Although it’s geographically nearby, Silicon Valley can feel a world away. The technology center of the world and the Salad Bowl of the World thrive on different economic bases and have different cultures. While their politics might be similar when it comes to blue or red, it’s not politics that matter when it comes to drawing boundaries for political districts.

The process of redistricting, which happens every 10 years following the census, is meant to be apolitical. It’s meant to keep “communities of interest” together to ensure fair representation on a school board, a city council or in Congress.

So it is shocking to see the draft maps released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission on Nov. 10, which in two cases—California State Assembly and U.S. Congress—would slice the Salinas Valley roughly in half. The congressional line jogs in and out a bit, putting Soledad in the western half of the Salinas Valley, along with Carmel Valley, Big Sur, the Monterey Peninsula and Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, three other South County cities would be in an inland district along with Gilroy, Hollister—and San Jose. A resident of Soledad would today be represented by Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, and a resident of Greenfield by Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Also whacky is the draft Assembly map, which similarly would split the Salinas Valley down the middle, and would cleave Monterey County from much of Santa Cruz County. The Monterey Peninsula is currently represented by Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley. The proposed map means that Stone would suddenly live in a district that spans up and over the Santa Cruz Mountains, and includes Los Gatos (Silicon Valley again). Aptos and the Monterey Peninsula would form the northern tip of a coastal district that sprawls southward to encompass San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. The current representative there is Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton.

“They’re really screwing over our valley, our community,” says Simon Salinas, a former county supervisor and Assembly member representing South Monterey County.

There’s no ambiguity about whether the Salinas Valley—with its shared culture, economy, transportation corridor and workforce—is a community of interest. Here it is straight from the California Constitution, Section 2(d)(4) of Article XXI: “A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process.”

The good news is that the draft maps are just that—drafts. While the elected officials who would be affected cannot participate in the public process because it’s meant to be apolitical, others are speaking up. Led by county supervisors Chris Lopez and Luis Alejo, there is an organizing effort underway to tell the state’s Redistricting Commission how wrong—not to mention unconstitutional—the draft maps would be.

“It’s really concerning that the voices from our region haven’t been heard yet,” says Lopez. “I’m afraid we got drowned out. You can’t split the Salinas Valley down the middle.”

That’s exactly what the redistricting process itself is supposed to avoid. Diminishing the voice of a region dominated by Latinos, many of them farmworkers, many of them immigrants, undermines the voices of people who, if anything, deserve a stronger voice—not one that would play second fiddle to the interests of Silicon Valley.

“The stronger the chorus, the more likely we get some response,” Lopez says.

To that end, he and Alejo and all five Salinas Valley mayors plus four elected officials from San Benito County are convening on Nov. 18 to talk about their shared interest and kick off a public engagement campaign. Beginning Nov. 24, the commission may release alternative draft maps, and by Dec. 23 must approve final maps. Comment at wedrawthelinesca.org.

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Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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