San Benito High School Board Members held their third public hearing regarding the proposed draft trustee boundary maps at the Oct. 11 meeting. A prior public hearing was held at the Sept. 26 meeting and a pre-map process hearing was held Sept.12 before any drafts were drawn.
The district intends to re-draw district boundaries and transition from at-large elections to by-trustee area elections, according to the laws set by the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
Hollister City Councilwoman Mickie Solorio Luna thanked the board and superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum for allowing the community to discuss the maps. She went on the explain the reasons why she preferred the bule map.
"Cesar mentioned blue, I just want to mention to you the blue map actually puts the Latino citizen voting age above 50 percent in three districts and the turnout is above 50 percent in only one district but there is always a need for improvement and voter registration and voter participation in this community." Luna said refering to LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) President Cesar Flores' support for the blue map during public comment. "… the turnout in the two other districts is considered to be high enough to be significant for our community and this is the message that we want to get across to you."
At the Feb. 28 meeting, members of LULAC along with other community members voiced their opinions in favor of re-districting as they thought the current board members are not representative of the districts, the community, or the current student population.
She went on to say that even though the green map and yellow map had a 50 percent Latino voting population in one or more districts the turnout for both of them were not significant enough to make an impact.
She said the green map had a 50 percent Latino voting population in only one district with a Latino turnout above 50 percent. "However, voting population is 50 percent in the second district and the turnout is about 38 percent," she added.
Luna continued explaining the yellow map put the Latino voting population above 50 percent in two districts the turnout is about 50 percent in only one district and less in the other.
Flores said that while maybe the numbers on the blue map were not ideal it had the best potential in terms of getting the Latino population to get out there and vote. "The voter registration; go out there and get the people involved…that’s the way we're looking at it," he said.
During discussion, board member John Corrigan thanked Luna and Flores for stepping forward and voicing their opinion adding it was hard to decide which map to pick.
"It's hard to decide which of these maps to pick. When I look at the blue map it seems like there's a section of North-West Hollister that's sort of disenfranchised… if you look at the map you kind of get one opinion of it. Do you look at registered voters or do you look at terrain? How do you make an informed decision? I'm glad you came and shared your insight because there's a lot to look at," he said.
He added that "these maps are going to change with all the construction going on. Maybe we go through one or two election cycles and then it has to change because of population disparity or whatever ..but we do need to take the time to get it right."
Board Member Patty Nehme agreed with Corrigan saying it was a daunting task. "I was looking voter turnout and total population but it is hard. I want to make sure that we are accommodating everyone," she said.
Luna said LULAC recommended going along with the blue map because of the potential voters they were commting to reach out to and get involved in future elections. "We realize that after the census it starts over again and so what you're doing is just putting something in place right now. If you're looking to LULAC, we are looking at the voting age population and when we go out to the California Voter Association and they look at your maps, they're thinking the same way as LULAC," she added.
"The minute you brought it up, I don't want to speak for the whole board, we were immediately on-board that something definitely needed to be done," Nehme said in response to Luna. "We've been from day one all about being equal and transparent, in giving people the opportunity to sit up on the board."
Board Member Robledo said, "When I was looking at these maps I look at them and I go, 'okay let's say I ran for election and I got lucky and I got elected. What would my district be like?'"
Luna reminded the board that it was illegal to take their address into consideration when making a decision.
Board president Steve Delay continued the discussion asking if there were any more public or written comments from the community.
"There's been no comments and it's strange because this is where everyone's children are going," Nehme added. "I mean, we are one feeder school and so you think there would be more input than just LULAC and us."
Board member William Tiffany asked SBHS attorney William Tunick of Dannis, Woliver, Kelley (DWK) if he had any input or recommendations on which map to pick.
Tunick said that all three maps meet the criteria adding that it was a matter of which map the board felt really represents the district.
"If you had to draw lines, where would it make the most sense to draw them? You live here, you know the community. You're going to know that better than myself or the demographer," he said.
Final map approval is set for Oct. 24 but will be pushed back to the Nov. 14 meeting if the board and community feel there is need for further discussion.
Links to all maps including an interactive map can be found on the school website.