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San Joaquin County supervisors will move district boundary lines if necessary

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Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 10:00 pm

Rather than let the voters decide, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will move the district boundary lines if necessary when the census figures are presented next year, the board decided Tuesday after a long and emotional public hearing.

The board's vote scrapped a proposal signed by six city mayors, including Lodi's Steve Mann, that called for a public vote to establish redistricting guidelines.

It also ousted Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto's separate proposal that included boundary suggestions.

Every 10 years, supervisors must examine the census count to make sure that each supervisor represents between 19 and 21 percent of the county.

Public officials and citizens implored the board not to approve either submission Tuesday.

Many said the plans were designed to unseat District 2 Supervisor Dario Marenco, who was denied the chairmanship last year in what some considered an unfair move by three other supervisors.

"It's not fair. It's not right. It is outrageously morally wrong and thousands of people will take action (if these proposals pass)," Stockton resident John Morearty told the board before the vote.

Because of the population growth that has happened in the south county since the last census, county staff members aren't sure that the core of District 2, which is largely comprised of east Stockton, could be kept intact, according to a report by county counsel.

Citizens from areas outside District 2 came to the meeting Tuesday to praise Marenco and his work as a county supervisor, and to chastise other supervisors for considering what county union director Steve Wilensky called "Rube-Goldberg-looking proposals."

Supervisor Steve Gutierrez didn't understand how the redistricting ideas could have been construed to show scheming against Marenco, though.

But he voted against them, saying he had faith in the board to make sure everyone in the county was properly represented.

"I'm so disheartened to believe that you distrust us that much," Gutierrez told the mayors in attendance. "We have a system and I plan to use it in the best interest of the community."

In keeping with the usual redistricting process, the board can appoint an advisory committee of county residents to study the matter, and it can involve the district attorney, the county assessor and the county superintendent of schools in the process. Redistricting must be completed by the end of 2001.

Supervisor Jack Sieglock, whose district includes Lodi, wanted the people of the county to vote on the redistricting guidelines, which sought to assure that the growing south part of the county was adequately represented. But Sieglock suggested that the district numbers be removed from the boundary guidelines.

"To take the embittered political debate out of the equation, I think it would have made sense to take the numbers out of it," Sieglock said. "I thought that the guidelines were justifiable."

Supervisors Marenco, Gutierrez and Cabral voted against the proposals. Marenco and Mann could not be reached for comment.

Comments about this story? Send mail to Nicole Casal



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