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Our Opinion: Political linkages

June 22, 2001

Should we link politically with San Diego or the Coachella Valley?

Ideally, we could make our own choice to do what's right for our county regarding reapportionment, but the reality is we may have someone else's choice foisted upon us with almost no input from local leaders.

Some in the Valley want us to be more linked in our state Assembly and Senate seats and congressional district with the Coachella Valley than San Diego. They stress we have more in common with much of the Coachella Valley than we do with San Diego, being that the southern Coachella and Imperial valleys both are highly Hispanic, economically challenged and desert-agriculture based. They also say that the Coachella, Imperial and Mexicali valleys have been marketed together in recent years with some success.

While we would agree with those points, we would counter that our representatives in recent years from the Coachella Valley, whether Assembly members or state senators, have been at best intermittently attentive to the Imperial Valley unless their name was Dave Kelley. We also are convinced that some of those pushing for us to be aligned with the Coachella Valley are doing so because of the political aspirations of a few who think they might be served better by such Coachella-Imperial setups. That is short-sighted and narrow thinking that will not advance our Valley as a whole.

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Others, including the El Centro City Council and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, have come out in support of our state districts and congressional seat being aligned with San Diego. They argue we have many of the same concerns and opportunities, specifically border matters, as the San Diego area.

While this mindset seems to be more oriented toward the greater good of the Imperial Valley, we also haven't always been enamored with the service or priorities provided to the Imperial Valley by our San Diego-based elected officials. We do remember one San Diego-area elected official who, when the Imperial Valley was moved out of his district by reapportionment, quickly turned on us, particularly on water matters. We wonder if he had too much information about us.

We must realize that, despite our growth, we don't yet have enough people in Imperial County to form the majority of an Assembly seat, let alone a state Senate or congressional seat. We probably have to face the reality that we do not have enough political power to designate with which area we will be aligned. At best we may have a bit of influence on these decisions.

We probably will be aligned with both the Coachella and San Diego areas in at least one of the districts, so it would be in our best interest for our leaders to not burn bridges and to lobby for what's best for the Imperial Valley as a whole, not best for the political aspirations of a few.

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