Santa Paula Times

Luck of the draw: Aguirre one of 36 Citizens Redistricting panel finalists

November 17, 2010
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula City Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre, who declined to seek a third term, might just have a new political responsibility - but rather than by votes, becoming a member of the state Citizens Redistricting Committee will be determined by the luck of the draw.

Aguirre, whose last day in council office is December 4, is poised with 35 other finalists to become one of the eight panelists that will decide how the state’s districts should be carved out, a job formerly left to the Legislature that created safe havens for themselves and other elected officials.

The original pool of applicants consisted of 30,000 people who sought a spot on the panel. They were required to meet conflict-of-interest qualifications, garner letters of recommendation, compose essays, agree to having their personal and financial information publicly posted online, and submit to interviews that were distributed live over the Internet.

Although the voter-approved measure that created the panel assumed the power of redistricting, it did allow Democratic and Republican leadership to be involved marginally in the selection process. On Thursday the new panel - three Democrats, three Republicans and two from a pool that includes independents and members of minor parties - will be decided by the luck of the draw. State Auditor Elaine Howle will conduct the lottery in Sacramento.

Aguirre, a retired high school principal, is the only finalist from Ventura County.

The finalists almost didn’t get this far: two measures appeared on the November 2 ballot, one adding the power for the panel to also be in charge of redistricting for congressional districts, and the other a cleverly worded initiative that would have dismantled the panel before it even began. Voters who rejected the second measure embraced the first measure to not only retain the citizens commission, but also to broaden its redistricting powers.

Redistricting is an every decade exercise based on Census population data. The panel will tackle carving out districts based on the results of the 2010 Census. Created by voters with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, the charge of the panel is to ban political considerations and to make districts compact while respecting the boundaries of cities and counties. The panel is also charged with making districts adhere to the federal Voting Rights Act to ensure the political influence of minority communities is not eroded. Once seated, panel members will be paid $300 for each day they are engaged in commission business.