December 14, 2010 | California Watch | Original Article

Critics question diversity of redistricting panel

Not enough Latinos, no Angelenos and no one from the Central Valley. These have been among the criticisms of California's first-ever Citizens Redistricting Commission. When the commission votes on its final six members, as is expected tomorrow, will diversity still be an issue?

Created by voters in 2008, the 14-member commission must comprise five Democrats, five Republicans and four members of neither party. It is intended to be "reasonably representative of the state's diversity" [PDF].

Just how representative the commission is of the state's diversity has been up for debate, with some questioning whether the group can represent more than 38.8 million Californians.

"Fourteen is far too small a number to reflect the diversity of a state with so many different regions, dozens of languages, and nearly as many ethnic groups as there are on planet earth," wrote Joe Matthews, co-author of "California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How we Can Fix It," at Fox & Hounds Daily.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, which drafted demographic recommendations for the six remaining seats, agreed. "Unless you have a legislature of 39 million people, you can't represent everybody perfectly."

Last month, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa complained that none of the finalists for the first eight slots were residents from Los Angeles, the state's most populous city. Some noted a lack of white women, others worried that the Central Valley was being left out, while more voiced concern about an underrepresentation of Latinos. A look at the first eight members' incomes shows they are more affluent than average Californians.

So when it came time to select remaining members, critics cautioned the commission to choose carefully. And how did the commission do?

The six finalists, named Friday, were winnowed down from 28 by the commission's first eight members, who were chosen randomly last month by the state auditor.

As proposed, the commission would be split evenly by sex. Four of its members identify as Asian American, three as Latino or Hispanic, three as white, two as black, one as Pacific Islander and one as American Indian or Alaskan Native.

There would be one white female, Michelle R. DiGuilio-Matz, who also happens to be the one Central Valley representative. The commission would pick up one Los Angeles resident, as well as a Los Angeles city planner. One member would make more than $250,000 a year, six between $125,000 and $250,000, four between $75,000 and $125,000, and three less than $75,000. None would make less than $35,000 annually.

"We're very pleased at the mixture they've selected," Stern said. "I think it's well representative of California."

But concerns still remain. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials had pressed for "strong Latino representation" in all three of the commission's political groups. 

The proposed commission counts three Latinos, but all are Democrats and therefore "not fully reflective of the Latino community," said Astrid Garcia, state redistricting and policy manager at the association. "Does it truly reflect California's Latino population? That's still something we need to continue advocating."