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Commentary: Redistricting an opportunity for Petalumans to ensure representation

As a child of a farmworker, I learned from my father the value of democratic participation and service to community, and my dad instilled in me a strong loyalty to our system of democracy.

For that reason, I am humbled and honored to have been selected as one of 14 Commissioners on the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which is charged with drawing maps for Congressional, State Senate and Assembly districts as well as mapping districts for the four Sate Board of Equalization seats.

Serving on the commission allows me to expand the circles of opportunity for more people and families across California - including you. We need your help to make sure this is a fair and equal process through your active participation. Determining fair boundaries is crucial because these boundaries determine which neighborhoods will be in each voting district.

As the chief administrative officer of Petaluma Health Center, I have seen first-hand how community participation can help improve the lives of those most in need. For example, at Petaluma Health Center – a federally-qualified health center serving 45,000 patients across seven sites in Sonoma and Marin counties – we are legally mandated to have at least 50% of our board of directors comprised of current patients in order to ensure that our community health center and its strategic priorities and investments are informed by the needs of the patients and communities we serve. Similarly, only if Californians actively participate in this redistricting process can we ensure that the maps and congressional districts and boundaries truly represent the needs and the will of all Californians.

The makeup of these districts is based on the results of the census, which is conducted every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution. Because of changes in the population of California over the last 10 years, and because Congressional districts are apportioned according to population, California will now have 52 Congressional districts instead of 53. This means Congressional districts will need to expand to include more people.

This year, there have been delays in collecting data due to the pandemic. The Census Bureau has announced that it will release the redistricting data by Sept. 30, 2021. While the commission waits for census data to begin drawing district maps, we are taking the time to communicate with communities regarding the redistricting process and are taking communities of interest input online to help us identify community boundaries. This new tool is meant to increase participation in the redistricting process and is available for all Californians to use in 14 languages.

Our communities are changing, faster than ever, and we need to make sure that all communities have fair, just and equitable representation. When people are acknowledged, they feel more tied to their community. When people are included, they participate more. When people are empowered, they are able to accomplish great things.

We are counting on you to share your communities’ stories and locations through our community of interest tool available online at drawmycacommunity.org, where you can electronically submit a map and tell us about your community. If you prefer paper and pen, we will be distributing a paper community of interest tool to complete and return to the commission. Our website also lists other ways you can connect with the commission. For more information and updates, go to wedrawthelinesCA.org.

Pedro Toledo is a commissioner for the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission and chief administrative officer for the Petaluma Health Center.

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