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Groups offering information sessions on redistricting: Public debate continues

Submitted by News Desk on Thu, 09/15/2011 - 10:45am

If you're among those who are still scratching their heads over the new federal and state legislative districts in California, help is on the way.

A number of groups are offering seminars, webinars and even luncheon presentations in the coming days to help people make sense out of what the 14-member multipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission accomplished.

Voters went to the polls to make sure elected officials couldn't have another crack at redistricting, which is required every 10 years based on the new national census. But even before the commission released its new maps of the 177 newly created legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district, complaints started coming from Latino, African-American and politically focused organizations as well as sitting politicians who suddenly found the district they were elected to serve was no longer where they live.

Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) is among them. His district included San Ramon and Danville and he frequently visited the area to hold his Congress on Your Corner sessions or meet with San Ramon Valley students. Now, San Ramon will be under the jurisdiction of veteran Congressman Pete Stark (D-Fremont), and it remains unclear whose district would include Danville and Alamo.

McNerney is now seeking re-election in a new district that is largely in San Joaquin County. Of interest here is that a young Indian-American law student at UC Berkeley, Ranjit Gill, 24, is also aiming for election in McNerney's new 9th Congressional District, which includes his home and many supportive constituents, including a large Sikh community in the Lodi area.

On Friday, the Urban Habitat organization will host a seminar on what the redistricting moves mean for local communities. The program will include a number of speakers, the chief executive of the Community Coalition of South Los Angeles, where many of the redistricting complaints are based, and Paul Mitchell of Redistricting Partners, a Democrat and former legislative staffer and now a consultant focusing on legislative races and independent expenditures.

In addition to the Urban Habitat seminar, Public CEO is also offering what it claims is the first-ever webinar discussing government redistricting. This group has assembled a team of redistricting experts, including Mitchell, to focus especially on areas where the redistricting commission's actions are especially controversial, throughout the state but extensively in Southern California. That 60-minute webinar, though, is pricey at $175 per registrant.

A less expensive and perhaps more congenial forum about the redistricting process and what it means to the greater Bay Area is scheduled for noon Friday, Sept. 30, at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley. This free afternoon discussion is organized by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. For information, contact Jennifer Baires at (510) 642-1474.