Last week, Scotts Valley City Council members voted 5-0 to approve a pair of alternative proposals to present to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in response to the planned redrawing of the county supervisorial boundary lines.
The county’s proposal calls for Highway 17 to mark the border between the 1st and 5th districts, with the stated goal of keeping the population of each county district within 2,000 people of 52,476.
The county’s plan, however, means the border would run through Scotts Valley, moving the portion of Scotts Valley east of Highway 17 into the 1st District.
The plan has been heavily criticized by city leaders.
Scotts Valley Mayor Dene Bustichi argued that dividing a city the size of Scotts Valley between two districts would lead to disenfranchisement and would dilute the community’s voice in county politics.
“(Splitting Scotts Valley between two supervisors would mean) neither supervisor would truly have the need to listen to the concerns of Scotts Valley,” said Bustichi, whose own campaign for 5th District supervisor hinges on the county’s decision.
The city’s alternative plans — presented to the board of supervisors by Vice Mayor Donna Lind and City Councilman Jim Reed at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting — leave intact most of the county’s proposed alterations, but calls for Scotts Valley to remain entirely within the boundaries of the 5th District.
As submitted, Reed said, both the city’s alternative proposals bring the 5th District’s population into closer balance with the other four districts — and within the county’s own 2,000-person margin of error guideline — than the county’s own proposal.
“By their own criteria, our plan is better,” Reed said.
“You can’t come up with a logical explanation for why you would change district lines to split a community of interest and to change that line when it creates a worse population discrepancy between districts and directly goes against the recommendations of the county clerk of elections,” Bustichi said.
The controversy echoes a similar one from 1991, when then-5th District Supervisor Fred Keeley lobbied successfully to bring Scotts Valley entirely within the 5th District.
Reed called out current 5th District Supervisor Mark Stone for not taking a similar stance.
“I’m very surprised he’s hasn’t been shouting from the rooftops that this isn’t right,” Reed said.
Stone said that he would consider the plans submitted by the city, but argued that using Highway 17 as the boundary line between the two districts would be beneficial to the rural unincorporated areas outside Scotts Valley that are often unsure just exactly what district they live in.
“I’m trying to figure out the benefits and detriments before I make any decision on the lines,” Stone said. “There are times that it is beneficial to have two supervisors.”
Les Gardner, who served as Stone’s representative on the task force charged with drawing up the proposal, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Responding to questions as to whether the redistricting lines may have been drawn for political reasons, Stone replied “People can think what they want. I’m still trying to make sure I understand the implications.”
Bustichi also alleged that the city had intentionally been kept in the dark about the redistricting proposal.
“There was zero outreach (by the county) to this community,” said Bustichi. “There wasn’t even a courtesy call to give any idea this was going to happen.
“It was something that was truly kept a secret until the bitter end.”
Reed said that, should the county’s current proposal go through, the city is weighing its options for a response and was not ruling out a lawsuit.
“If we don’t win, this will be a victory for the worst kind of politics,” Reed said.
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