New maps for county districts

TULARE -- When the 2010 census numbers were released earlier in the year, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors turned to Latino leaders to help map out new districts that are expected to change the dynamics of the county for the next 10 years.

During their monthly board meeting July 26, supervisors discussed the growing Latino population.

"The growth in this community is an interesting phenomenon," District 4 Supervisor Steven Worthley said. "It would be nice if it wasn't as widespread throughout the county so that we could leave things the way that they are now, but that is not the case."

Worthley said the Latino voting demographic will have a strong presence in a few years.

"We know that the largest segment of the Hispanic population is young and that many of them have not yet reached the voting age," he said. "But guess what? They will grow up and, hopefully, they will vote. The growth of these communities is a reality we need to face, and it poses a fascinating challenge."

Earlier in the year, the board formed an advisory committee of volunteers and established bylaws to facilitate redistricting efforts.

The board also turned to Latino leaders, appointing Latino public relations consultant Lali Moheno, a former supervisor, to lead the advisory committee.

During the meeting Moheno and the advisory committee presented the board with three maps in which all districts include a 60 percent Latino majority.

Two maps include a 60 percent Latino citizen voting age population district with either one or two Latino opportunity districts. The third includes two Latino citizen voting age population districts.

Supervisor Allen Ishida said the proposed maps are a result of community interest in the redistricting process.

"Everyone in Tulare County had an opportunity to speak up, and I am very happy of the work that has been done," Ishida said.

When the maps were presented, city of Dinuba Mayor Mike Smith expressed concern over a split in his city in one of the options.

"North Visalia and Dinuba are two different cities," Smith said. "We don't have anything in common. We would like to stay with our friends, the communities of Sultana and Cutler-Orosi, because we share similar interests."

Also during the meeting, Art Peña, owner of a disposal service in Cutler, said just one of the three maps makes sense for his community.

"It's the only map that doesn't leapfrog across city lines," he said.

Moheno and 10 other advisory committee members, selected from the four county districts, held community meetings, workshops and public hearings to gather public input on redistricting.

"This effort was not done alone," Moheno said. "What we did was a group effort, and we worked really hard to get as much input as we possibly could from all the different communities, including the cities and those that are rural."

Public outreach posed a challenge, she said.

"I had to identify the real players in the county and then invite them to participate in these meetings," she said.

To better educate herself on the importance of redistricting, she received training from MALDEF and NALEO, looking carefully at their proposals for redistricting maps.

"I had to then identify Latino and other minority groups and train them on what the redistricting process is like, why it's important and what it means to our communities," Moheno said.

Over nine weeks, the committee held 26 meetings and targeted virtually every group and community in the county.

Among Latino groups were the Hispanic Roundtable, the Latino Rotary, the Latino Democrats of Tulare County, Latino PAC -- an organization that supports Latino leaders -- Latinas in Business and the League of Mexican-American Women.

Moheno also reached out to groups representing women, Republicans, Asian-Americans and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Public hearings on the three maps are scheduled for Aug. 9 and Aug. 30.

The board will make a final recommendation at the conclusion of the hearings.

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