Editorial Comments for June 17, 2011

Union Democrat staff /

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New foothill political boundaries create controversy

The Citizens Redistricting Commission released its first round of proposed districts for the U.S. Congress, state Senate and state assembly last week. Both Tuolumne and Calaveras county voters and taxpayers are likely to see significant changes in the individuals representing them in those three political bodies going into the 2012 election cycle. The re-apportionment has generated much discussion and some concern and disappointment in government and political circles.

The new districts will remain largely conservative and Republican - consistent with Tuolumne and Calaveras voting patterns in the recent past.

However, all ties to the Central Valley are jettisoned in this initial draft - and that's home to Kristin Olsen representing Tuolumne and Calaveras in the State Assembly; it's the home of Tom Berryhill, representing Tuolumne County in the state Senate; it's the home of Rep. Jeff Denham of Atwater, representing Tuolumne County in his 19th Congressional District. Denham and Olsen, especially, have impressed local residents and government officials with their accessibility, visibility and eagerness to serve our area. It's much noticed, discussed and appreciated.

We may lose those developing relationships with two capable public servants.

Calaveras would lose Congressman Dan Lungren in this re-districting along with Olsen in the Assembly. State Senator Ted Gaines would continue his representation of Calaveras. Congressman Tom McClintock's 4th Congressional district would be adding Calaveras, Tuolumne, Madera, Mariposa and parts of Fresno county to its existing boundaries of Amador, Alpine, El Dorado and Placer.

This congressional district would be more than 200 miles long from Auburn down to Fresno County.

Citizens can express their concerns and suggestions to the redistricting commission in upcoming hearings in Stockton and Fresno. Revising these proposed boundaries may prove to be difficult, however.

The best strategy for those local supporters of Denham, Olsen and Berryhill is to invite them to re-locate to our beautiful, scenic area and fight to continue their representation of the foothills.

Lack of funding for shifting convicts to county jails

A so-called "balanced" state budget of questionable legitimacy and credibility was approved by Democratic legislators on Wednesday - then vetoed by Jerry Brown on Thursday. Too many gimmicks and suspicious accounting, sayeth the governor.

One or more revised budget versions are sure to follow. Hopefully one will pass muster that provides more clarity for taxpayers, businesses, city and county governments and law enforcement.

Funding for the Governor's realignment plan for our over-crowded state prisons is of great concern. The original plan called for tax extensions to pay for shifting thousands of convicts to county jails. Those tax extensions are not in the budget plans now - and may never be. And yet 33,000 "low-level" offenders must be removed from state prisons over the next two years - 10,000 of them by late November 2011.

To compound the problem, these prisoners will be shifted to county jurisdictions at a time when sheriffs' budgets in all 58 California counties are facing significant cuts. With a state prison recidivism rate of 70 percent, an escalation in criminal activity is a cruel, hard reality. Beyond the sheriffs' budgets, probation departments will need more personnel and program funds to supervise these offenders and parolees. And county district attorneys' offices statewide will be prosecuting more cases - also with depleted resources and staff.

The real criminal behavior here was perpetrated by state legislators who continually failed to address the state prison over-crowding issue in recent years.

They kept kicking the can down the road. A Supreme Court mandate now limits our options. Tragically, all Californians will soon be at greater risk to criminal activity in our communities.

Challenges, opportunities await Gervin, Columbia

Columbia College Dennis Gervin was elected president of Columbia College last week in a unanimous vote by the Yosemite Community College District trustees. By all accounts, he is a very capable, talented and experienced administrator - highly respected by students, faculty and staff. He begins his new duties on July 1st.

Gervin has served the college as vice-president of student learning since 2005. Prior to that position, he held various faculty and administrative positions at Modesto Junior College which with Columbia constitute the Yosemite Community College District. Gervin's knowledge, background and association with both colleges; his previous work history with YCCD Chancellor Joan Smith; and hiscommitment to enhancing - in his words - "a brilliant and inspiring culture that is student focused" makes him a good and logical choice for president.

As with all institutes of higher learning in California, Columbia and YCCD face major budget challenges.

Fortunately for the college, the taxpayer supported Measure E bonds, passed in 2004, launched a series of building projects on campus, the most recent being a 24,000-square foot Science and Natural Resources building. That facility, with its lecture rooms, student labs and computer centers will be completed by September for fall classes.

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The Union Democrat
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