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March 23, 2023

Funny Papers Again Column | This Just In: Sacramento Lawmakers Scuttle Local Columnist

For today’s column I cite Joe Mathews as main source. Joe writes the California Connected column for Arizona State University’s publication Zocalo Public Square (which is redundant as a zocalo is a public square, but I digress).

Instead of taking a dramatic approach where I would ply you with many facts and figures in a staccato cadence of nouns with myriad descriptive adjectives leading up to one climatic denouement sentence, I will just give it to you straight from the top. Monterey County does not have a state representative living within its boundaries. Not one. Now come the facts and figures.

There are right around 437,000 people living in this county and they inhabit from Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula to Salinas to the Valley and such far-flung areas as Bitterwater and Parkfield to Jolon and Bryson Hesperia; areas where financial, social and cultural diversity is the norm.

The county provides the nation with a cornucopia of agricultural products from lettuce, providing one-third of the nation’s total, and broccoli to cattle and wine; just a few of the vast exportations. In 2020, prior to the pandemic shut downs, the sales figures for vegetables, fruits and nuts, livestock and poultry, nursery crops, field crops and seed crops and apiary totaled $3,910,135,000; that does not count the $4.4 billion in cannabis products sold to consumers. That is one healthy agricultural landscape.

Tourism can be both a blessing and a bane, depending when and where it exists. I have read and heard peninsula residents complain for years about the negative (to them) impacts of some of the larger events held throughout the area; the annual Contours de Elegance held in various locations and motorcycle races at Laguna Seca are two easy targets for local complainants.

On the flip side of the proverbial coin, I have heard cries of dismay at lack of tourism in South County. No matter your opinion of it, tourism brought a whole lot of people into the county in 2021 and they spent $2.5 billion; which was a drop of 22% from 2019.

I could go on about the diversity of the residents in Monterey County, but I really do not think it necessary for you readers as you live here and you know we are a people of many heritages occupying all the rungs of society’s cultural ladder. And with all that and much, much more to be said about this dynamic county with a colorful past and bright future, still there is no resident of the county representing our interests in Sacramento.

Why, you ask? Well, the answer to that starts way back in Massachusetts in 1812 when Gov. Elbridge Gerry signed off on a map Jeffersonian Republicans had redrawn so as to gain political advantage for their party at the polls. One of the new districts was shaped like a salamander so rivals of the new map came up with the portmanteau of Gerry-mander and the word exists today when politicians redraw voting districts to benefit their political party; though today the word is pronounced with a soft “g” as in Jerry, whereas Elbridge’s was pronounced with the hard “g” as in Gary.

This little bit of partisan surveying and remapping took place last year here in California and — voila! — no more local representative up in the big white building in Sac. I have known Anna Caballero for decades; we first met when as a reporter for the Greenfield News I did an article about the law firm she was a partner in opened a local office. Later she was my lawyer when a personal affair grew into troubles with the local school district and then later when she was mayor of Salinas and finally as our representative in the state assembly.

She is the person with the deepest ties to Monterey County, but with the new map Anna’s district is now in the Central Valley; she and husband Juan still reside in Salinas. One of our present assemblypersons is former Morro Bay councilwoman Dawn Addis, whose District 30 runs from Santa Maria to Monterey Bay, 103 miles from where she lives. And while Robert Rivas’ District 29 represents the eastern half of Monterey County, he is a San Benito County boy, raised in Paicines, went to school in San Juan Bautista and lives in Hollister.

In the state senate representing State District 17, which includes Santa Cruz County and Monterey County with parts of both Santa Clara County and San Luis Obispo County, is John Laird; he is a Santa Cruz resident.

But this is not a rant against our present representation in either the assembly or senate, just pointing out a simple fact: we have no Monterey County residents in any of our voting districts. And as Mr. Mathews points out, the reason it is possible for such a viable county as Monterey County to have no resident representative dates back to 1879, the last time California, with a population of less than 1 million persons, set legislative districts.

Today, the average national population for state legislature districts is around 100,000 people; in California it is about 500,000 people, more than our total population allowing for the no resident representative situation we now have in Sacramento.

STOP THE PRESSES!! (I always wanted to say that even though given modern technology I doubt there have been presses for years.) I left off with the paragraph above to attend to some errands and tasks, one of which was reading emails.

I get Anna Caballero’s newsletter and this newest one informs the Senate Rules Committee ruled that Anna will continue to represent the Salinas Valley and San Benito County, which adds 300,000 constituents to her District 14. She will continue until the seat is filled after the 2024 elections; very good news for us here in the Valley, but it sank a very nicely written paragraph with some pertinent factoids. But, things happen.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist


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