Census Will Shift Political Power

The U.S. Census Bureau released the long-anticipated population numbers on December 21. The country had 308,745, 538 people on April 1, 2010, and California stood at 37,253,956. That sound you heard was the collective sigh of relief expressed by many in the California policy community who feared that California might lose a member of Congress due to population shifts.

For the first time since statehood, California did not gain a seat in the House of Representatives as a result of reapportionment of House seats. As a result of the census, each of California's 53 congressional districts will have roughly 710,000 people per district.

Local Political Maps to Be Redrawn

Now that we know how many seats California will have, the state must redraw the district lines to reflect state population shifts over the past 10 years. The task of redrawing the district lines will fall to a new commission approved by the voters. In past years, the district maps were drawn by the California legislature. Often these maps were drawn to protect the incumbent, a process known as gerrymandering. It's been said that under this practice, "the voters don't choose their elected officials, the elected officials choose their voters."

The commission's task is to draw district lines without regard to political party or incumbency. It will be a yearlong process in which districts representing seats in the House of Representatives, the state Senate and the Assembly will be redrawn to reflect population shifts over the past decade. Since the Bay Area has had little population growth relative to other regions of the state, such as the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, many believe the Bay Area is currently overrepresented. So while the state did not lose a member of Congress, the Bay Area delegation may shrink.

Watch for a senior Bay Area member of Congress to consider retiring so his district might be absorbed by the rest of the delegation. How will this impact Saint Mary's? It could mean we will be moved into another congressional district. If the Bay Area needs to gain population, we may be returned to the 8th congressional district (Barbara Lee), which represented us in the 1970s and '80s, or the 11th district (Jerry McNerney), which could grow and pick us up. We could also stay in the 10th district (John Garamendi) or even be moved into the 7th district (George Miller). Many scenarios are possible. I will be watching this process very closely over the next few months.

Change in Sacramento Could Impact Education

Jerry Brown was sworn in as governor 36 years after he took office the first time. At 72, he is exactly twice the age he was when he was first elected. Once the youngest person to be elected governor of California, he is now the oldest. He enters office with enormous challenges, not the least of which is a chronic budget deficit. "Everything is on the table" seems to be the new mantra in Sacramento.

This gives many of us in the Higher Education community pause. Can we expect another fight over Cal Grants? In an effort to educate our legislators on the importance of the Cal Grant scholarship program, Brother President Ronald Gallagher personally met with State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) in December to provide a thorough briefing on the Cal Grant scholarship and its benefits to the state of California. Additional meetings are planned with the entire Contra Costa delegation. Governor Brown's initial budget will be released later this month. Keep your seat belt on; it may be a bumpy flight ahead.

A Political Milestone

Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) longtime elected official and Contra Costa public servant, was sworn in as California's superintendant of public instruction. Torlakson becomes the first Contra Costan to be elected to a statewide office since California achieved statehood in 1850. Congratulations to Mr. Superintendant.

New Mayor for Moraga

Congratulations to Moraga Councilmember Karen Mendonca, who was selected by her council colleagues to be mayor of Moraga for the coming year.

Presidential Debate at SMC?

On December 1, the college hosted a representative from the Commission on Presidential Debates to do a "pre-survey" of our campus to determine if we meet the minimum capacity to formulate a bid for the 2012 presidential debate. The preliminary report was positive. He had some concerns about the ceiling height and lighting in McKeon Pavilion, so we exploring ways to resolve those issues. The 2012 guidelines were published earlier this month, and the college is developing a formal application, which will be submitted later this spring.

Cultural Beat - Moraga to Host Major Independent Film Festival.

The iconic Rheem Theatre was selected as the home of the California Independent Film Festival, which will showcase nine independent films from all over the world. The 13th annual festival will open on Friday, Jan. 28, and run until Wednesday, Feb. 3. Please visit http://www.caiff.org/ for more information on this exciting local event.

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