Konda: California’s redistricting commission needs to hear from Silicon Valley
An aerial view of Cityview Plaza in downtown San Jose. File photo.

    For the first time in 10 years, Silicon Valley residents have a chance to shape our representation in government and hold elected officials accountable to our interests, from affordable housing to good jobs and health care.

    Through a national process called redistricting, every state is using data from the 2020 Census to determine which areas elected officials represent. Each district must have an equal number of residents and should aim to keep neighborhoods and communities with shared interests together.

    Over the next few months, community members and local civil rights organizations in our region will be holding meetings and workshops to help residents inform California’s redistricting process.

    Starting in 2011, an independent redistricting commission decides the redistricting lines for the Assembly, state Senate, and Congressional districts in California. This commission-led process results in one of the most transparent and non-partisan redistricting efforts in the country. Still, the benefits of the commission’s participatory process can only be realized if as many people as possible get involved.

    In Silicon Valley, we’ve done this before by speaking out about our shared interests and the common goals and aspirations we have with our neighbors.

    In the 2001 redistricting process, state legislators who were then in charge of redistricting broke up San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood into four Assembly districts and two state Senate districts. After years of advocating for their interests together, Berryessa neighbors could no longer raise their concerns to shared representatives. On every issue it was a struggle to get politicians’ attention.

    And so Berryessa neighbors organized. At public hearings held in our region, Berryessa residents came together and asked the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to reunite the neighborhood in one district. My organization, the Asian Law Alliance, joined with Asian Americans for Community Involvement, the Vietnamese American Roundtable, Berryessa Citizens Advisory Council and the Pakistani American Community Center to make sure residents knew when hearings were being held and understood the state’s process.

    At the regional hearings, Berryessa residents explained to the commissioners how they defined their community and shared what brings them together with their neighbors. As part of a larger coalition, they submitted maps to show how the neighborhood could stay together in one district.

    Later that year, the commission released its final maps and Berryessa was reunified into single Assembly and state Senate districts, a testament to the tight-knit community’s strength and perseverance.

    This summer, the redistricting process begins once again. Silicon Valley residents have the opportunity to speak out for our shared interests so that we can build power for our communities, especially those who have been historically left behind in local and national politics.

    There are many different ways to get involved:

    1. You can tell commissioners about your community before they start drawing the new maps at regional meetings that will be held throughout the summer. You can find meeting agendas and notices at www.wedrawthelinesca.org/meetings.
    2. Visit DrawMyCACommunity.org to draw a map of your community that will be sent directly to the commission.
    3. Reach out to my organization, Asian Law Alliance, and join our webinars and information sessions throughout the summer. You can find more information about events for Silicon Valley residents at asianlawalliance.org/redistricting-2021/.

    No matter who we are or where we live, we all want a say in the decisions that shape our lives, especially as we try to pull through COVID-19 and recover in a way that uplifts everyone. By getting involved in California’s 2021 redistricting process, Silicon Valley has an opportunity to ensure our voices and needs are heard.

    Richard Konda is executive director of the Asian Law Alliance, a nonprofit working to provide equal access to the justice system for Asian Pacific Islander and low-income populations in Silicon Valley.

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