A special community meeting sponsored by the Laytonville County Water District was held Oct. 21 at Harwood Hall and via Zoom to discuss Laytonville’s transfer from the 3rd District to another. The problem arose due to recent census data, which arrived late and showed a population gap between districts that state law requires to be corrected.
The information meeting was well attended. Residents present strongly opposed dividing the community between districts or moving its entirety to another district.
Laytonville County Water District Manager Jim Shields said the purpose of the meeting was for community members to learn about what is happening with the redistricting and to provide interested parties with the opportunity to make recommendations and provide feedback to 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak.
Haschak explained that there is a 15% gap between the 3rd and 4th districts. (District Three is above the average population and District Four is below). He said: “Unless we start thinking outside the box, there could be a change afoot and it’s going to affect us. I don’t want to lose a single voter from the 3rd arrondissement because it’s been great so far, and I think that’s how it works. But the reality is that because of the law and the census, that’s what we have to deal with. He said the redistricting commission will create several maps to give to the Board of Overseers for voting and he appreciated the feedback from the community.
Nominate by the 3rd District to the Redistricting Commission Mary Zaidy said that when reviewing the boundaries of the district, the commission considers the following criteria; equal populations, keeping neighborhoods and areas of community interest together, preserving the integrity of cities and census-designated places, and easily identifiable boundaries (natural and man-made barriers). Zaidy said of the current process: “Our schedule is tight.” The commission is due to have the final draft ready for release on November 4th, there is a hearing on the draft maps on November 9th and on November 18th there will be a special meeting of the oversight board to adopt the map they have chosen.
Mendocino County Information Center GIS coordinator Leif Farr said draft maps are available for public viewing on the commission’s website. He explained: “The goal of redistricting is to have equal representation.” To correct the discrepancies between the populations of Mendocino County’s five districts, Farr said the commission could drastically change the districts, make the least amount of change, or somewhere in between those two extremes.
During public comments, several community members pointed out that 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde was not present and expressed concern that they would be underrepresented if Laytonville moved to the 4th District. Ron Edwards said Laytonville’s move to the 4th Ward would make it difficult for residents to have to travel to meet with their supervisor.
Participants said they wanted to continue being part of the Mendocino interior because their issues are different from those on the coast. Branscomb and Leggett residents in attendance said they felt underrepresented since moving to the 4th Ward and had little in common with other 4th Ward residents who reside primarily on the north shore of the county. Specifically, they said that the interior of Mendocino is outside the coastal tourist area and in the fire zone with a different culture than the coast.
Retired teacher Susan Bradley who moved to Laytonville in 1965 explained, “Laytonville is more than a place to live. It’s something that gets into your bones and into your blood. It’s a very special place.” She pointed out that the community has strong ties to Willits.
It was suggested that part of Willits be moved to the 4th District rather than Laytonville. Redistricting advisory committee member Kyle Farmer said the commission would look to Willits to find a place to change district boundaries. It was also suggested that the town of Mendocino be moved to the Fourth District so that Leggett could return to the 3rd District.
Zaidy said: “I cannot say that we will find a solution that will make everyone happy in this county. I’ll say, we’ll listen to everyone, we’ll keep meeting, we’ll keep trying map project ideas to use as best we can.