Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley at random chose the first five commission members who will serve on the county’s 2020 Citizens’ Independent Redistricting Commission during Tuesday’s Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting.
As per the 2018 Ballot Measure G2018, the CIRC will be formally appointed on or before Dec. 31, and determine the county’s supervisorial district boundaries. In accordance with the measure, the district attorney was charged with choosing the commission’s first five members, one from each of the current supervisorial districts, in a random drawing.
Those initial five members will then choose another five from each of the districts and one at large member, creating an 11-person commission that will be formalized before the end of the year.
The five members chosen on Tuesday were each one of the nine most qualified applicants from each district except for District 2, which had a list of seven names after two applicants were disqualified.
The initial five selected were Laura Katz for District 1, William McClintock for District 2, Norman Bradley for District 3, Cary Gray for District 4, and Glenn Morris for District 5.
Many supervisors objected that the final pool of 45 most qualified applicants was not reflective of Santa Barbara County’s racial, gender, age, and partisan diversity.
Third District supervisor Joan Hartmann kicked off the criticism of the applicant pool, first questioning why the two disqualified applicants for District 2 weren’t replaced with other applicants from the almost 200 total that the county received.
County of Santa Barbara Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland replied that county counsel advised that the ordinance calling for a final list of nine applicants per district didn’t allow for replacing disqualified applicants. Supervisor Hartman wasn’t satisfied with this answer.
“Well, as I read it, it says ‘Nine applicants from each existing supervisorial district shall be included in the list of most qualified applicants unless there are less than nine applicants in the district,’” she said.
She added, “I think that’s a matter of some interpretation and we interpret it in a manner that’s most restrictive, which I find odd.”
Ms. Hartmann then took aim at the racial, gender, and age makeup of the applicant list which she said was skewed toward those who are “old, white, and male.” She cited that the pool only has 13% Latino applicants compared to 46% in the county’s population, only 14% individuals under the age of 40 when they are 57% of the population, and 65% male applicants when women are half of the county’s population.
Ms. Hartmann inquired how Mr. Holland and his office distinguished “qualified” candidates from the “most qualified” candidates and deemed its selection process as “obscure.”
Mr. Holland responded that his charge was to select the most qualified candidate in conjunction with the four requirements laid out in the county code’s selection process.
“My charge was to take the most qualified… It does not request of me to take into account gender, age, or ethnicity,” he said.
When Ms. Hartmann pressed harder for Mr. Holland to talk about his selection process, he refused on the grounds that his job was to choose candidates based on the enumerated criteria.
First District supervisor Das Williams pointed out that criterium C for finding the nine finalists per district is that an applicant has “experience that demonstrates an appreciation for the diverse demographics and geography of the County of Santa Barbara.”
Criteria A and B, respectively, are that a candidate have experience that demonstrates analytical skills relevant to the redistricting process and voting rights, and have experience that demonstrates an ability to be impartial.
Mr. Williams also expressed a desire to know what differentiated qualified candidates from the most qualified. He also stressed that it’s important the five appointees chosen on Tuesday bear the county’s diversity in mind when selecting the final six commissioners.
According to a board letter, the five initial members will choose the final six based on “relevant experience, analytical skills, and ability to be impartial,” as well as “to ensure that the commission reflects the county’s diversity, including racial, ethnic, geographic, age, and gender diversity.”
Board chair and 2nd District supervisor Gregg Hart also expressed concern regarding the candidate list’s lack of diversity and was doubtful that the five initial commissioners would be able to fix it when selecting the final candidates.
“It will be very difficult for the people that are selected by this random process to fix the errors that are created by this initial pool,” he said.
Though 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino acknowledged his colleagues’ concerns, he stated that creating the CIRC is far preferable to the alternative, the five supervisors drawing their own boundaries despite having “ultimate ulterior motives.”
Vice chair and 4th District supervisor Peter Adam said that Mr. Holland should be given the benefit of the doubt considering that the criteria he was given to work with lacked the specificity to reach the outcome the board desired.
“The rules we gave him are a little bit subjective and he did the best he could to prioritize those different rules,” Mr. Adam said. “We didn’t tell him to put paragraph C first. We didn’t tell him how to arrive at the combined score of all those things.”
In other business, the board accepted a COVID-19 update and filed a KPMG report on the cannabis permitting process.