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Eight members of new redistricting panel chosen

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 11/24/2010 - 1:31pm

California's first-ever citizens redistricting commission came alive today with the random drawing of eight initial members who were finalists from a pool of nearly 31,000 applicants.

The independent commission is charged with a once-a-decade task that lies at the heart of political power, determining boundary lines for legislative, congressional, and Board of Equalization districts.

The eight members selected today and their counties of residence are Democrats Jeanne Raya of Los Angeles, Elaine Kuo of Santa Clara and Cynthia Dai of San Francisco; Republicans Jodie Filkins Webber of Riverside, Peter Yao of Los Angeles and Vincent Barabba of Santa Cruz; and those not affiliated with either party, Stanley Forbes of Yolo and Connie Galambos Malloy of Alameda.

A majority of the commissioners selected today - five of eight - are women. Four of the panelists are Asian, two are white, one is African American, and the other is Hispanic or Latino. Only one member currently has an income above $250,000 per year, and only one has an income below $75,000.

Barabba was appointed by then-President Carter to oversee the 1980 federal census. The Capitola resident is founder and chairman of the board for Market Insight Corp., which tracks shopper preference trends.

Forbes, of Esparto, is the only capital-area resident chosen for the panel. He is co-owner of the Avid Reader in Sacramento and owner of a family farm, Forbes Ranch. He served four years on the Davis City Council and 10 years on the Davis school board.

Their colleagues on the new commission include:

• Raya, a San Gabriel attorney who describes herself as a principal with the John L. Raya Insurance Agency. She has been involved with groups ranging fronm the La Raza Lawyers Association to the San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce.

• Kuo, of Mountain View, provided elder care to her father in recent years, until his death in March. She is a former senior research analyst for the University of California, Los Angeles.

• Dai, of San Francisco, is a chief executive officer for Dainamic Consulting Inc. and is a lecturer and industry fellow for the University of California, Berkeley. She has served as board president of Habitat for Humanity San Francisco.

• Filkins Webber is a Norco attorney representing self-insured employers, including the University of California, in defense of claims for workers compensation benefits, personal injury and other insurance coverage.

• Yao is a seven-year councilman and former mayor of Claremont. His resume includes a five-year stint as director of engineering for the Raytheon Co., which develops technology vital to military electronic systems.

• Gallambos Malloy, of Oakland, is program director for Urban Habitat, which is involved in climate, transportation, land use and affordable housing issues. Her resume includes stints as a Peace Corps volunteer and as a mentor to foster youth.

Actions of the 14-member panel, which is assuming powers formerly held by the Legislature, will be watched closely nationwide as the end of President Obama's first term approaches and both major parties struggle for control of Congress in 2012.

Under Proposition 11, passed by voters two years ago, the eight commissioners selected today will appoint six colleagues by Dec. 31 from 28 remaining finalists, with consideration given to racial, ethnic, gender and geographic diversity.

The panel ultimately will consist of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters who will be paid $300 per day while engaged in crafting political maps by Aug. 15.

Lobbyists, paid political consultants, legislative or congressional aides, and contributors of more than $2,000 in any year to a candidate for elective office were among those ineligible to apply.

Creation of the independent commission stemmed partly from a backlash against a deal struck by legislative leaders in 2001 to draw lines that protected incumbents of both parties.

Only one of 53 congressional seats, and none of 120 legislative seats, changed hands in the two statewide elections prior to passage of Proposition 11, which was pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Allowing politicians to draw their own districts is a serious conflict of interest that harms voters," the ballot measure stated.

"Politicians draw districts that serve their interests, not those of our communities," the initiative added. "For example, cities such as Long Beach, San Jose and Fresno are divided into multiple oddly shaped districts to protect incumbent legislators. Voters in many communities have no political voice because they have been divided into as many as four different districts."

Proposition 11 targeted only legislative and Board of Equalization seats, as a concession to congressional incumbents and to avoid a bitter ballot fight in 2008. A separate measure passed last month, Proposition 20, added congressional boundaries to the panel's duties.

The commission must draw political districts that are geographically contiguous and must respect, to the extent possible, boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities of interest, which can be racial, coastal, agricultural or other blocs with common interests.

Today's lottery-type drawing required three Democrats, three Republicans and two independent or minor-party commissioners to be chosen randomly by the state auditor's office from 12 finalists in each of the three subgroups.

The 36 finalists consisted of 20 women and 16 men, with nearly 78 percent of them earning incomes of $75,000 or higher, records show. None had incomes below $35,000.

The pool of finalists had equal percentages of Caucasians and Hispanics-Latinos, 28 percent each, while Asians had 22 percent; African Americans, 11 percent; American Indian or Alaska native, 8 percent; and Pacific Islander, 3 percent.

Amended at 1 p.m. to add employment information about the commissioners.

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