ceres whole in one supervisorial district.

“Ideally, we would love to have one supervisor,” Vierra said.

Modesto Chamber of Commerce CEO Cecil Russel, on the other hand, supported the option two alternative, which would keep the Beard Industrial Tract in District 4 with Modesto, rather than shift the tract to District 5 with the Westside and Ceres.

The board refrained from weighing in on the options Tuesday, as the meeting was intended solely to familiarize the supervisors with the proposals, to receive one last round of public comment, and to alter the proposals if supervisors saw any problems.

“I think tonight what we’re really doing is taking a look and saying if we agree with the options,” Chairman Dick Monteith said. “We’re really saying we agree that what you submitted is good, and we’ll make that decision when the time comes.”

The board is expected to make that decision at a 9:05 a.m. public hearing on Aug. 23 in the basement chambers of 1010 Tenth St., Modesto. Final board approval is expected Aug. 30.

For more information on the effort to redistrict Stanislaus County, visit www.stancounty.com/redistricting, e-mail redistricting@stancounty.com, fax 554-6226 or call 525-6333.

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

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