Changes afoot for Auburn as political boundaries being redrawn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The once-every-decade overhaul of local, state and congressional boundary lines is moving into the fine-tuning stages. For Auburn, the biggest proposed changes could result in a shift into new Assembly and state Senate districts. Those changes would position the city at the north end of multi-county districts in the Sierra foothills but outside the boundaries of the Republican strongholds of Rocklin and Roseville. On the congressional front, Auburn would be part of a foothills district spreading from the outer limits of Fresno to the Nevada County line and include Roseville and Rocklin. The new lines are now being established by the state’s Citizen’s Redistricting Commission, which met in late May for a hearing in Auburn and will be voting next Thursday on a second round of draft maps. Deadline for the work to be completed by the commission is Sept. 15. The commission’s move to separate the more suburban Roseville area and Auburn reflects testimony it received indicating that South Placer, which has undergone a huge population explosion since the last census a decade ago, is more closely aligned with the Sacramento area. Auburn City Council had pressed for keeping Placer County as one entity in Senate and Assembly districts, but City Councilman Kevin Hanley said last week it appears that will now not happen. One outcome would likely be an open election for Auburn voters in what is being called the foothills districts because both state Sen. Ted Gaines and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines – who now represent Auburn – are based in Roseville. Hanley said the new districts could best be described as the Mother Lode – with a north-south alignment that would consider more rural issues in the foothills. “A lot of people told the commission when it came to Auburn that ‘we’re a rural area and don’t want to be thrown in with the big city,’” Hanley said. “And that’s what they got if it stays this way.” The move toward a division line separating Auburn and Roseville on the state level is being backed by Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner. Bonner said South Placer County and adjoining areas of Sacramento County should be considered communities of interest as they related to future congressional districts. Bonner said Placer County has two distinct areas that vary greatly, with Granite Bay, Lincoln, Loomis, Rocklin and Roseville more suitably identified with the Sacramento County communities of Folsom, Citrus Heights and Orangevale, among others. Don Nicodemus Jr., a Cameron Park resident in Ted Gaines senatorial district, said he’s been watching state commission deliberations and the work is still far from complete, with boundaries continuing to be realigned as the panel gains more input. “What they’re missing is the ability to make districts more competitive,” Nicodemus said, noting that Republican and Democratic Party state legislators made a now-infamous deal a decade ago to create safe seats. Nicodemus said he’s troubled as the commission moves forward with divisions that now appear to have developed among panel members that could serve to thwart the process, delay boundary decisions and possibly throw the final decision-making process into the courts. “They have to pull together so the commission can come out with a proposal and not end up in disunity,” he said. “Not everyone is going to be happy.” Locally, Placer County is acting alone on creating new supervisorial boundary lines, with a deadline to complete the process of Nov. 1. Supervisors will be deciding on a set of maps that reflect growth in Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln and show Auburn moving from its current District 3, which includes Loomis, Penryn and part of Rocklin, to District 5, which takes in Colfax, Foresthill and the eastern portions of Placer County. Supervisor Jim Holmes, a North Auburn resident, represents District 3, while Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who lives in Serene Lakes, represents District 5. Under the current proposals, Montgomery would take over the city of Auburn’s area, while Holmes would continue to represent District 3 but not the city. Hanley said that the shift into District 5 for Auburn was expected, given the population growth shrinking the size of South Placer districts and the need for Montgomery’s district to expand geographically. “Everyone assumed it would happen,” he said. And despite the distance between Montgomery’s home base and Auburn, Hanley said it’s possible for a District 5 supervisor to remain effective. The councilman said Montgomery has already reached out to Auburn by attending regular “Meddlers” meetings of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and having a representative on the Greater Auburn Firesafe Committee. “If you get around and talk to people and listen to their concerns, you can have good representation,” Hanley said.