Congratulations and condolences to the seven souls selected to be on Chula Vista’s districting commission.
Rita Buenocamino-Andrews, John Korey, Rey Monzon, William Richter, Patty Chavez, Cheryl Goddart and Jerome Torres were among more than a dozen people who applied for the job of creating Chula Vista’s first ever voting districts. And, as of Wednesday afternoon, they were the only ones left standing (provided of course the City Council gives their final OK at Tuesday’s council meeting).
That they volunteered, were deemed worthy and ultimately selected to be part of a historic endeavor is worth handshakes and slaps on the back.
At the same time, they are to be mildly pitied.
The road ahead won’t be easy. Given the task of drawing Chula Vista’s inaugural voting boundaries, the commission will be subject to scrutiny and second-guessing like no other commission before it. They’re pioneers in uncharted territory and rather than having predecessors to turn to for counsel, they find themselves in the position of figuring out the process as they go along.
Lucky for them Chula Vista’s political apathy is greater than its activism. An examination of voter statistics or a trip to a random City Council meeting will reveal that politics is to Chula Vista what pro basketball is to San Diego — a passing interest is there but not enough to demand the NBA to set up a franchise in the big town by the sea.
In all likelihood the commissioners won’t find their characters and personal beliefs questioned the way they are in other districting arenas (either at the local or state level) and criticisms they receive will most likely be mild and absent personal attacks. For everyone’s sake that is something to be appreciated.
But given the importance of the task ahead — determining which Chula Vista neighborhoods comprise which voting blocs that, in turn, select someone who will specifically address their needs — the commission’s actions will be heavily scrutinized.
As they should be.
Chula Vista is entering a new chapter. In a couple of years residents from the east side, for example, will elect someone whose main objective will be to bring families there a stand-alone library, while residents of the city’s southwest neighborhoods will have elected a neighbor who knows how desperately needed sidewalks are.
Critics of district voting argued that voting blocs create a kind of tribalism, where the needs of one community are championed over the needs of another, to the detriment of the city as a whole. That notion was silly. In a family, just because you address the specific needs of one member does not mean you sacrifice the good of the unit. A family is strongest when all its members are happy and provided for.
The new commission has the daunting task of creating the boundaries that will make that happen.