The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara: No Respect from California Redistricting Commission

Maybe California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission needs a geography lesson. Apparently the commissioners think the city of Santa Clara is in the middle of Alameda County.

The “preliminary final” district maps published last Friday shocked Santa Clara officials by putting the city in state senate and assembly districts with East Bay cities. “We firmly believe that these changes are egregious, unnecessary and detrimental to our city,” Mayor Jamie Matthews and City Manager Jennifer Sparacino said in a letter to the redistricting panel.

Santa Clara joins Milpitas, Newark, Fremont, Union City, Hayward and Castro Valley in a new senate district, while sharing a new assembly district with Milpitas, Newark, Fremont and, what the San Jose Mercury called “a vast open space area stretching from the southeast tip of the Bay.” For its congressional seat, Santa Clara will join Sunnyvale, Cupertino Milpitas and southern Alameda County.

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What’s wrong with this?

One objection is that this alignment denies Silicon Valley – one of California’s principal economic engines – coherent representation. Santa Clara’s interests are historically different from its more industrial East Bay neighbors such as Newark. For example, Santa Clara’s largest employer is Intel while Newark’s largest employer is the Newark Unified School District.

Another objection is that the new districts don’t reflect Santa Clara’s historic connections to neighboring San Jose and Sunnyvale, with which it shares borders, transportation systems, and other projects requiring close cooperation.

Although it was created by a 2008 ballot measure aiming to take the politics out of state and federal election district boundaries, the makeup of the14-member citizen commission seems hardly representative of the state as a whole. None of its members come from Silicon Valley, the South Bay, or the Peninsula.

Eight of the commissioners are from Southern California. Of the remaining six, two are from San Francisco, two are from the Central Valley, and the remaining two members are from Capitola and Oakland.

The redistricting commission will publish its final maps on Aug. 15, 2011. You can get more information at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov. There’s an online form for posting comments. You can also email votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov, fax (916) 651-5711, or postal mail to: Citizens Redistricting Commission, 901 P Street, Suite 154-A, Sacramento, CA 95814.

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