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Commentary: Redistricting Process was Undermined

Read Jim Mosher’s response to a recent Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial board commentary that supported Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm’s, Supervisor Zach Friend’s, and Supervisor Manu Koenig’s last-minute proposal to shift a section of Scotts Valley into the 5th District. They succeeded and the ensuing press coverage has been decidedly enamored with the move. Here’s a perspective from a Redistricting Committee commissioner:

Redistricting Process was Undermined

By James F. Mosher

The Sentinel Editorial “Scotts Valley whole again in 5th District” (Sunday, Nov. 26) got it wrong. It ignored the backroom tactics used by Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm to consolidate Scotts Valley into the 5th Supervisorial District, undermining the redistricting decision-making process and furthering his own political interests.

The Board of Supervisors established the nonpartisan, citizen Advisory Redistricting Commission in July 2021 and Supervisor Bruce McPherson appointed me as the 5th District Representative. The Commission’s mission was to solicit public input into the redistricting process, review options, and provide recommendations to the Board. To this end, it widely publicized the redistricting process in social media and the press, sent notices to more than 100 civic organizations and public bodies, and held 12 public meetings and workshops.

The Commission received few comments, with the most frequent coming from north county residents who proposed consolidating more of the rural, north county area currently in District 3 into District 5, arguing that if Scotts Valley were to be consolidated it should be in District 1, not District 5.

State law provides that redistricting decisions should respect “communities of interest” and city boundaries using a flexible “to the extent practicable” standard (not “where possible” as mistakenly stated in the Sentinel editorial). The Commission determined that it was not practical to respect both the north county’s rural community of interest and the Scotts Valley city boundaries. It would involve a massive shift of supervisorial-district boundaries with inadequate time for review and comment from the public. It also decided not to propose consolidating the other cities in the county, which are all split between districts, noting that there are advantages for cities to have more than one supervisor representing their interests. In doing so the Commission was implementing the Board’s instruction to minimize border revisions to the extent practicable.

Mayor Timm, acting as an individual and not representing Scotts Valley, waited until the last opportunity — the third public hearing before the Board of Supervisors — to make his consolidation proposal. With just six days to react, north county residents sent dozens of letters and a petition signed by more than 200 residents in opposition. The Board did not consult its Commission. Nevertheless, Supervisors Zach Friend and Manu Koenig, who have close personal ties to Timm, supported the mayor’s proposal as did Supervisor Greg Caput, citing the importance of having the city in one district. Curiously, these three supervisors, with no ties to north county, did not propose consolidating Capitola or Watsonville, which are in their districts and could easily be consolidated.

This backroom deal sabotaged the process established by the Board to solicit and consider public input by a nonpartisan, citizen body that it had appointed. Timm’s residence is now in District 5, making him eligible to run for supervisor should Supervisor McPherson retire in 2024. Danny Reber, Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce, director, was the other key supporter for Timm’s proposal. He announced his intent to run for 5th District Supervisor the day after the Board vote.

The Sentinel should have condemned this shameful display of local gerrymandering to further political ambitions.

James F. Mosher, JD, is a Felton resident and a member of the 5th District, Santa Cruz County Advisory Redistricting Commission.

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