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Scott Fina: Representative diversity and the long and winding road
Guest Commentary

Scott Fina: Representative diversity and the long and winding road

  • Updated

At the urging of a progressive Latinx organization in our region, I applied to serve on the Santa Barbara County Citizen’s Independent Redistricting Commission. I assume I was encouraged to apply for the commission because I have advocated for immigrant rights and affordable housing.

I am white, male, in my 60s, and live in Orcutt.

I was chosen as among the “most qualified” for the 4th District applicant pool for the redistricting commission by County Clerk Joseph Holland. I believe Mr. Holland selected me because I have a Ph.D. in political science, can handle analysis of demographic data, and am versed in public policy analysis.

At their last meeting, I observed three of our county supervisors take Mr. Holland to task for forming an applicant pool for the commission that is over-represented by older white males, and under-represented by younger and Latinx people. These complaints were followed by a lottery which identified the initial five commission members (one from each supervisorial district). None are Latinx, and all but one are men — just like our county board of supervisors.

What a rocky and ironic start for the redistricting process!

I am confident that Joseph Holland faithfully followed legal guidelines in carrying out his responsibilities related to the redistricting commission. But I also share the concerns of the county supervisors who criticized the ethnic and gender makeup of the applicant pool for the commission.

I acknowledge that white male privilege persists in our society. And I know that Latinx interests can go underserved and Latinx voices can go unheard in our county.

So county supervisors, I heard you. I have withdrawn from the pool of remaining candidates for the redistricting commission.

I recommend that the five selected commissioners choose Amanda Ochoa from the remaining candidates in the 4th District. Ms. Ochoa lives in Lompoc, is Latina, in her 30s, has a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy studies, and taught classes on the decennial census and survey sampling.

And I offer the redistricting commission my best wishes. It faces a difficult and likely thankless task. I use the example of one supervisorial district to explain why.

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann was the most outspoken in her complaints to Joseph Holland. Ms. Hartmann is an admirable leader, and a person of unquestionable integrity. Her complaints were sincere and well founded.

But it is the 3rd Supervisorial District — which includes such geographically distant and socioeconomically disparate places as the Santa Ynez Valley and City of Guadalupe — that especially warrants scrutiny in the redistricting process. Ms. Hartmann’s commute from her home to Guadalupe is a long one.

If Ms. Hartmann were to drive south to north from one end of her district to the other, her trip would be drastically longer. It would begin in Isla Vista, wind along the Gaviota coast, cut through the Santa Ynez Valley, veer west through unincorporated areas bordering Lompoc, turn north again to pass through Tanglewood outside Orcutt, and continue for several miles to reach Guadalupe. Along just the northern half of her journey, Ms. Hartmann would traverse the length of both the 4th and 5th supervisorial districts.

In terms of communal interest, some of these places are a world apart.

And to be truly physically present to her constituents, Supervisor Hartmann would have to live in an RV and perpetually drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway!

But seriously, these district lines aren’t fair to Ms. Hartmann’s constituents — or her.

Nor may be the challenging journey the redistricting commission is about to undertake and treatment it may have to endure for doing so.

Scott Fina is an Orcutt resident.

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