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Supervisors Back Boundaries for a Latino District

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively backed new boundaries that would create a supervisorial district in Oxnard that would have a majority of Latino voters.

In agreeing to further study the plan, the supervisors rejected five other alternatives, including a proposal offered by a coalition of Latino voting rights advocates.

The supervisors will meet next week for a second study session on the proposed boundary changes, which would have little impact on the other four districts.

The focus of Tuesday’s discussions was on Supervisor John K. Flynn’s district, where county officials said they want to form the first district with a majority of Latino voters.

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In Flynn’s district, which includes Oxnard and nearby unincorporated beach areas, Latinos make up 48% of the voting age population, with Anglos making up 39% and blacks about 5%. The other 8% belong to other minority groups.

The new boundaries supported by the supervisors would increase the percentage of voting age Latinos to 50.3%, according to a report by Chief Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg.

By law, the county must adjust supervisorial boundaries after each national census so that districts will be about equal in population, in this case about 133,800. The new boundaries must be adopted by Nov. 1.

Because the population in Flynn’s district has grown by more than 15% over the past five years, the plan supported by the supervisors will reduce its size by 11,694 residents so that all five districts will remain about equal until the next census is completed in 2000.

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To create a district with a majority of Latino voters, the supervisors supported a plan that would remove from Flynn’s district several mostly Anglo middle-class neighborhoods near Oxnard College west of Pacific Coast Highway and east of the county railroad tracks. It would also remove an area north of Hemlock Street and south of Keel Avenue between Victoria Avenue and Patterson Road.

The areas would be transferred to Supervisor Maria VanderKolk, whose district includes Thousand Oaks, Port Hueneme and unincorporated areas in the southeast corner of the county.

At Flynn’s request, Wittenberg said he would redraw the proposal to keep Oxnard College in Flynn’s district.

The supervisors rejected alternative boundary changes proposed by members of the Ventura County Coalition for Redistricting and Reapportionment, who said their proposal would increase the percentage of voting-age Latinos in Flynn’s district to 53.8%.

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The coalition’s plan would have eliminated from Flynn’s district the upper-middle-class neighborhoods along the beach, including Hollywood-by-the-Sea and Silver Strand. In exchange, the plan would have added Nyeland Acres and El Rio, two mostly working-class Latino neighborhoods in unincorporated areas east of Oxnard.

The coalition plan did not study boundary changes in the four other districts.

“We believe restructuring the 5th District is key to the entire map,” said Karl Lawson, a coalition member and community relations specialist for the city of Oxnard.

Lawson said the plan would shift the voting power of Flynn’s district to the working-class Latinos in the east side of Oxnard. The coalition’s plan would eliminate the beach areas from the district because the residents there have little in common with the poorer Latinos of east Oxnard, he said.

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Marco Antonio Abarca, an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance, said the boundary changes supported by the supervisors do not do enough to increase Latino voting strength in one district.

“As long as Nyeland Acres and El Rio are fragmented off, this plan can’t be acceptable,” he said.

While Flynn said he supports boundary changes that will strengthen the voting power of Latinos, he said he does not want to eliminate the beach areas from his district because of the diversity they offer.

Flynn has said that increasing Latino voting strength in his district will not negatively affect his reelection bid next year because he has the support of Latino voters in Oxnard.

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Wittenberg said he also questions how the coalition’s plan would redraw the boundaries in the four other districts. Lawson said his group is only interested in Flynn’s district because it includes most of the county’s Latino population.

Census figures show that 26.5% of Ventura County residents are Latino and that 44% of those Latinos live in Oxnard.

Flynn said he also opposes the coalition’s plan because it would eliminate the Bailard Landfill from his district and move it into Supervisor Susan Lacey’s district. Flynn has been a longtime critic of the Oxnard landfill and has urged city and county officials to close it.

Among other plans the supervisors rejected was one that would have moved the city of Ojai from Supervisor Maggie Erickson Kildee’s district to Lacey’s. Another option would have moved the city of Fillmore from Erickson Kildee’s district to that of Supervisor Vicky Howard, who represents Simi Valley and Moorpark.

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NEXT STEP

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors will hold a second study session at 10 a.m. Tuesday to discuss in further detail a new set of district boundaries. The meeting will be held in the supervisors’ chambers at the Ventura County Government Center in Ventura. A final session is scheduled Sept. 17. The adopted boundaries are final unless they are challenged in court.


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