Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011-07-30 "Vallejoans, Benicians may face new federal, state representation" by Sarah Rohrs, Jessica A. York and Tony Burchyns from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
Lisa Vorderbrueggen of MediaNews Group, the Reporter, Vacaville, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
Newly approved legislative district maps could result in Vallejoans and Benicians having three new veteran lawmakers representing them in Congress, the state Senate and Assembly.
Under the new maps the California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved Friday, representatives for those two cities would shift to U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who has represented Vallejo since 1993, would see his district shift from much of Solano County to southern Contra Costa County. Also losing Vallejo would be state Sen. Noreen Evans, who has represented the city for more than seven years - including six in the Assembly. Her successor, Assemblyman Michael Allen, also would see his district shift westward away from Vallejo. Both Evans and Allen are Santa Rosa Democrats.
The redistricting commission's new maps will undergo at least two more weeks of public scrutiny before the citizens panel takes its final vote. Then the maps are expected to face legal challenges from Republicans concerned that the Legislature's balance of power - already weighted in the Democrats' favor - will be further enhanced.
Under the current scenario, Democrats in Sacramento could easily gain a two-thirds majority in the state Senate, although such a threshold is not seen as likely in the lower house. That so-called super majority is required in both chambers to approve tax hikes.
If adopted, the maps could go into effect in time for the 2012 election unless the U.S. Department of Justice rules them inconsistent with the federal Voting Rights Act. Residents could also force the new maps onto a statewide ballot, or a group could file a lawsuit.
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro swiftly panned the Senate plan and repeated an earlier promise to pursue a referendum if warranted.
Here's a brief look at the possible new political landscape affecting Vallejo, Benicia and American Canyon:
Congress. Thompson would represent Vallejo and Benicia in his new district which extends into Contra Costa County, including a portion of Martinez, Crockett, Mountain View, El Sobrante and Pinole.
Thompson would continue to represent American Canyon and Napa County, but would lose a long and narrow stretch of the coast.
The portion of Martinez where Miller now lives would remain in his new district which would include Concord, Danville and Richmond and other areas of the East Bay.
Miller would no longer have any part of Solano County in his district.
"It's a big change for me," Miller said Friday in between votes on the federal budget. "I think I had a great relationship with the people in Solano County and certainly with Vallejo and Benicia."
He cited the closure and change of Mare Island Naval Shipyard into a housing/jobs center as a chief accomplishment.
The long-time congressman, first elected in 1978, has gone through redistricting four times.
In the proposed changes, Miller also will lose Vacaville, part of Fairfield and Suisun City. Rep. John Garamendi will pick up those areas.
Meanwhile, Thompson said Vallejo and Benicia won't be entirely new areas for him. Thompson represented both cities as as state senator before his 1998 election to Congress.
"I love the town and I love the area and I love the people and I'm well aware of a lot of their issues. If it turns out we're all part of the same district I'll know all the issues and I'll work as hard for them as I work for the people of my current district," Thompson said.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, whose current district stretches from Livermore in the south to Fairfield and the rural areas east of Vacaville and Dixon, would now be in a new stretching from the Fairfield/Vacaville area, through Davis and Woodland in Yolo County and then north taking in part of Yuba, Colusa, Glenn and Lake counties.
Assembly. Bonilla, a former teacher and Contra Costa County supervisor, is in her first term, which expires in November 2012.
Bonilla's chief of staff, Luis Quinonez, said the assemblywoman is planning to run for re-election for the same district next year.
"She's looking forward to meeting with all of the constituents (in Benicia and Vallejo), planning to get up to speed very quickly on them, and working toward resolving any issues," Quinonez said. "She is looking forward to understanding the issues and concerns as well as ideas from the folks in these two cities."
Quinonez said Bonilla's district may remain relatively unchanged by the proposed remapping, other than the addition of the two Solano County cities and Pleasant Hill. The 11th district may also lose the cities of Antioch, Rodeo, Hercules and Pinole.
First term Assemblyman Allen may see his district dramatically changed. It will spread from Santa Rosa west to the Marin County coastline, and south to Sausalito. Allen's first term also ends next year.
A spokesman for Allen was unavailable for comment Friday.
The latest map re-draw for Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada's 11th district, which now includes Benicia, also may jump westward. It would take over Napa County, including American Canyon, run north past Davis and Woodland and into the southern portion of Menocino National Forest, and west to beyond Clear Lake. Yamada is in her second term.
State Senate. Evans' district would lose Benicia, Vallejo, Napa, American Canyon and Napa Valley. Those cities would be picked up in the proposed new District 3, in which Wolk plans to run next year, according to her office.
Wolk's new district would also include the rest of Solano County and parts Yolo County.
Evans could not be reached for comment Friday, but she faces reelection to her second term in 2014.
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia's mayor, said "the jury's out" on the work of the new redistricting commission.
"It is a grand experiment. These things will either work out as we work really hard to make them work, or it will be a frustrating experience."
She said it could be difficult because Benicia may wind up with four new representatives, requiring time be spent on building - or rebuilding - relationships with the politicians who will represent voters.

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