December 16, 2010 | Fresno Bee | Original Article

Redistricting commission selects its last six members

Call it the end – of the beginning.

The final six members of California's first independent citizens redistricting commission were selected Wednesday, paving the way for the panel to begin its task of drawing the state's legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

Members chosen Wednesday were Democrats Gabino Aguirre and Maria Blanco, Republicans Gil Ontai and Michael Ward, and two people not affiliated with either party – Michelle DiGuilio-Matz and M. Andre Parvenu.

The selections were made by the eight sitting members of the commission who were selected in a lottery-type drawing Nov. 18 from 36 finalists culled from a field of about 30,000 applicants. The six new members were nominated as a slate Friday, but a final vote was withheld to accept public comment.

The only dispute Wednesday, consuming about an hour of debate, was whether to alter the slate to add Paul McKaskle, who served as chief counsel for special masters appointed by the state Supreme Court to draw boundary lines in 1973 and 1991.

The commission floated the idea last week of hiring McKaskle as a consultant, but he sent the panel a letter Sunday expressing reservations about accepting a paid position. Commissioners switched gears and reconsidered selecting him as one of their final six colleagues.

A motion was made to remove DiGuilio-Matz – the commission's only Central Valley resident – from the slate under consideration. The proposal died because most members decided Central Valley representation was crucial to ensure geographic diversity.

"You can buy expertise – you can't buy (geographic) representation," temporary Chairman Peter Yao said.

The commission approved its initial six-person slate by a vote of 7-1. The lone dissenter was Republican Jodie Filkins Webber, who apparently wanted to consider other changes to the slate as well.

The 14-member panel must complete its map-drawing by Aug. 15, assuming once-a-decade responsibilities formerly held by the Legislature.

Created by Proposition 11 in 2008, the commission must consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters who reflect the state's racial, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity.

After selection of the final six, the panel consists of four Asian Americans, three Caucasians, three Hispanics or Latinos, two African Americans, one Pacific Islander and one American Indian.

Four are from Los Angeles County, with one apiece from San Francisco, Yolo, San Diego, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Orange, Santa Clara, Ventura, Riverside and San Joaquin counties.

For their work, they will be paid $300 for each day they conduct public business.