Supervisors Call for 3rd Remap Plan : Redistricting: The board reconsiders an earlier vote and seeks an alternative that would place more Latinos in the 5th District.
In a surprising reversal, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors backed away Tuesday from a redistricting plan it approved last week and asked for a new option that would place more Latinos in Supervisor John K. Flynn’s Oxnard-area district.
The move angered Flynn, who accused the board of giving in to “fear and intimidation” prompted by the threat of a lawsuit by a Latino voting rights coalition.
“It’s a butchering of my district,” Flynn said.
But the board’s new approach pleased Latino leaders of the Ventura County Coalition for Redistricting and Reapportionment, who hailed it as a breakthrough that could lead to a supervisorial district with the strongest possible Latino representation.
Three options--the new plan requested by the board, the Latino coalition’s plan and the one backed by Flynn--will all be considered next Tuesday at a public hearing. One must be adopted by Oct. 1.
The board voted 4 to 1, with Flynn dissenting, to have its staff create a third option, which some supervisors saw as a possible compromise but which Flynn saw as the death of the proposal that he supports.
“You’re going to take my district and carve it up. Please don’t submit to fear and intimidation,” Flynn said before the vote.
The details of the new plan requested by the board Tuesday must still be worked out. The Latino coalition favors a plan that would increase the number of voting-age Latinos in Flynn’s district from the current 48% to 54.5%, instead of the 50.1% specified in the plan approved by the board last week and still supported by Flynn.
The coalition wants to include heavily Latino El Rio and Nyeland Acres in Flynn’s district, instead of keeping predominantly white precincts in coastal and northern Oxnard in it.
Flynn’s fast-growing 5th District will be the most affected by the once-a-decade redistricting based on new census figures, since it has 8,000 more residents than the 133,800 optimum for each supervisorial district.
Supervisor Vicky Howard, who recommended the third option, said Tuesday that the board should try to meld Flynn’s plan with the coalition’s to make sure that the county abides by the federal law when placing the 669,000 residents into five districts.
“We (must) meet not only the letter but the spirit and the intent of the law,” Howard said. She urged the board to “make sure we address every issue in every possible way.”
Howard said she changed her mind after last week’s vote because of conversations with a spokesman for the Latino coalition, Marco Antonio Abarca, and with County Counsel James McBride.
Howard, whose district will not be changed by reapportionment, said Abarca asked her, “Are you sure you’re really considering the coalition’s map, are you really looking at it?”
Then McBride called the supervisor over the weekend, she said. “He expressed some concern that we needed to make sure we were considering all the issues, and fragmentation and voting rights was one of those.”
A principal legal issue facing supervisors is whether the plan that supervisors approve will satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits fragmentation of minority communities when new political boundaries are drawn.
McBride told the board that both the Flynn-backed plan and the Latino coalition’s are legal, since both would create a district where a majority of voting-age residents are Latino.
But McBride said Tuesday that the supervisors must seriously consider whether they would split a Latino community with their plan.
“The difficult job the board has is balancing the testimony,” McBride said. The board must have good reasons for including some areas and excluding others, he said.
The board’s decision to take another look at its options followed the testimony Tuesday of 19 speakers, most of whom supported Flynn’s position.
Spokespersons for homeowners groups from Oxnard Shores, the Mandalay Bay Colony and other coastal neighborhoods told supervisors that they wanted to remain in the 5th District.
“We feel we should not be gerrymandered out of this district,” said Patrick Forrest, vice president of an 1,800-home community-service district that surrounds Channel Islands Harbor.
Ray Dedesma, a College Estates resident, said, “The idea of fractioning off Oxnard really breaks my heart. Don’t break up Oxnard.”
If Oxnard’s coastal area is placed in a different district than most of the rest of Oxnard, “we’ll be a forgotten area and alienated from the city,” said Toni David, president of the 1,200-household Oxnard Shores Homeowners Assn.
Flynn argued forcefully against the premise of the Latino coalition--that El Rio and Nyeland Acres are an extension of Oxnard’s Latino community.
Those two unincorporated county areas “have a long history of profound and unequivocal opposition to becoming a part of the city of Oxnard,” Flynn said. They have separate school, water, sewer and government systems, he said.
Flynn produced letters and testimony from residents of the two areas who said they were independent of Oxnard and wanted to stay that way.
But there has been strong opposition to Flynn’s plan from the Latino community in Oxnard. Most recently, at a meeting Monday night, the Concerned Citizens of La Colonia told Flynn that they supported the Latino coalition’s alternative.
Abarca said Tuesday that Oxnard, El Rio and Nyeland Acres are communities “tied by history, by culture, by ethnicity. I think the board is seeing the weakness in Flynn’s argument.
“And this shows,” Abarca added after the vote, “that the momentum is going our way.”