Q&A: GIS analyst breaks down the latest in the KCCD redistricting process

April 8, 2020 /

The Dolores Huerta Foundation is working with the Kern Community College District during its redistricting process.

In July of 2019, KCCD was informed it was violating the California Voting Rights Act, and because of that, the district must draw new boundary lines for its districts.

Sophia Garcia, a GIS analyst with DHF, has taken the lead on this project. She has been working to gain public input to help construct a map that outlines proposed districts. The districts that DHF proposed to KCCD keeps communities of interest together, which gives communities an opportunity to elect someone that represent their community, Garcia said.

The KCCD is holding a board meeting Thursday at 1 p.m. via Zoom. This will be the last meeting where the public can give input on the proposed maps. You can find the maps here. Before the meeting begins, members of the public will have an opportunity to provide public comment.

Kern Sol News’ Elizabeth Sanchez sat down with Garcia over Instagram Live to learn more about this issue.

This interview has be edited for clarity and cut for length. Check out the full interview on Kern Sol News’ Instagram account.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your work with the Dolores Huerta Foundation and your role in this redistricting process? 

A: As a GIS analyst, my job is to use maps and data to elevate all the work the foundation does. We do a lot of social justice work. Right now, a lot of folks know about the census. Every year after the Census, redistricting happens, and basically it is redrawing of the boundary lines. Right now, the Kern Community College District, which is the largest community college district in the entire country, is going through a public redistricting process. My job is to let folks know what that means, and why they are doing it right now. 

Q: Why are they doing it right now? Can you give us a little bit of background regarding KCCD redistricting?  

A: Every year ending in a one, each board goes through redistricting. Next year, by law, every single board across the country is supposed to redistrict. Boards undergoing redistricting in a year not ending in a one is most likely in violation of federal or state law, and that’s exactly what we have here (with KCCD). 

In July of 2019, an attorney informed KCCD is is not in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. KCCD is made up of five districts and seven trustees. Two of the districts are at large, which means those two districts have two representatives that can live anywhere within those districts and can be voted to represent the board. 

Now, we are trying to advocate for more representation across Kern County. The KCCD encompasses Kern, Tulare, San Bernardino and Inyo counties. It has roughly 45,000 students annually and over 16 sites.

This Thursday at 1 p.m. via Zoom, the KCCD board will hold one of their last meetings for public comment. They held meetings in December, January, February and March. This is their fifth public comment meeting and is the last time folks can talk about maps that are being proposed. The committee will pick a map at the May meeting. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the proposed maps, and why the Dolores Huerta Foundation proposed the map it did?

A: In Kern we have a lot of lines drawn in favor of the community on the west side of Bakersfield. We are trying to fight for rural, outlying communities, like South Kern, North Kern, and the Kern River Valley area to allow for those communities to have their own district so they can elect someone on their own. Redistricting should be at its core nonpartisan and non-political. 

When we think of maps at DHF, they are informed by the community. We are looking at the Latino population and specific ethnic groups. Are we cutting communities in half? Are we putting like minded communities together? For us, we considered communities of interest. We try to keep them together in a district because they have similarities, not just race or ethnicity but in income levels, geography, the types of jobs. 

The thing we would love is for the board to adopt our map because we took a lot of the community input in mind. We talked to students and parents in different communities, and what we found is areas in north Kern, such as Delano and Wasco, are similar communities of interest. Rosedale is a community of interest and deserves one trustee, not multiple. We also focused on South Kern, which is made up of communities like Arvin and Lamont. They are also a strong community of interest. Those are three topics we focused on.

In map Plan D, which was made by KCCD, it puts together South Kern with mountain towns like Kernville and Lake Isabella, and that’s a big issue for us. When we think about opportunities to elect someone, we have to look at communities themselves. The mountain community is vastly different from South Kern and both have different issues. We had to relay that we cannot as a Foundation accept Pine Mountain Club and South Kern in one district. Kernville has a lot more in common with Tehachapi. We asked the KCCD board to propose a new boundary. We hope the board keeps those three communities of interests together and recognizes the differences of these communities.

Q: Can you explain why redistricting is so important?

A: Redistricting is how people redraw boundary lines for representation. We ask the question, “Does a community have the opportunity to elect someone to represent them, or are lines drawn for gerrymandering, a process that adopts lines that are more in favor of a political party, or specific race or a specific community?”

A big reason why this is so important is these lines are supposed to be redrawn once a decade. The lines we are living in now were drawn back in 2011. We are now in 2020. These lines have an effect on who runs for office and do they have an opportunity to win. We are asking the board and community, “Do these lines give this specific community the best chance to elect someone that represents them?” We are trying to make this process more transparent. 

For those interested in joining KCCD’s meeting on Thursday, here is the teleconference participation information:

Join by:
iPhone one-tap: US: +16699006833,,276691164# or +13462487799,,276691164#
(Computer Audio Only) Meeting URL: https://cccconfer.zoom.us/j/276691164
Meeting ID: 276 691 164, then follow the prompt and press # Password: 013123#

Join by Telephone:
For higher quality, dial a number based on your current location.
Dial: US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923, Meeting ID: 276 691 164, then follow the prompt and press #

Skype for Business (Lync)
https://cccconfer.zoom.us/skype/276691164

Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.