Union City might not be split, but its government representation could change based on the first round of congressional and state legislative maps released Friday by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The 14-member independent commission has redrawn the lines for the state's 53 Congressional districts, 40 State Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and four Board of Equalization seats after working for months on the endeavor.
It's a process that's new to California, and it represents a large-scale national effort to weed out gerrymandering.
The commission was spawned by a 2008 voter-approved ballot measure that stripped state legislators of the power to draw their own boundaries and was expanded to include congressional districts last November.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years using updated population data from the most recent U.S. Census. This time around the commission says its goal is to create contiguous districts of relatively equal population that minimize city and county divisions and group towns with similar "communities of interest."
Union City Mayor Mark Green said he thinks the commission largely succeeded in accomplishing voters' main wish, that lines be drawn without consideration to creating incumbent-protected districts, and said the city fares well overall in the first version of maps published June 10.
The Tri-City area of Union City, Newark and Fremont are presently grouped into the same state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts. But while the current draft keeps the three cities together in a single state Senate district, it separates Union City and the north part of Fremont from the rest of the area in Congress and state Assembly.
Yet unlike Fremont, the city itself is not split in its political representation in any of the district map drafts.
That's a relief to long-time Union City resident and former City Council member Richard Valle, who said as a small, ethnically diverse town, Union City and its voters will carry the most weight by staying unified in the same districts.
"We want to make sure we are not disenfranchised by being split," Valle said. "It's important our town be kept whole."
Congressional House of Representatives
In the first draft, Union City stays in the 13th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont).
The city's neighbors to the south, however, could face some changes. If the present maps are adopted, all of Newark and most of Fremont would move out of the 13th District and into a district made up mostly of Santa Clara County cities.
The lines would also move Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) out of his district and into the 13th. McNerney currently represents the 11th Congressional District, which straddles portions of the East Bay and the more conservative Central Valley.
He could run in the 13th District in upcoming congressional elections should Stark, a veteran lawmaker first elected to Congress in 1973, step down.
Mayor Green said with the exclusion of Alameda and addition of Castro Valley, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore, the new 13th District could carry a more influential voice in Congress.
"You have a very strong Southern Alameda County seat with that area," he said.
Union City would also be separated from its Tri-Cities counterparts in the state Assembly.
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) currently represents the 20th Assembly District, an irregularly-shaped area that includes Union City, Newark, Fremont, Milpitas and parts of Sunol, Castro Valley and Pleasanton, plus tiny portions of Hayward and San Jose.
The new map shows Newark and most of Fremont joining a predominantly Santa Clara County district, while Union City and the northern part of Fremont would join the 18th Assembly District currently represented by Rep. Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), who will be termed out in 2012.
The city would lose Wieckowski as its representative because state lawmakers are required to live in the districts they represent.
Wieckowski, currently serving his first term, said he hopes the Tri-Cities are reunited once a second round of draft maps is unveiled next month.
"The Tri-Cities have numerous regional organizations. We read the same newspaper, we get the same cable TV," Wieckowski said. "The commission did express an interest in revisiting district lines around Fremont, but they're going to have a difficult time because Berryessa's been split up in the past, Pleasanton's been split up in the past. My hope would be that Fremont and Newark could be united, and in my best world Union City would be united also, because of the economic interests that we have together."
Green pointed out that Union City would still be aligned with the portion of Fremont the city shares its border with, and that though it has ties to the Tri-Ctiies, joining a district with Hayward makes sense too.
Union City currently shares more of its border with Hayward than with any other town. The New Haven Unified School District serves parts of Hayward as well, and both cities are represented in the same district — District 2 — on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, he said.
Union City, a part of the 10th State Senate District, would continue to share a state senator with Newark, Fremont and Hayward, plus the communities of San Lorenzo, Sunol and Milpitas.
The main differences in the new boundaries are the exclusion of Pleasanton and San Leandro and the 10th District's push south to include more of San Jose. A portion of the unincorporated community of Castro Valley is currently in the district; in the new proposal, all of Castro Valley would be included.
Union City is represented by Sen. Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose home town would join Alameda, Berkeley and Oakland in what is currently the 9th State Senate District.
Commissioners will now hold 11 hearings throughout the state to get public feedback on the proposed district maps. Bay Area meetings are scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. June 25 at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., and from 6 to 9 p.m. June 27 at Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater in San Francisco. (For a full schedule, visit www.wedrawthelines.org).
Interested parties are expected to weigh in extensively on the drafts, and commissioners could change the district boundaries in a second draft of maps due to be released on July 7. More public testimony will be gathered before final maps are released Aug. 1. The deadline to adopt final maps is Aug. 15.
Valle said he fears Union City could still be split up in the second round of proposed maps.
"I would hope our elected officials in Union City would fight to keep us intact," he said.
But Green said even if Union City were to be split up, which is unlikely, that would mean the city would have the ear of two legislators instead of one, which could bring its own benefits.
The main downside for any town that is split, Green said, would be for local politicians, who would not be able to count on a unified city to back them in pursuit of higher office.
Residents who have opinions on the proposed district boundaries may submit their comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 901 P St., Suite 154-A, Sacramento, CA 95814 or by FAX to 916-651-5711.