The Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) Board of Trustees received information and discussed trustee district mapping at Tuesday’s meeting, but received zero input from the public.
Board members heard from consultant Doug Johnson, owner of the National Demographics Corporation, who was hired to provide maps for the board.
Johnson configured three maps or plans which break down TUSD into seven districts based on population density, race and income.
The district mapping was in response to the California Voting Rights Act, which mandates that districts that have at-large voting systems can be sued if voting patterns show that minority groups are unfairly being left out of elected positions.
The board was scheduled to make a decision on a trustee district map at its June 21 regularly scheduled board meeting, but decided to hold a special meeting specifically for a mapping vote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, it was discovered that two of the current board members, President Frank Lima and John Sims could not be in attendance on June 21 due to important prior commitments. Their absences would create a situation where only three of the seven-member board could pass whichever of the three map plans they decided on. The board agreed this particular vote was far too important for a minority vote to pass a trustee district.
Prior to delaying the meeting on June 21, board members commented about the district mapping system and its effects on the future. Much of the discussion revolved around the fact that some areas could see higher instances of appointed board members rather than elected members. Under mapped district voting systems, if no one runs for election then the existing board must appoint a member from that district.
“We have areas in these maps where the board will be appointing someone more often than not. I’d rather have someone who wants to run rather than is being picked or appointed to serve on the board,” said Trustee Bob Weaver.
Trustee Tami Muniz disagreed with Weaver.
“As long as I can remember, I feel we’ve had a board that is not representative of this entire community. I feel that way. I was excited when this came up because I do feel like when you live in a certain area you’re more in touch with that area. This is going to be a positive,” she said.
Much of the concern expressed by trustees was that under districting unqualified candidates or people with selfish reasons could run unopposed in a district.
“Either way it will only be one vote, even if we get someone from left field. I really hope that we get people that step up and put themselves out there and this may help a lot of good people step out and run,” said Muniz.
Board members commented at length about the proposed maps, yet not a single person from the public commented on the trustee districts, disappointing board members and in particular trustee Loren Holt.
“No one has commented on this, there may be a dozen people other than the board here. No one has showed up for this and I’m very disappointed. At least some feedback would be appreciated,” he said.
Following trustee approval, the map plan will be submitted to county and federal officials. According to Lima, the approvals are just formalities and whichever plan the board decides will be the new district election lines.
The first election under the new lines will be held in November 2013.
“Some of us won’t be here because all of us live in the same district,” Lima joked said to his fellow trustees. “These maps will change how this board conducts itself and I don’t know that human nature will allow all of us to vote for everyone (in TUSD) every time.
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