Letters: Where is Madera’s vote in Area 1?

Like other public jurisdictions, every 10 years following the Decennial Census, State Center Community College District (SCCCD) is required to review its trustee area boundaries to maintain a proper population balance. The district is governed by seven elected trustees who represent seven unique trustee areas. The SCCCD Board governs: Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, Madera CC, Oakhurst College Center.


Since the District was established 58 years ago, a citizen of Madera County has been the elected representative for Trustee Area 1. SCCCD retained an experienced firm to study the current area alignments and make recommendations. Below is an edited version of the results:


Based on data from the 2020 Decennial Census, the firm of Cooperative Strategies has determined that trustee areas must be adjusted to maintain a proper population balance. They have created four proposed mapping scenarios that reflect adjustments to trustee areas to ensure compliance with legal requirements. (SCCCD Web Site: Trustee Area Redistricting AREA I: MAPS 1 – 4)


These four maps represented the professional recommendation for boundary changes. They all meet State criteria established as guiding principles to follow in consideration of new “Redistricted” maps. The Board was to select one from the four maps which had some adjustment for population shifts. After these four maps were presented by the firm’s independent professional study, a citizen’s plan (Proposal Redistricting Scenario 5/Map 5) was submitted. Map 5 offered a political scheme that completely ignored the independent recommendation and entirely revamped Trustee Area 1. Map 5 moved the following Madera County communities from Trustee Area 1 to Area 7 (currently entirely within Fresno County): Rolling Hills, Ranchos, Riverstone, Tesoro Veijo, Coarsegold, North Fork, Yosemite Lakes Estates, Oakhurst, Bass Lake and more).


At its Jan. 11 meeting, the SCCCD Board voted 4-3 to approve Map 5 and thereby toss out Maps 1-4 and completely separate eastern Madera County from Trustee Area I. The only reasoning put forth by this “citizen plan” was a vague assertion that Area I should include predominately Hispanic communities in northwest Fresno Co. and that SCCCD Trustees should better reflect the population of the district. The citizen putting forth the proposal to cut Madera County in half and dismantle the cohesiveness of the County working as a unit was the Mayor of the City of Madera, Santos Garcia. While Garcia was not officially representing the city, he certainly demonstrated where his loyalties lie. NOT WITH MADERA! Mr. Garcia’s public testimony in presenting this divisive plan was basically that City of Madera had more in common with the residences of NW Fresno than his fellow citizens in Madera.


A major flaw in this thinking is that the facts do not support the assumption that Latinos are not represented on the Board and that change in boundaries are necessary to achieve such representation. The ethnic/gender breakdown of SCCCD Trustees is: three Latinas, one Asian-American female, one South Asia American female and two white males. The current Area I Trustee is a white male, but his predecessor was Latina. While it is encouraging to see a strong ethnic and gender representation on the current Board, the dissected, newly approved Area 1 map is not the appropriate action.The original and non-partisan professionally developed proposed new boundaries (Maps 1-4) indicate Area 1 with approximately 55 percent Hispanic/Latino population, which is at the median of the other six areas. The shifting of Area 1 boundaries resulted: a) eliminating the communities of eastern Madera Counties and, b) adding an area of northwestern Fresno increases it to 66 percent. Something not considered was that under Maps 1–4, the approximate percentage of Hispanics in Area 7 was 51 percent. Now with the movement of the above referenced eastern Madera communities into Area 7 the Hispanic population decreases to 25 percent. That is going backward! The total population of State Center Community College District is 1,117,988 of which 53. percent identify as Hispanic.


Why would the proponent desire to dilute the percentage of Hispanic in Trustee Area 7? This gerrymandering has little to do with racial balance. The possible answer may be found in the organizations supporting this change. The two major SCCCD labor groups spoke in favor of the dramatic change. The Board majority, seeking favor with these groups, made an entirely political decision while redistricting guidelines regarding contiguity, preservation of existing political communities, and racial fairness were ignored.


Mark my words the majority of the four Trustees voting in favor of this drastic changes will be seeking higher public office within the next 5 to 10 years. This currying of labor support via gerrymander should not be tolerated regardless of who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. Mr. Garcia has demonstrated his loyalty to the organized labor groups over Madera. There is nothing wrong with public employee unions supporting candidates and working to improve wages and working conditions. But that does mean public officials like Mr. Garcia and the four Trustees voting in favor of this destructive change should gerrymander to accomplish these ends.


Because of my current address, DO NOT attempt to label me as an outsider. I am a graduate of Reedley College, have served as an elected Board Trustee, appointed Personnel Commissioner, leader, and volunteer in the SCCCD for over 36 years. My spouse and I fund scholarships. I have a right and duty to undercover this attempt to radically change the landscape of SCCCD. Mr. Garcia may not be familiar with the long and difficult struggle to establish and fund the Madera Community College and the Oakhurst College Center. Regardless of his motivation, this change is poorly conceived and will be detrimental to Madera County.


However, there still is a chance to stop it. Map Scenario 5 will be forwarded to the Fresno County Committee on School District Organization for a hearing and approval. While neither the Madera County Superintendent of Schools nor the Madera County Office of Education has any official capacity in this matter, they certainly have a right to protest this outlandish attempt at gerrymandering. The same applies to the Madera City Council and the Chamber of Commerce’s for Madera and Eastern Madera County. The Madera County Board of Supervisors wisely submitted a letter of protest to SCCCD, but it, too, can do more.


Send your protests to: ethel.meyer@scccd.edu Re: SCCCD Redistricting – Scenario Map 5.


Sincerely,


— Ron Manfredi (Former Board Trustee SCCCD (1985 - 2002) and Personnel Commissioner (2003 to 2012)