Los Osos resident may join panel to redraw districts

Here are some long odds: When Lillian Judd of Los Osos decided last year to make a run for the new state commission that will redraw legislative boundaries, she was one of 30,000 applicants.

Now, she is one of 60.

The yearlong process is not over yet. In the end, the State Commission on Redistricting will consist of 14 members, and Judd has a handful of hurdles left to jump.

But she’s already run a marathon, to keep with the track and field metaphor. She has had to fill out applications, answer essay questions, get people to submit letters of reference, and survive interviews with screeners.

Judd is far from complaining. Her overwhelming feeling, she told The Tribune, is excitement, especially at the prospect of the commission traveling all over the state to speak with citizens about how their government should work.

“It’s about including everyone,” Judd, 67, said. “I’ve been interested in small ‘d’ democracy since I was a child. I’ve never missed an election. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to improve the system.”

The budding commission has not drawn much attention this election season, even though there are two propositions on Tuesday’s ballot relating to it. Most of the ink has gone to Proposition 19 and its legalization of marijuana.

Voters created the redistricting commission with Proposition 11 in 2008. They wanted to take redistricting out of the hands of legislators who, they felt, draw districts in a way that protects incumbents and doesn’t bring together people who share common interests.

Two solid local examples: the 22nd Congressional District now held by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, which extends from the high desert in Mojave hundreds of miles to Arroyo Grande at the edge of the Pacific Ocean; and Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd District, which spans five counties.

Proposition 11 created the commission and gave it the authority to redraw those lines for the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization, in keeping with the state constitutional mandate to adjust them every 10 years after the census.

Proposition 20 would also give the new citizens’ commission the authority to redraw lines for the U.S. House of Representatives.

A competing measure, Proposition 27, would abolish the commission and return the right to draw these districts to the Legislature.

Judd says she is steering clear of the politics surrounding the commission and in fact regrets that some see this issue as the Legislature versus the people.

“It’s not citizens against elected officials,” she said — the commission needs to listen to them all.

One of the commission’s most immediate — and daunting — tasks, Judd said, will be to define terminology, especially the term “community of interest.”

Proposition 20 defines the term as “a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”

Proposition 27 lets the Legislature decide what “community of interest” means.

Should the definition fall to the commission, Judd said, and should she make the final cut, she would like to hear from people all over the state on what it means to them. Is a community of interest created by where you work, where your kids go to school, where you live? she asks. “It’s going to be a very, very complex issue.”

Judd is not afraid of complexity, however, any more than she is of drawing together diverse people. She has waded through both all her professional life, including many years with the county’s Economic Opportunity Commission, now known as the Community Action Partnership.

In her letter of recommendation, Biz Steinberg, executive director of the Community Action Partnership, praised Judd’s “integrity and work ethic,” calling her “an excellent researcher and analyst, and a brilliant writer,” skilled at collaboration, with a history of engaging in “countless meetings and conversations that advanced community well-being.”

There will be a further culling of finalists by the end of this month. Should Proposition 20 gather more votes than Proposition 27, the commission will go forward next year and is expected to have draft plans for redistricting ready by next September.

The redrawn districts will be in place for the 2012 election.