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February 19, 2019

Desert Water Agency Hearing On District Elections - February 19, 2019

This is a report on the public hearing held by the Desert Water Agency on the subject of "Transition to Elections by Division," i.e., district elections. The meeting was in the Lozano Community Center in Tedesco Park on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, and marks the first time in the history of its existence (well, actually first time in the memory of Nancy Wright, which is probably just as good) that the Desert Water Agency board has visited Desert Hot Springs. All five DWA directors were present.

In the audience, directors from Mission Springs Water District were present, along with Yvonne Parks and Karl Baker who ran for the DWA board in 2018 and lost. No Desert Hot Springs City Council members were present, but this hearing was at 5:30 on Tuesday and the city council meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 o'clock, so they all had a good excuse to be elsewhere.


Intro

You can download the PDF version of the Powerpoint presentation here.

General Manager Krause spoke first, providing some background on aquifers and water districts in the Coachella Valley. Below is a map of Desert Water Agency. You can see they haven't updated it to show the current boundaries of DHS. Desert Water Agency covers almost all of Palm Springs and extends into Cathedral City (about 6,000 people there) and even a tiny segment of Rancho Mirage where 19 people live.

DWA District Boundary

The map below shows Mission Springs Water District. There are small areas of MSWD that lie outside DWA, and there are areas within MSWD that are not actually part of MSWD, but might be covered by DWA. But to oversimplify a little, you can think of MSWD as lying within DWA.

MSWD Boundary Map

In the 2010 census, the population residing in DWA was 89,317. Divide that by five (there are five directors) and each district, if impossibly perfect, would contain 17,863.4 people. Naturally, after each census, the districts would have to be re-apportioned, just as every population-based district in the U.S. does.

DWA Population Map

Below is the map showing the percentage of the population identified as Latino. On the map was this note: "Asian-Americans and African-Americans are not concentrated in large numbers anywhere in the [district]."

DWA Latino Population Map


The Legal Stuff

Next, Desert Water Agency's Attorney Riddell spoke. The DWA was founded in 1961 by an act of the legislature called "Desert Water Agency Law." This particular law seems not to have been entered into the conveniently searchable online database that one would usually use to delve into California statutes. But I did find a Google Books version that you can read.

Attorney Riddell explained the California Voting Rights Act, including recent amendments that created this system that is pushing many agencies and cities to go to district elections. I covered this briefly in my report on the January MSWD meeting. The essential difference is that Desert Water Agency has received notification from an attorney representing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which is why the DWA is actively involved in the process of switching to district elections.

The process first requires two public hearings (this meeting was the second of those), then draft map options are prepared (by a demographer hired for the purpose), then two public hearings on the maps (this is where the real fighting will be), and then a final public hearing where the DWA board will adopt a map of districts.


Yet More Info

Outreach & Conservation Manager Metzger spoke next. The demographer will be the same one used by the cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and the Desert Healthcare District.

Ms. Metzger estimated the adoption of the final map would come near the end of summer. [If I were inclined to be paranoid, I'd say they were going to try to slip it by while I'm at Burning Man, but I don't think I actually figure that highly in the local political scene.]

She showed us district maps of some jurisdictions that meet legal and constitutional requirements. The City of Compton and Glendale Unified School District based their districts solely on population.

Compton and Glendale Unified District Maps

Pasadena drew their districts so that every one touched Colorado Boulevard, thereby giving every council member some responsibility for the downtown area. Central Unified School District drew their districts so that every high school district was in the districts of two board members, so that all parents would have two board members they could go to if they had concerns.

Pasadena and Central Unified District Maps

DWA is sharing district election information on their website at DWA.org/divisions, including the maps I've posted here. In the future, that will be where they post the proposed district maps. You can send comments to divisions@DWA.org or contact any DWA Director.


Public Input

This was regular public comments where you could comment on anything DWA-related (or not related, for that matter). The Public Hearing would follow, where comments were to pertain solely to district elections. This simple concept was explained by DWA Board President Joe Stuart in such a way that it left experienced politicians like Karl Baker and Nancy Wright wondering what exactly he had just said. What it boiled down to was that you could get two separate 3-minute comment periods, if you wanted.

Karl Baker spoke first. He said he was long-winded so he would take advantage of both comment opportunities, if he understood President Stuart correctly. He said that drawing the districts did not have to be solely on racial lines, but that communities of interest could be considered as well [as was shown in Pasadena]. He said potential growth should be considered. The Desert Hot Springs area has great potential for growth, while Palm Springs and other cities south of the 10 freeway are pretty well built up. Mr. Baker estimated that the 2020 census might show the population north of the 10 equal in size to the population south of it (within the Desert Water Agency, of course). He encouraged the DWA board to draw the lines so that the area north of the 10 would get two districts, the other three being south of the 10.

Nancy Wright spoke next. She said she agreed with a lot of what Mr. Baker said. She said that based on the volume of wastewater being treated at MSWD's Horton wastewater treatment plant and based on the number of connections and amount of water being sold, MSWD has a sense that the population north of the 10 has grown tremendously since 2010. She also wondered if DWA had tried to reach out to the unincorporated areas around Desert Hot Springs to inform them of this districting process. She wanted also to confirm that after draft maps are drawn, people will be able to comment on them at public hearings.

Ms. Wright thanked the DWA board for being present, saying that it's the first time she is aware that they have been on this side of the 10 in the past 30 years.

A resident of Desert Hot Springs (I couldn't catch her name) spoke next. She expressed her opinion that there should be two districts north of the 10.


Public Hearing

Now the public hearing was open. Yvonne Parks spoke first. She said she had been looking at DWA's Latino population map. She saw that east of Desert Hot Springs there were large areas of purple, indicating a Latino population lower than 25%. Moving west, she saw more pink areas indicating a Latino population of 75% to 100%. Around those were more areas of yellow (65% to 75% Latino) and green (50% to 65% Latino). So her suggestion was to create two districts, one easterly that would include Desert Edge, the other district more westerly with a higher Latino population.

Karl Baker returned to the podium. He suggested Palm Drive be the line between Ms. Parks' suggested east and west districts, but north of Pierson he suggested the line should "take a jog over east" to include an area "that's different than the Hacienda Heights portion of our city." He then spoke of a coming development out along highway 62 that will include 8,500 homes. He said 2,200 of those homes are "active." Then he spoke of the future development at the east end of Pierson which will be about 1,200 homes. There is also an approved condo development that will have about 300 units at Palm Drive and Camino CampaƱero, he said.

[But the chances of any of these homes being completed, sold and occupied before the 2020 census is very slim, IMO. Those people will have to wait until the redistricting based on the 2030 census.]

Mr. Baker also spoke about the substantial industrial development going on in Desert Hot Springs that would require water. [But would not include any residences, so no population, so it's not very relevant to districting, IMO.]

Nancy Wright came to the podium to say that MSWD's urban water master plan, sewer master plan and the district's water infrastructure master plan would be good references to anticipate areas of expected growth.

President Stuart closed the public hearing and reminded people to follow their website (DWA.org) and social media (Facebook at www.facebook.com/dwawater/) for more information about this districting process.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Politics | permalink | February 19, 2019 at 10:14 PM

Comments

The shown with the title "Desert Water Agency Boundary Map" shows an incorrect city limit boundary for Desert Hot Springs. The boundary shown is pre-annexation. Map shows a revision date of 4/99 which is likely the culprit.

Posted by: Russ at Feb 22, 2019 9:57:34 AM

2/20 Ron Thanks for doing this - perhaps will get out to folks here in DHS and surrounds so they can begin to talking about and learning what may happen to the future of DHS if DWA wins the lawsuite and DWA controls the redistricting of DWA Board. rc3

Posted by: Richard Cromwell III at Feb 20, 2019 1:12:14 PM

Ron, thanks so much for writing this up. DWA is NOT going to be fair to MSWD/DHS residents. I'm sure they do not want to give us 2 seats on their board. It is sad the the census results take so long. DHS has had a wonderful influx of African Americans in the past 5 years. This ethnicity doesn't even seem to be on the radar in this discussion at all. Additionally, DWA should create two boards. One that provides the "retail" water to their customers in Palm Springs, and another that is the State Water Project "wholesaler" to MSWD. Otherwise there IS a conflict of interest on their one board... even if DHS/MSWD gets 2 seats.

Posted by: Jeff Bowman at Feb 20, 2019 2:00:42 AM

Let's hope the more public meetings he goes to, the better he will understand how they work.

Posted by: Ron Gilbert at Feb 19, 2019 11:45:12 PM

Grasha was at Council tonight.
Not sure why unless he is the new face of MSWD??

Posted by: Mike PicardI at Feb 19, 2019 10:59:48 PM

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