supervisors

District 4 Kern County Supervisor David Couch.

Felix Adamo / The Californian

Attorneys in the MALDEF-Kern County settlement hearing, compelled by a court order to give Latinos a stronger local political voice, have settled on a tentative map of restructured supervisorial district boundaries.

But they're not sharing it just yet.

After nearly seven hours of give-and-take negotiation in separate conference rooms of the U.S. District Court's Bakersfield courthouse with Federal Magistrate Jennifer L. Thurston as the roaming go-between, representatives of county government and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reached agreement on a plan to redraw district lines.

However, they're not quite ready to submit it for the final approval of  U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd, the Fresno-based judge who in February ruled for MALDEF in its suit against Kern County and ordered the settlement hearing.

County Counsel Mark Nations, representing local government interests, emerged from the federal courthouse late Wednesday afternoon to say he would present the latest and best map to the Board of Supervisors in a special session at 9 a.m. Friday. Representatives of the County and MALDEF, which describes itself as the "Latino legal voice for civil rights in America," will then reconvene before Thurston at 2 p.m. to announce the five supervisors' verdict.

The emergency session is needed because the settlement tentatively reached Wednesday is different from what the lawyers had been authorized to approve by the Board of Supervisors. The vote was postponed until Friday because the County needs time to formally notice the supervisor's meeting.

The County's options are limited. If they reject the map, Drozd will take matters into his own hands. He has said he will "immediately" issue a new district map that satisfies provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which the County was found to have violated by gerrymandering Latino voters out of representation commensurate with their population.

Nations would not characterize the proposed map's boundaries or its political implications, nor could he say whether it more closely resembled the County's proposal or MALDEF's, other than to say, "It's a compromise."

MALDEF attorney Denise Hulett credited Nations and the County team for its approach in the tedious process.

"The county is negotiating in good faith," she said. "I think both sides have done that."

"The map we are discussing now remedies the situation and that's why we're optimistic."

Drozd ruled that the current district boundaries dilute Latinos' chances of electing a representative of their choice.

Friday's supervisorial meeting is open to the public, but members of the community may not get much out of participating; it'll be a simple up or down vote, with no option to modify the map.

Nations was assisted at the hearing by contract attorneys Christopher Skinnell and Marguerite Leoni. Supervisors Zack Scrivner and Leticia Perez also attended as representatives of the board.

No decision was announced on whether the date of the upcoming election would be changed to accommodate the late changes to the boundaries. The consensus among participants leaving during the lunch recess was that an election for three seats — rather than the two that would normally be contested this year — would be moved from June to November. The additional race would be in the Fourth District, forcing Supervisor David Couch to seek reelection two years earlier than scheduled, likely in a district with drastically altered boundaries. But no decision was announced as to whether the Fourth District vote would move to 2018.

No matter what, Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner is facing reelection this year, as is Third District Supervisor Mike Maggard. Both of those races were previously scheduled for this year. But both districts will likely be altered somewhat by the changes.

The process of manipulating district boundaries for purposes of courthouse discussion was taking place live and in real time with the use of computer modeling software that displayed the demographic information, including the number of voting-age residents, of each permutation.

Last week Kern County supervisors had reportedly designed and debated potential maps in closed session, preparing for the settlement conference. Residents of western and northern Kern County weren't happy with that.

Neither were some county officials, including Couch, who are accustomed to debating redrawn districts in a public setting. Because this is a settlement hearing and not a county government session, however, Brown Act requirements do not apply.

Couch's attorney, George Martin, had reportedly tried to argue for a public hearing but the court declined to hear his argument.

Efforts to reach Couch Wednesday afternoon were not successful.

(11) comments

REMUDA

" . . . Latinos a stronger local political voice . . ." ?
" . . . Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund . . .."?
Americans . . .?

" . . .manipulating district boundaries . . ."?
" . . . supervisors had reportedly designed and debated potential maps in closed session . . ."?
(Brown Act--only internal board business, not county-wide business?). Are we wrong that this should be "debated" in open session . . . for all citizens to hear, identify Supervisors and absorb?
Brown Act DOES APPLY . . .! Court abuse . . .?!!!


Bravo Sierra . . . Navy lingo for BS . . .!
Semper Fi . . .!

Nevermind

How dare we come into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Geez get over it. If you're not for equality you're in the wrong country.

jfrancais

Fantastic...MALDEF needs to challnge more districting by boards and elected officials...they have tipped the scales to prevent Hispanics from having power in elected positions...

Bodak Hello

Why is it that Blacks, Latinos & Sikhs are always "activists" but Whites are always "supremacists?"

Bodak Hello

And the weaponizing of melatonin continues. These La Raza style racial absolutist groups are backed by deep networks nationwide & deep-pocketed donors. This has nothing to do with local Bakersfield issues- only what the High Command back east wants. Next up: Sikhs thank America for admitting them here by calling Americans racist, demand park be named after Sikh Shaheed (martyr) to prove we're not racist.

Nevermind

I missed the part where they called Americans racists. Although there are plenty of American racists. They were some pretty racist ones in 1907 Bellingham Washington. There are racists across the globe. Although I may not agree that a Sikh from India is a good candidate for a Bakersfield Park, a half million Sikh Americans have the right to petition for a park renaming.

GaryJohns

We need to re-re-draw the boundary lines so we can get a Sikh supervisor so they can get their darned park name changed....!

GaryJohns

How many of those "diluted Latinos" are legal? Shouldn't that be part of the equation...?

Nevermind

Since they can't vote does it matter?

RuthTisdale

[unsure] I do not buy the argument that people don't have representation or cannot vote for their person just because they feel the boundaries are skewed. People need to register and vote. That is what makes the difference. The best candidate for the job needs to be voted for regardless of their race or nationality. Choosing a candidate based solely on their race and or nationality is completely utterly wrong. But first and foremost people have to REGISTER TO VOTE AND THEN VOTE in each and every election. This is what gives each of us a voice. If you don't see a candidate that you like, then get out there and find a candidate to run, don't blame the lack of candidate of your choice on the boundaries of the districts.

Thank you.

Nevermind

That's true about voting, but you must not understand how gerrymandering works. If the demographics of a community are say 48% Latino and 52% white, and you rig the boundaries so that just about every district has that same ratio, you end up with 4 out of 5 Supervisors being white, despite almost half the population being Latino. Just make huge squares for boundaries and let the chips fall where they may.

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