Drawing lines for newest districts

July 24, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Representatives from Calexico and El Centro suggested distinctly different lines for new state Senate districts during a public hearing here Monday.

In testimony before three members of the Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment, Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo said his city favors a district that aligns Imperial County with predominately Hispanic communities of Indio and Coachella to the north and Chula Vista and San Ysidro to the west.

"The issues that we face with Mexicali as a border community are the same issues these cities deal with," Carrillo said.

The regions are conjoined further because many residents have moved from the Mexicali-Calexico area to the South Bay area of San Diego, which includes Chula Vista and San Ysidro, said Carrillo.


His testimony stood in stark contrast to that presented on behalf of the city of El Centro.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Grogan said El Centro favors a district that aligns Imperial County with the eastern suburbs of San Diego along Interstate 8.

He used a number of examples to illustrate how these San Diego communities are intrinsically linked to Imperial County while communities such as Indio and Coachella are not.

He mentioned the addition of the entire Imperial Valley into the San Diego Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, which has local schools compete against San Diego-area schools in athletic competition.

"Indio and Coachella, they don't even want to come down (to the Imperial Valley)," Grogan said.

He mentioned San Diego-based civic organizations that operate offices in Imperial County such as the American Red Cross and the Boy Scouts and educational ties such as San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus.

He told the committee the new district should be one that builds on the future of the two counties by establishing a strong economic link.

"If we are to manage in the future we need to be represented," Grogan said.

Former Assemblywoman Denise Moreno Ducheny followed Grogan. She testified that San Diego County and the Imperial Valley "is a region in a different sense of the word."

She included the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali in this "region" because the cities share water and air sheds with their American counterparts.

One of the ways she thinks the region should be linked in the future is by rail. She said the railway connecting the Imperial Valley and San Diego should be re-established so Imperial and Mexicali farmers can send goods to San Diego without using trucks.

After her testimony. Grogan stood in the hallway outside the hearing chambers and drew a map of the district he endorses and explained how it would differ from Calexico's version.

Daniel Santillan, a Calexico Democrat who advocated the proposed district approved by the Calexico City Council, said he disagrees with Grogan's plan "because there would be less of a chance for a Hispanic to win."

After the hearing ended, Carrillo said he hopes a Hispanic Democrat from the Imperial Valley will be elected in the next election and thinks a district similar to the one he espoused could help that cause.

Senate committee member Dede Alpert said she would look at two factors when deciding which map to endorse and acknowledged that "some people are not going to be satisfied."

Alpert, who represents the 39th District, which encompasses the communities of La Jolla and Pacific Beach, said the committee has to use existing court cases as a guide when divvying up the districts.

"You know very well what happened in the 90s when the courts rejected the districts," Alpert said.

She said she would use those court decisions and any comments the committee has received when making her decision.

While she said there is no quantified tabulation of the comments — "50 people testified in favor of this and 50 testified for that" — she is confident the committee got a good idea of the different concerns of Californians at the three hearings staged so far and will continue to do so at the two upcoming.

Alpert said a decision should be made by Sept. 15.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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