District maps split board members

FRESNO -- The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has to accommodate Latino growth when it comes to redrawing its legislative districts.

How to achieve the biennial task, however, won't be easy after the board hit a roadblock last week on what to do with the Málaga community.

Supervisor Henry R. Perea would like Málaga to be added to his central Fresno district.

Supervisor Judy Case wants to keep Málaga in District 4.

Perea introduced his 'Option A' plan to expand his district to the south where the Latino population is greater.

"I don't like the map because it breaks up West Fresno," said supervisor Debbie Poochigian, who represents District 5.

But Perea -- who does not want to take constituents away from Susan Anderson's District 2 area to the north and near Fig Garden -- wants his district, District 3, to grow to the south and west.

"The map I am suggesting doesn't expand my district farther north as is suggested in the other maps. My district is more industrial. I want its supervisor be the go-to person on the board when it comes to economic development, just like we have a go-to supervisor when it comes to agricultural issues," said Perea.

The five-member board will need four votes to approve new districts. A redistricting task force, made up of a representative appointed by each of the supervisors, provided eight options, neither of which place Málaga outside Case's district.

"On a recent visit, many community leaders and residents expressed a big concern over their city being split right in the middle. They would like to stay in one district where they are not separated from the Fowler Unified School District," said Case.

Málaga encompasses the major industrial areas in the county is a Census-designated community of 947 residents, of which 94.1 percent are Latino.

"I am also not interested in dividing people into two districts because it disenfranchises residents," said Poochigian.

Community advocate Venancio Gaona applauded the board's interest in Málaga, which nestles along S. Chestnut and E. Central avenues.

"Having lived in Fresno my whole life, I am glad to hear that there is now a real concern on the community of Málaga. I remember many years ago, I tried to get a bus service out there and it was very difficult," said Gaona, chairman of El Concilio de Fresno.

The 2010 Census numbers show that Poochigian's district must shrink by 20,000 residents. Those residents will most likely go to Anderson's district in northwest Fresno.

Perea's district will have to cut into portions of districts represented by Case or Phil Larson. Latinos will represent the majority in three of the five supervisorial districts.

Case said the task force options should be the only ones considered, otherwise it undermines the job the task force was set out to do.

"The task force did the job it was required to do. I know that I was originally opposed to having a task force take on this endeavor, but I realize that we needed to avoid any sort of gerrymandering," said Case.

If the board does not choose any of the maps, a special commission will be required to make a final decision.

Perea said, if his map is not considered by the board, he plans on submitting it to the special commission for consideration.

"I think it's a good map that merits some public input and comment," said Perea.

The board will determine new districts at its Aug. 30 meeting. Two maps offered by the task force, and that of Perea, will be available for public input.

Ken Abrahamian, the task force chairman, is pessimistic about public comment based on earlier results at community meetings.

"There has not been as much public input as I had hoped for," said Abrahamian. "I speculate it's because the public feels that they are just an advisory group and are only allowed to express their concerns to us. I really don't know."

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