Dr. Gabino Aguirre selected for Citizens Redistricting Commission

December 17, 2010
Santa Paula News

Dr. Gabino Aguirre, retired from the City Council just a little over a week ago after serving two terms, has a new job.

On Wednesday he became one of 14 members of the voter created commission that will define political district lines that will help shape California for the next decade.

Aguirre was among six final members selected to the Citizens Redistricting Commission. “I received lots of support and it’s great to be where I am right now,” said Aguirre, who initially was among a field of 36,000 applicants hoping to serve on the new commission.

He expects to “get to business” rapidly: “We have public hearings that will be held up and down the state” starting next month and continuing through August 15. Aguirre said he is awaiting a call from the Attorney General’s Office in Sacramento on preparation for his new role.

A retired high school principal, Aguirre said, “I certainly will be pushing for a hearing here.... We have been disenfranchised here in the Santa Clara River Valley and I think it is appropriate to remedy that.”

Aguirre said the redistricting of 2001 - done every decade based on Census returns - demonstrated the importance of drawing districts that reflect the regional interests of communities. Santa Paula and Fillmore were included as an “afterthought” in a new Senate district that also includes Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and portions of San Bernardino County. “We wound up with a state senator who initially didn’t know who we were, or even where we were,” an “asinine situation that worked against the needs and aspirations of our community.”

Aguirre said he is also “sensitive to the needs of farmworkers” - his family were farmworkers and he worked as same as a youth - and will be able to speak on their behalf.

Although a 10-year appointment, Aguirre said he expects “Most of the heavy lifting will be done the first 18 months,” with agreed-to redistricting then mandated to undergo state, federal and Voting Rights Act judicial reviews. He will commute to Sacramento as needed and attend all hearings held statewide.

“It’s a very important position and I look forward to the challenge.... It will be a learning experience for me, and great for our community,” as Aguirre is the only representative from Ventura County on the panel of 14.

The panel will have two members familiar with the civic, economic and demographic aspects of Ventura County. In addition to Aguirre, Michelle DiGuilio-Matz was selected. Now a Stockton resident, she grew up in Ventura and is the daughter of former Ventura Mayor Ray DiGuilio.

The commission was created by voters with the 2008 passage of Proposition 11. The selection process, which started early this year, placed a high priority on creating a panel that reflected the state’s gender, ethnic and geographic diversity.

By law, the panel includes five Democrats, five Republicans and four members who are affiliated with neither major party, each of whom must provide a majority vote for decisions. With the first eight members selected by lottery, the final six selections - including Aguirre - were designed to balance out any disparities produced by the initial lottery.

The final panel consists of seven men and seven women; four Asian-Americans, three whites, three Latinos, two blacks, a Pacific Islander and a Native American. Eight are from Southern California, including four from Los Angeles County and one each from Orange, Ventura, San Diego and Riverside counties. Three are from the San Francisco Bay Area, and one each is from the southern Central Valley, northern Central Valley and the Central Coast.

There are no members from the approximately one-third of the state that lies north of Sacramento.

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