SLO County’s redistricting process exposes political divide

A map drawn by Richard Patten, with major changes to district lines.

By KAREN VELIE

After months of debate and mudslinging, San Luis Obispo County has a new political map that makes major changes to the supervisorial districts. Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday to adopt the Patten map, with supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg dissenting.

Every ten years, following the census, the county reexamines its supervisorial district boundaries while taking into account changes in population, communities of interest, keeping cities whole and compactness.

During Tuesday’s meeting, dozens of residents, split primarily along political lines, asked the supervisors to select the map that appears to support their favored candidates. Liberals promoted the SLO Chamber of Commerce map, which divides the heavily Democratic city of San Luis Obispo into three sections, diluting the voting power of rural voters while supporting the reelection of Supervisor Gibson.

On the other side, conservatives championed the Patten map, which divides the city of San Luis Obispo into two districts while keeping the county’s remaining cities and communities whole. Under the Patten map, three of the county’s five supervisorial districts lean Republican.

In an attempt to find fault with the Patten map, supervisors Gibson and Ortiz-Legg battled to have staff investigate party registrations in the proposed districts. The conservative supervisors argued that they are not supposed to consider party registrations while redistricting, before rejecting the motion.

Supervisor John Peschong voiced his support for keeping communities whole, in compliance with new redistricting regulations, before supporting the Patten map.

Supervisor Ortiz-Legg voiced her concerns over changes to District 3, which under the Patten map is comprised primarily of the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, which she said results in an uneven distribution of work for each supervisor. Ortiz-Legg then questioned the importance of keeping cities intact.

“Who cares if the cities are together or not, they have city councils,” Ortiz-Legg said.

Multiple supporters of the SLO Chamber of Commerce map argued that Latinos in Oceano are more connected to Nipomo, and have little in common with neighboring beach communities.

In support of the Patten map, a handful of Hispanic Oceano business owners said their community has more in common with Grover Beach and Pismo Beach.

Ortiz-Legg disagreed, voicing concerns about the political prowess of Latinos.

“Latinos do not know how to own their own political power,” Ortiz-Legg said.

Gibson then attempted to discuss the political makeup of each of the Patten map districts, but was cut off by Supervisor Lynn Compton, who called for a vote on a motion by Peschong to adopt the Patten map.

In an example of staff not listening to the board, the clerk refused to call the roll, prompting Compton to call it herself.

When it was his turn to vote, Gibson took the opportunity to argue that the Patten map was partisan, while noting how San Luis Obispo city residents have consistently voted against conservative supervisors.

Prior to the vote, commenters on the Facebook page of one of Supervisor Gibson’s campaign consultants, Tom Fulks, discussed plans to file a lawsuit if one of their proposed maps was not selected. On Tuesday evening, Gordon Fuglie, the husband of Atascadero Councilwoman Susan Funk, discussed harassing supervisors Peschong, Compton and Debbie Arnold at their homes.

“Time to go picket 3 offices and homes of the guilty parties,” Fuglie posted on Fulks Facebook page. “Let’s make the political also PERSONAL. And bring some real pain to Arnold, Compton, and Peschong.”

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