The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved the “Knight Nutting Alternative” redistricting map on Monday morning, sending it back to county Surveyor Rich Briner to be boiled down to the parcel level. It contained minor changes from the “Final Preview Map” Briner proposed on July 19, and returns to the board on Aug. 23, with a target for final adoption on Sept. 13.
In a 3-2 vote, the board dismissed the “Knight Cameron Park Alternative,” disappointing West County activists concerned that Cameron Park is being split between the otherwise rural District 4 to the north and District 2 to the south.
They lobbied District 1 Supervisor John Knight to propose a map creating a Cameron Park-centric District 2, thus segregating the two West County suburban districts from the rural ranchlands to the north and south of the Highway 50 corridor.
District 3 Supervisor Jack Sweeney opposed them on historical grounds. District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting worried that another round of public meetings would be needed. District 4 Supervisor Ron Briggs said that the new map contained district changes beyond the scope of the July 19 motion to fine tune the boundaries of Districts 1 and 2.
The meeting began with three new maps on the table. The “Briggs Rubicon Alternative” simply extended District 4 east into uninhabited federal lands to include the entire Rubicon Trail. There was no opposition to that change.
It became clear early that the real contest was between the ultimately triumphant “Knight Nutting Alternative,” so-named for the minor changes it made to the boundary between Knight’s El Dorado Hills District 1 and Nutting’s South County District 2, and the “Knight Cameron Park Alternative,” named for its sponsor, and the fact that it contained a reengineered, Cameron Park-centric District 2, extending east from Bass Lake Road to include Shingle Springs and El Dorado.
It also expanded Placerville’s District 3 to include the rural South County ranchlands from the county line east to North-South Road, the heartland of the current District 2, including Latrobe, Mt. Aukum, Fair Play, Grizzly Flat and District 2 Supervisor Nutting’s home in Happy Valley.
El Dorado Hills resident Betty January summarized the West County activists’ position before the meeting.
“El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park depend on the county for their local government and deserve to have a supervisor that doesn’t also represent a completely different community of interest,” she said.
January argued that putting the South County ranch communities in Placerville’s district didn’t diminish the city’s voice in county politics.
“Placerville is an incorporated city, with its own government. El Dorado Hills doesn’t have that luxury.”
Despite the last minute launch of the “Knight Cameron Park Alternative” — workshop attendees hadn’t seen the map before Friday — several residents of Districts 2 and 3 turned out in opposition, many claiming that Placerville has little in common with the South County ranchlands. Others opposed breaking up traditional district-mates Placerville, Camino and Diamond Springs.
South County resident Mike Lawless said he is concerned that the city of Placerville would “change the commonality” of his district. “The city’s interests differ from the rural districts,” he said. “The Knight Nutting Alternative keeps the rural area rural.”
Placerville resident Richard Barb questioned how the board got so far afield in one month, near the end of the process.
“We have new people here today and a new map that is radically different to what’s been proposed up to now,” he said. “If you go with it you need to start the process over again.”
Former Placerville City Council member Kathi Lishman worried that urban areas of the county would dominate the board.
“The more supervisors that understand both urban and rural, the better,” she said. “I don’t want this to become ‘divide and conquer.’”
Avoiding a mix of urban and rural is “impractical in a county like this,” said Pollock Pines resident Ken Harper. “That’s why you have cities. If El Dorado Hills wants that they should become a city.”
Several El Dorado Hills residents spoke on behalf of the Knight Cameron Park Alternative.
Four Seasons Civic League Chairman John Raslear called for a redistricting map that reflects the present and future of the county “in an area that has seen the most population growth in the county and has needs and problems that are unique.”
“The communities of El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park speak with one voice and ask … to be recognized as people that share a common interest by officials that know our needs and our problems,” he said.
El Dorado Hills resident Ron Mikulaco told the board that he and his neighbors “demand better representation,” and “no longer wish to be treated as the county’s ATM machine.”
On a quieter note, Cameron Park Community Services District Director Shiva Frentzen asked simply, “Don’t divide us,” and made a personal plea to each of the supervisors on behalf of the Knight Cameron Park Alternative.
Cameron Park resident Greg Prada dubbed the Knight Cameron Park Alternative “the vision map,” and said that prior maps looked at the county through the rear-view mirror, “but the vision map takes us from the present to the future; it aggregates where the population is today and sets us up for the future.”
He stressed that with “one more good scrubbing,” Knight’s Cameron Park alternative would also ensure the integrity of rural districts.
Fair Play resident Neil Hillier disagreed.
“I don’t see how putting Placerville and Fair Play together maintains any common interest — plus it takes away our seated supervisor.”
After an hour of public testimony, Knight defended his Cameron Park Alternative as creating communities of interest that reflect the intent of the county General Plan.
District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago backed Knight’s map “with some tweaking” because “it looks at the future.”
District 3 Supervisor Jack Sweeney recalled redistricting efforts decided by back-room deals in the past, and said the current process was staff driven to keep the board members from politicizing the process.
He estimated that 200 people were involved in the process, “But I represent a whole county,” much of which is rural, he said.
“People seem to like what El Dorado County stands for,” he said. “Despite that fact we’re talking about making changes to protect El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park … They’re absolute children in the history of this county.
“If what we all came here for is so important, why do we want to change it?” Sweeney asked.
Sweeney also opposed separating Placerville, Diamond Springs and Camino, “the surviving backbone of our history.”
He reiterated his oft-stated opinion that growth in the western portion of the county would necessitate another redistricting within five years, and predicted that the next one will put three largely suburban districts west of Greenstone Road.
“The urbanization of this board will come soon enough,” he said. “Let’s not drive it today. Instead, let’s try to protect the rural county as best we can.”
Briggs attacked Knight’s map on more technical grounds.
“We have two supervisors considering adopting a map that shouldn’t be before us,” he said, then reiterated his contention that Knight’s map is outside the range of the July 19 motion.
“It doesn’t mean Placerville; it doesn’t mean Pollock; it doesn’t mean Camino; it doesn’t mean El Dorado, Diamond Springs or Rescue,” all of which are affected by the Knight Cameron Park Alternative.
Board President Nutting cautioned the board about the political implications of recirculating a new redistricting map. “If we go with a new map we’ll have this room packed,” he said, adding, “No matter what we do there will be people that aren’t happy.”
Sweeney moved to accept the Knight Nutting Alternative. Briggs seconded. The motion passed 3-2.
Afterward, Bass Lake Action Committee President John Thompson lamented the fact that Cameron Park got split into two otherwise rural districts, but was happy that both Bass Lake and Four Seasons, whose residents were involved in the process, got moved into District 1.
“The people in Cameron Park are going to have to get engaged to get their voice heard,” said Thompson.
Prada later opined by e-mail that Nutting would have to explain his lack of support to Cameron Park voters in 2012, if he runs again.
The “Knight Nutting Alternative” map can be found at the county redistricting Website, co.el-dorado.ca.us/Government/Redistricting. The “Knight Cameron Park Alternative” was removed from the site shortly after the hearing Monday.