Suit Filed Over Redistricting
Thursday, December 6, 2001
A coalition of Latino activists have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to sue the state of California in an attempt to overturn new state Senate and congressional districts, approved by the Governor in September.
The California Latino Redistricting Coalition, the Los Angeles County Chicano Employee Association and the Latino Coalition for Fair Reapportionment say the new maps weaken the ability of Latinos to win elections in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, as well as in the Central Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego areas
"It is clear to our organizations that the primary goal of the Democratic legislative leadership plans was incumbent protection so they could obtain bipartisan support," the groups said in a report to the Justice Department.
On Nov. 30, the Justice Department rejected Assembly Speaker pro Tem Fred Keeley''s challenge to the Central Coast district lines. Keeley says he''s "disappointed," but he won''t pursue his fight in the courts.
"I''m very disappointed in their decision," Keeley said of the Justice Department. "I think that this is a decision that will have significant and unfortunate affects on the Central Coast in terms of the ability of Central Coast resident to have their voices heard in the state Senate. Now I will be focusing my work on the remaining year that I have in the state Assembly, and I will be looking at the range of options available to me in the public life."
The new map drew Keeley''s Boulder Creek home out of the 15th Senate District, home to Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties, and probably drew Keeley out of a future Senate seat. He was favored to win the district when Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, leaves the job.
The maps also splinter the Central Coast, splitting Monterey County in two, separating Monterey and Salinas. The new 15th extends from Silicon Valley to Santa Barbara county, drawing the Monterey Peninsula into a Republican district.
On Nov. 1, Keeley and a group of Latino leaders flew to Washington D.C. in an attempt to convince the U.S. Justice Department that the new Senate lines are illegal.
The appeal also noted that throughout the redistricting process, Central Coast residents repeatedly urged the Senate and the Governor to protect the Monterey Bay area''s natural geographical boundaries, and the existing communities of interest, including higher education, agriculture, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the growing Latino community.
"I felt we had made a very strong case both in regard to the facts and the law," Keeley said. "I had hoped that the Department of Justice would recognize that the proposal was the result of political decisions, rather than respect for communities of interest."
At press time Keeley had not taken a position on the just-announced lawsuit.
Humans have an innate knack for congregating in the world''s most beautiful places, then destroying them. If we were birds, we''d be birds that relentlessly sullied our own nests.
It''s a form of pollution called urban runoff, and while it''s mostly feces, it also includes phosphates from detergent and copper and zinc from cars and homes. Anything that hits the pavement accumulates until it rains. Then the deluge washes all that''s loose down through the storm drains and into the ocean. (Human sewage is pumped via pipe to a treatment plant in Marina.)
In a rainstorm at the end of October, a squad of volunteers for the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Citizen''s Watershed Monitoring Network fanned out to 14 spots in Pacific Grove, Monterey and Santa Cruz to collect storm water runoff samples for pollution testing.
What they found was predictably disappointing. We are dirty birds.
Concentrations of E. coli, the bacteria found in human and animal feces, were 10 to 300 times higher than state standards, orthophosphate levels two to 13 times too high and metal concentrations up to five times the limit.
Bridget Hoover, Citizen''s Network coordinator, says the concentrations of detergent were particularly high. "We had lots of soap bubbles coming out of the outfall [drainpipe]," she says.
Without doing DNA testing it''s impossible to tell if the fecal matter suggested by the E. coli is animal or human. If it''s human waste, she says it must be coming through a crack in sewage pipes or due to illegal plumbing. "That''s what we don''t know. It very well could be illegal plumbing but we don''t know," says Hoover.
Although the runoff dissipates in the ocean, its effects are clear. Beaches are posted closed due to runoff after a big rainstorm because it makes people sick. "The same thing could be true with marine life," she says.
With the possibility that the E. coli is from human waste, Hoover says the Sanctuary is investigating the feasibility of DNA testing.