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College trustees vote to keep current boundaries

Mona Hill
Staff Writer


Four Feather River Community College District trustees voted Thursday, Feb. 16, to retain the board’s at-large composition and trustee district boundaries. Trustee John Sheehan was absent.

The 2010 census revealed significant population shifts within the trustees’ individual districts. The law requires boards take action following a census if the population shift between districts is more than 10 percent.

Dr. Derek Lerch, interim chief instructional officer at Feather River College, GIS Planner Becky Osborn and Steve Allen, a former employee at the county’s planning department, presented the FRC board with three options in December 2011.

Options 1 and 2 would have adjusted the line between the Quincy and East Quincy districts with slightly different changes in the Portola, Graeagle and Whitehawk areas. Option 3 leaves the boundaries as they were.

While the law does not require the boundaries to change in at-large districts, legal counsel to the FRC board had cautioned that Option 3 could expose the college to litigation over inequities of minority representation in the district.

Because PUSD and FRCCD use the same district and trustee boundaries, the two boards discussed the matter as the options developed. Most recently, PUSD trustees Chris Russell and Bob Tuerck met Feb. 8 with FRCCD trustees John Schramel and John Sheehan.

Later the same day, the entire PUSD board met and the issue was on its agenda.

Tuerck, himself an attorney, questioned the strength of any legal threat and urged the PUSD board to investigate the matter further before voting.

In a later email, Tuerck said, “It does not appear that either the California Voting Rights Act or Federal Voting Rights Act would require PUSD/PCOE or FRC to change from the current ‘at large’ voting method.”

Because both are at-large districts, all county voters may vote for district board candidates regardless of the district the candidates represent. For example, a Portola resident may vote for a Chester representative and vice versa.

Such districts also give residents opportunities to contact any board member rather than a specific representative.

After discussion, Dr. Dana Ware’s motion to approve Option 1, seconded by John Schramel, failed.

FRCCD board president Bill Elliott said he had considered Options 1 and 3. He said that while Option 1 would redress the population imbalance, Option 3 would provide more geographically balanced representation. He said given the relatively small minority population in each trustee area, Option 3 seemed more logical to him.

Leah West then motioned to approve Option 3, which Schramel again seconded. The motion carried unanimously.

Subsequently, the trustees approved a resolution to maintain at-large elections.


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