Under a plan approved on Tuesday, the City of Davis most likely will retain two representatives on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, but that result comes at a cost of the district that is traditionally reserved for rural Yolo County.
The controversial plan, passed 3-2, incorporated the plan of Craig Reynolds, Chief of Staff to Lois Wolk (and before that, Helen Thomson), who was Supervisor Don Saylor’s appointee to the redistricting committee.
This marks the first time that the county will not have a rural seat on the board.
The plan calls for Winters going into a district with West Davis, the seat currently held by Don Saylor.
The Fifth District, currently represented by Duane Chamberlain, traditionally reserved for rural voters, will be dominated by Woodland, which accounts for roughly 70% of the population.
Winters Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Aguiar-Curry expressed to the board of supervisors on Tuesday that Winters residents were angry at being lumped into a district with Davis. She argued that the rural areas should be kept together in one district.
Former Supervisor Frank Sieferman also expressed concerns about the loss of the rural district.
Supervisor Chamberlain, who is in jeopardy of losing his seat under the new arrangement, indicated that his priority would be to keep all of Winters in the 5th District.
He joined Supervisor Jim Provenza in opposing the vote.
They backed a plan that would have kept Winters in the rural district and paired part of West Sacramento with Woodland.
The vote came down to two factors – self-interest and politics.
It is no surprise that the split on the votes follows the general split on development issues, with Supervisors Chamberlain and Provenza being the strongest advocates for farmland preservation and thus limiting growth and development in the county.
Don Saylor and Mike McGowan represent the strongest pro-growth contingency on the board.
It was Craig Reynolds who drafted the plan. It gave Mr. Saylor a safe seat, and expanded the likely number of pro-growth votes from 3 to 4.
As is typical of Mr. Saylor, he couched the debate in terms of drawing district boundaries to be roughly of even population, arguing that it is about one person, one vote.
It sounds like a compelling argument. After all, the county’s population has increased, and shifted toward West Sacramento with residential growth centered in Southport.
But the vote is more easily explained in terms of philosophy and politics.
Mike McGowan represents District 1, which remains largely in West Sacramento, and that means he retains his district. Some of West Sacramento, under this plan, ends up in a district with Woodland.
Don Saylor backs this plan, as it keeps two seats for Davis, meaning he would not have to go head to head with Jim Provenza over a single Davis district. By including the more conservative Winters, Mr. Saylor likely attempts to avoid a serious challenge from the left.
The key swing vote was obviously Matt Rexroad, who can go either way on growth and development issues. For him, the key was that Woodland was not divided into three different districts. In fact, under this plan, Woodland likely has two seats, his own third district seat and the fifth district seat currently held by Supervisor Chamberlain.
The losers in this are the rural voters and the more progressive, anti-growth, farmland protection progressives. That puts Supervisor Chamberlain and Supervisor Provenza on the short end of the stick, along with the city of Winters, angry at having to be in a district with “liberal” Davis.
In so doing, the county has bucked a 100-year tradition of having a rural supervisor to protect the interests of the rural areas of the county, a county known for ag-land preservation.
Is this the beginning of the end of rural and agricultural Yolo County? When Mr. Chamberlain’s seat comes up, it likely marks the end of his tenure as protector of rural ag-land. The enigmatic and at times outspoken Duane Chamberlain seems a poor fit for a district to be dominated by Woodland.
Does that mean that traditional protectionist policies for farmland go with it? We shall see.
In the end, the rural district, Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Provenza lost out on a powerplay by Mr. Saylor, in which he induced his colleagues Mr. McGowan and Mr. Rexroad to join him.
—David M. Greenwald reporting