Turlock City Council unanimously voted to oppose the redistricting boundaries for Turlock proposed by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Commission proposed Turlock to be a part of District 8, the “Foothill” District, which would cut off Turlock from its neighboring communities.
Along with opposing Turlock to be incorporated into District 8, City Council voted to recommend that Turlock be included within the proposed boundaries of District 12, “Merced.”
“We feel that District 12 is much more aligned with our issues, as the Foothill District is tourism and natural resources based economy,” said Regulatory Affairs Manager Michael Cooke.
In November 2008, California voters passed Proposition 11, the Voters First Act, which subsequently created the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The Commission is now responsible for drawing the boundaries of California’s Congressional, Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization electoral districts.
However City staff is not supportive of the new Commission’s redistricting as they feel incorporating Turlock into District 8 would be illogical, as Turlock and the foothill/mountain regions share little common interests and issues.
Although District 8 includes some of Turlock’s neighboring cities including Hughson and Oakdale, the District lumps Turlock with areas such as Sonora, Sonora, Death Valley National Park, Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, and Sierra National Forest.
Staff thinks Turlock is a better match for District 12, which includes communities such as Ceres, Patterson, Newman, Hilmar, Livingston, and Merced that share social and economic interests with Turlock.
These neighboring cities share similar issues such as farm labor issues, water supply, agricultural regulations, land use planning & growth, economic development, educational attainment, health care, and spread of gang violence.
“My concern has been that Turlock for the past 30 years has always been cut apart and stuffed and tucked in other districts,” said Mayor John Lazar. “For whatever reason, they did it again. I don’t know why they can’t just leave us whole with adjoining neighbors that have common interests.”
Sharon Silva, CEO of Turlock Chamber of Commerce, echoed Lazar’s stance and said that there will be a real issue if the county is not kept whole.
Another issue if Turlock was incorporated with District 8 is separating the California State University, Stanislaus (CSUS) from the communities that it serves.
Doing so would weaken the University’s representation in the State Senate, which is crucial especially at this time of budget cuts and financial difficulty for higher education.
CSUS President Dr. Ham Shirvani additionally sent a letter to the Commission that expresses his concern for moving into District 8.
Vice Mayor Amy Bublak supported moving to District 12, and felt it would be beneficial and important for CSUS. “It’s a commuter college, and they want to be represented from their whole,” she said.
Transportation corridors are another issue with Turlock remaining in 8, as main transportation corridors link Turlock to the Merced District, not the Foothill District.
Being in District 8 could potentially hinder Turlock’s ability to work on regional transportation planning issues.
Staff additionally feels that it is imperative Turlock is placed in a State Senate that coincides with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVUAPCD).
With only a very small portion of District 8 lying within the SJVUAPCD, as well as Turlock and the foothill communities have very different air quality needs, it does not seem logical for Turlock to be in 8.
Cooke said that the Commission will take action on August 15, however it is very likely that there will be litigation regarding these boundaries. For this reason, it is important that the City take official action to be on record regarding the proposed boundaries.
“It’s our recommendation that Turlock would be better served by being part of District 12,” said Cooke.