You could call it an embarrassment of riches. Most communities in Mono County only get one supervisor to represent them. But for the past eight weeks, and until at least 2012, Lee Vining and Mono City will get two.
If that sounds a bit awkward, it probably is.
The redistricting went into effect Aug. 16 when the county supervisors voted by a majority vote to accept new supervisorial district boundaries as created by a citizens redistricting committee. The plan, selected from of a total of three redistricting alternatives, pushed Lee Vining and Mono City out of Tim Hansen’s District 4 and down into District 3, the home of Supervisor Vikki Bauer.
The new boundaries gave Bauer, a June Lake resident, an area from Mammoth north to the Conway summit, and Hansen an area from Conway summit north to the Nevada border (along with an oddly shaped wraparound over to the eastern edge of the county and then down into Mammoth, but that’s another story…).
The problem is, Tim Hansen lives in Lee Vining, and was elected by Lee Vining residents, amidst others. The new boundaries make him a man without any official responsibility to his own hometown and its people, at least until the election of 2012 when his seat comes up.
It’s also the reason he didn’t join the majority Aug. 16, voting against the plan. Right now, though, it’s just plain making him mad.
Stuck in a unique situation, Hansen is determined to continue representing those who elected him.
“I’m going to keep going to these meetings, no matter what,” he said. “These people elected me, I have a responsibility to them. I haven’t missed a meeting since I was elected, I know all the issues and I’m going, even if Vikki is there.”
New boundaries in effect now
Hansen said he recently found out the new boundaries were already in effect last week.
“I thought the new boundaries didn’t go into effect until after the 2012 election, until I asked county counsel about it,” he said. “That was a surprise.”
“The Board’s ordinance changing the district boundaries has already taken effect,” Mono County Counsel Marshall Rudolph confirmed by email Wednesday. “As part of that change, the Mono Basin is now part of District 3. The change in district boundaries does not affect any incumbent supervisor’s term of office. So Tim Hansen will continue to represent (the newly drawn) District 4 for the remainder of his current term of office even though he is not a resident of District 4.”
Supervisor Bauer, unlike Hansen, isn’t upset with the situation. She said Wednesday she thinks the current situation, as odd as it may seem, will work out well for the citizens of both communities.
“Tim and I will work together to serve the Mono Basin, which in reality has been happening all along,” she said. “I have covered that RPAC (community advisory committees) during periods when they had no supervisor … because we share so much. Until Tim was there, the North County supervisors never did a whole bunch with them. I always naturally had more information on their issues and was always in it as a fellow supervisor. It’s really much a do about nothing … unless you ask Tim. But Tim … was voted in by the voters, and I would never disrespect that, and me, by happenstance of redistricting. How lucky are they right now to have two votes?”
She emphasized that the new boundary was set by residents of the region, not by her, and only after many months of public hearings and community meetings over the past year.
“Now that it has happened, I am thrilled,” she said. “There was not a single negative comment (outside of Tim, who was redistricted out) on this. In fact, the committee received more public comment (all positive) on this one issue than any other. And the comments were split between June Lake and the Mono Basin, with everyone in support.”
She added that most people never got used to the idea that June Lake was cut off from the rest of the Mono Basin communities ten years ago, during the 2000 Census.
“Most people never got the memo,” she said.
All over the state
The same thing is happening all over the state, on a larger scale, as state representative and senate districts are also being redistricted, Bauer said.
“In particular, (it’s happening in) the state senate districts due to election cycles,” she said. “Some areas have two senators and some (now) have none. Mono is in the “none” category, with no election for 2.5 years. We will be assigned a senator for the interim, until the election.”
In the meantime, Hansen, who ran a close race against Walker resident Tim Fesko, is getting far more than he bargained for when he entered politics for the first time.
The business owner (High Sierra Brine Shrimp) and decades-long resident of Lee Vining ran as a “common man” with a deep concern for the working class residents he feels are the heart of his district. During the time he ran, he was quick to draw contrasts between Mammoth’s resort-dominated needs and character, and those of his district.
Due to the new redistrict boundaries, he’s now the supervisor for a small part of Mammoth, an area north of Main Street on the eastern edge of town.
When asked how he would represent an area he had actively said had nothing in common with his own North County district, he said he would do his duty.
“It’s simple,” he said. “I will represent it as I have represented other issue that affect Mammoth in the past, and do my best to make good decisions.”
To see the maps that show the new district boundaries, go to: http://www.monocounty.ca.gov/redistricting/