New County Redistricting Plans Ready

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After rejecting half a dozen earlier proposals, Ventura County supervisors on Tuesday will consider a new set of options for adjusting their five voting districts.

One key and ongoing debate will focus on whether Somis and the east Las Posas Valley should be moved from Judy Mikels' Simi Valley-based district to that of Kathy Long.

Four of the redistricting options to be considered by supervisors would do that. It's a shift several Somis residents have been urging, despite Mikels' objections. They say Long, who represents Camarillo as well as farm areas in Las Posas and Santa Clara valleys, would better represent their desire to maintain a rural lifestyle.

Mikels' push to expand California 118 has been a lightning rod in their campaign to find new representation. "We do not enjoy good communication with her," said Somis resident Barbara Kerkhoff. "And we should be in a district that's not as heavily dominated by the urban interests of Simi Valley."

Mikels maintains that while these opponents may be vocal they are a minority. "There's a misconception that everyone in Somis wants to run screaming from me, and that's not the case," she said. "I've worked hard for the agricultural community."

Redistricting takes place each decade, after census figures show population shifts.

Each of the county's five supervisorial districts should encompass about the same number of constituents. With a county population of 753,197, that would put about 151,000 residents in each district. Since the 1990 census, Supervisor John Flynn's Oxnard district has grown too large, while Supervisor Steve Bennett's Ventura and Ojai Valley district has gotten too small.

Planners are supposed to focus on numbers and boundaries that make sense geographically.

But elected officials often consider how new boundaries might affect constituent projects in which they have a hand.

The boundary changes are also important to supervisors because fund-raising and the ability to get votes can be affected.

Of the five proposals, three would take Port Hueneme out of Supervisor Frank Schillo's district. Most of his constituents are concentrated on the other side of the county in Thousand Oaks. But none of the plans puts Port Hueneme in neighboring Oxnard, as favored by some residents.

Instead, under one alternative, Port Hueneme would go to Bennett's district. Under the other two, Port Hueneme would go to Long, whose district is now the most wide-ranging.

Schillo said he doesn't want to give up Port Hueneme. "I'm right in the middle of an initiative to bring a family resource center and child-care facilities to Port Hueneme," he said. "We're spending a lot of time down there to make life better for these people."

Other changes in the five proposals could move more of north Oxnard and all of the upscale Oxnard Beach communities from Flynn to Bennett; give Long's patch of Thousand Oaks to Schillo, so that he represents the whole city; and shift all of Ojai and the Ojai Valley, now divided between Long and Bennett, to one or the other.

Supervisors have the option on Tuesday of rejecting all of the options, as they did with six alternatives proposed last month.

Planners are prepared to redraw the proposals if necessary and say it could be well into the summer before a majority of supervisors can agree on an updated set of voting districts.

"We prepared plans that kind of went through the what-ifs," said planner Steve Wood. "It's not necessarily that we're advocating any of these plans, but we wanted them to see what the likely scenarios might be."

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