Basin should stay one district, supervisor says
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lake Tahoe doesn’t need another political division, according to El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago.
On Thursday, the District 5 supervisor said she supports keeping the South Shore represented by a single supervisor.
The county recently released five alternatives for new supervisor district boundaries based on 2010 U.S. Census figures, which saw the west slope gaining residents and the Lake Tahoe Basin losing them.
Three of the alternatives proposed by county staff extend the boundary of the District 5 to the Pollock Pines area. The other two alternatives split the South Shore between two districts, which would be roughly divided by U.S. Highway 50 to the Placerville area. Currently, District 5 follows the boundaries of El Dorado County’s Lake Tahoe Basin portion.
And splitting the South Shore between two supervisor districts doesn’t sit well with Santiago.
“My personal feeling, and it’s supported by a lot of my constituents, is that the district should be kept whole and not split,” Santiago said.
Understanding the unique political realities of the basin, with its overlapping regulatory agencies, requires a supervisor who is dedicated to the area, Santiago said.
Previous district boundaries that split the South Shore between two supervisors did not always translate into resident concerns reaching Placerville, Santiago added.
She said she could support extending the boundary to some of the west slope, but not as far as Pollock Pines. Kyburz may be an appropriate western end of District 5, Santiago said.
But such an extension would not do much to ease population disparities between the districts addressed by the California election code, said Mike Applegarth, principal analyst for El Dorado County.
“There’s just very, very little population between Meyers and Pollock Pines,” Applegarth said.
California election code requires counties to adjust the boundaries of supervisor districts following each federal census so that they are as equal in population as possible.
The code also requires compliance with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, while allowing counties to consider factors like topography, geography and communities of interest in drawing the boundaries.
County staff looked into keeping District 5 contained to the basin, but determined the alternative was not be viable because the district would be 15.1 percent, or about 5,500 residents, below a target population of 36,212 residents.
Santiago, who is termed out in 2014, said she understands the value of the population requirements in the law, but said the importance of the South Shore as a community of interest should not be discounted.
Whether splitting the California side of the South Shore would add or subtract from residents’ influence at the county level drew a mixed reaction from South Lake Tahoe city council members at their May 17 meeting.
Mayor Hal Cole said he wanted to keep the basin as a single district to keep two supervisors from diluting the influence of Lake Tahoe residents on the county, while Councilman Bruce Grego said he felt two supervisors with constituents in the Lake Tahoe Basin could give the area a greater impact on county politics.
Supervisors are legally required to have a new district map in place by Nov. 1.
Given the multiple meetings it will take to approve the district boundaries, as well as the time needed for the elections department to draw new districts down to the parcel level, supervisors will need to give initial approval to a district map by late July or early August, Applegarth said.
For more information on redistricting, visit: http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/Redistricting/