Like it or not, elections have consequences. When Doreen Farr won the 2008 3rd District supervisorial race and Janet Wolf was reelected to the 2nd District seat in 2010, the victories ensured the South Coast liberal bloc would be in the board majority come time to redraw the district lines.
That time has come, and the lines are just about drawn. And once again, the notorious split between the South Coast and North County has brought out the venom.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, less than a year into his job, has learned the hard way in recent weeks, having been on the losing end of two 3-2 votes on the redistricting matter. He believes the majority steamrolled the process, and didn’t mince words Tuesday about the unfolding political theater. “I really feel that perception in our business is reality,” Lavagnino said. “It looks bad. It smells bad.”
He was referencing the redistricting map the board majority, at the supervisors’ previous hearing, selected out of a group of 16 drawn by members of the public. This map in particular, however, rubbed many the wrong way for a few main reasons: It left Isla Vista and UCSB in the 3rd District despite numbers shifting to the north, it split the City of Lompoc, and it was drawn up by George Relles, a longtime left-leaning political insider. Lavagnino called it all an “ugly mess.”
Indeed, politics and redistricting go hand-in-hand, and the two are notoriously messy when combined, a big reason why voters elected to take the once-a-decade statewide redistricting process out of the hands of the politicians. But it’s also a big reason why the appointed statewide commission is now facing potential lawsuits for the lines they came up with.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, after the board’s July 12 meeting, did step up, drawing his own map, which the board majority indicated Tuesday it liked. What Carbajal and company did not like, however, was the innuendo coming from Lavagnino. “While you continue to look for the killer of JFK, I will tell you the map I put forward has nothing to do with this so-called map we were originally looking at,” Carbajal told Lavagnino, adding he believed his map addressed a lot of the issues that were brought up last meeting.
Lavagnino should’ve probably expected less benevolence in such a political process as redistricting, but Carbajal’s map did make adjustments addressing concerns. The City of Lompoc, for one, was made whole. Carbajal’s map is also in compliance with all of the requirements necessary. It moves the Santa Barbara Airport from the 3rd District to the 2nd, and, to the dismay of many people in North County (including 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray), Guadalupe from the 4th District to the 3rd. “What’s starting to really frustrate me is that no good job is good enough,” Carbajal said.
Lavagnino, and many members of the public as well as the County Republican Party, which sent out an email blast calling for people to “vent your rage about the corrupt actions” of the board majority, was in favor of letting the clock run out on the process, which would mean District Attorney Joyce Dudley, County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joe Holland would step to the plate and determine the lines. “There’s an easy out for us,” Lavagnino said.
But the majority wasn’t interested in taking that out, voting to move forward on Carbajal’s proposal, and leaving some further words for Lavagnino in the process. “Your comments reflect a new low,” Wolf said. “I’m so disappointed to hear what you have to say. It’s so unfair. It has such a chilling effect.” She later added that the word “juvenile” didn’t begin to describe the comments, calling them “insulting on so many levels.”
The issue will return to the supervisors in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Lavagnino will head back to the drawing board to work on minor adjustments between his and Gray’s districts. What won’t be going anywhere, however, is Isla Vista and UCSB, which will remain in the 3rd District along with the Santa Ynez Valley, much to the chagrin of many valley residents.