MENDOCINO Co., 10/29/21 — Do you like your county supervisor? Do you dislike your county supervisor? If you answered yes to either of those questions, keep reading, because some readers are about to get a new one as a result of the 2020 Decennial Census. There are a handful of communities where this has been discussed as a possibility, including Laytonville, Leggett, Round Valley, Mendocino and Hopland. Those residents could see their district boundaries shift around them — particularly in Northern Mendocino County. District 3 Supervisor John Haschak said it best in a column published earlier this month:
“According to the census numbers, the 3rd District has 2,500 more residents than the 4th District and about 1,200 more than the other three districts. According to the law, this will have to change. Workshops are happening and the public can influence how it changes.”
The commissioners have been soliciting public feedback, most of which has come from residents who strongly prefer to remain in their current districts. That won’t be possible for everybody, however, particularly in north county. District 4, which contains Fort Bragg and Leggett, has gotten too small. And District 3, including Willits, Laytonville and Round Valley, has gotten too big. Federal law requires the county to balance that out, which will require adjustments to the boundaries of both those districts and possibly others.
“Nobody wants to change but yet we have to make some changes. I think the most frustrating part for me is the public comments that are not very nice in their tone and their language, threatening to fight it with everything they have,” said Commissioner Dee Pallesen Wednesday night. “There doesn’t seem to be any sense of community county wide.”
“I’m not an attorney, I’m just an old guy who’s been through this process a lot through the last fifty years,” said Commissioner Peter McNamee said during a commission meeting the previous week. “Watching people challenge redistricting is a painful process. It rips the community up. You do, hopefully, want to do this in a way that the board can adopt a plan that isn’t going to be challenged in the courts.”
The release of the census data, on which these changes are being planned, was delayed by months, meaning decisions have to be made on a shortened timeline. If that data had been delivered in March instead of August, the commission might have spent several months looking for elegant solutions, but McNamee said that wasn’t possible this time around.
“If we had more time and more data, we could do a better job, I’m fairly convinced,” McNamee said. “But we don’t.”
Nine proposed maps have been published, detailing which communities are most likely to be impacted. Ultimately, the commission’s task is to recommend three or four of these maps to the board for their consideration in November. A timeline for those events is also available on the county’s website by following the link above. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, but the agenda was not yet available at time of publication.
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to hold a public hearing on this matter on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The board and the commission are both expected to receive an update from county staff at that time, and narrow down their options. There will also be an opportunity for public comment at that time.