County Board of Supervisors votes to redraw supervisorial districts, reunifying Scotts Valley
Following months of work by a redistricting commission and public input on new maps of its five supervisorial districts, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to approve a new map. Public comments against the plan argued that reunifying Scotts Valley wasn’t necessary because other cities in the county are split across districts as well.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the redrawing of its five supervisorial districts during its regular Tuesday meeting, with a plan that included the controversial reunification of Scotts Valley passing by a narrow 3-2 margin.
By law, supervisorial districts — like U.S. Congress and state assembly and senate districts — are required to have almost equal numbers of residents. Every 10 years, when U.S. Census results become available, new lines and maps are proposed to reflect population changes.
Redrawing, or redistricting, of electoral maps is happening at several levels that affect Santa Cruz County residents:...
A second major aspect that is considered when redrawing maps is the existence of communities of interest, or regions that share standards of living or economic interests, such as urban and rural areas.
Taking into account these moving pieces, the county’s Advisory Redistricting Commission made several proposals, including one that would have maintained supervisorial district maps as they are. Additional proposals, including the one that was approved, put all of Scotts Valley into the 5th District rather than having it split between the 5th and 1st Districts.
During public comment, one of the commission members, Jim Mosher — who emphasized he was speaking on behalf of himself and not the commission — said he was concerned about the Board of Supervisors considering that plan. He represented the 5th District as a commission member.
He said it was “disturbing” that supervisors would consider the proposal to reunify Scotts Valley — which was put forth by Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm, though in his capacity as a private citizen and not representing the city — without asking for a briefing from the commission about why it didn’t decide to bring the plan forward itself.
“It was submitted at the last possible moment,” Mosher said. “Staff should be commended for the very intense effort to reach out to the public. It’s hard to believe that the mayor had not known about this. To me, it undermines the credibility of the work we did as the [commission] and the process itself.”
Jayme Ackemann, speaking as a resident of Ben Lomond and not in her capacity as the San Lorenzo Valley Water District director, emphasized some of the concerns she has about the reunification of Scotts Valley.
She argued that by making this change, residents of Scotts Valley would be getting greater representation than those in San Lorenzo Valley — residents who are still seeking resources in their recovery from the CZU Lightning Complex fire.
“The community is recovering from the fire and dealing with the ongoing threat of debris flow are the ones whose interest should be heard,” she said.
Timm, who later spoke during public comment, said when the county redrew the lines a decade ago, the board made a mistake by splitting Scotts Valley.
“We felt disenfranchised,” he said. “I think our neighbors and friends in San Lorenzo Valley would feel the same way if today we were talking about drawing the line down the middle of Highway 9.”
He argued that unifying Scotts Valley is legally supported by the need to maintain communities of interest.
Supervisor Manu Koenig, whose 1st District loses a small portion of Scotts Valley under the plan, voted with Zach Friend and Greg Caput to approve; Bruce McPherson, whose 5th District would now include all of Scotts Valley, joined Ryan Coonerty in voting against.
Several members of the public argued that if Scotts Valley should be reunified, other cities that are currently split (Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Capitola, for instance) should, using the same argument, be reunified. A Change.org petition created six days ago, and which urged the board not to approve the plan, received more than 200 signatures.
“Our decidedly rural community, already reeling, would be further damaged by the one-sided incursion proposed by the Scotts Valley Mayor who has no connection to, or understanding of, the San Lorenzo Valley,” the petition argued.
Addressing comments from the public about suspicions around Timm’s political motivations, Coonerty said he felt Timm was acting on behalf of what he felt was the best for his community.
By approving the item, the board completed the redistricting process and repealed the old maps. The change will go into effect Nov. 31, according to the ordinance it also adopted as part of its vote.