The first public hearing on Kings County redistricting was met with criticism on the nature of the hearings and saw a hearing added to compensate for inaccurate contact information.
The hearing took place as part of the Board of Supervisors regular meeting Tuesday, but was hindered by Tripepi, the firm tasked with outreach, releasing inaccurate information redistricting, some of which was published by the Hanford Sentinel.
County Counsel Diane Freeman recommended the board hold another hearing on Tuesday, July 27 because some members of the public tried to send written statements to the wrong email. Written statements and questions can be sent to email@example.com.
The Sentinel also published that meetings can be virtually attended via Zoom, which was not accurate. While citizens are able to attend meetings virtually, in English and Spanish, by visiting redistrictkings.com, the meetings are held via Webex.
Supervisor Richard Valle asked if Tripepi would absorb the cost of the additional hearing and rectify the inaccurate information published online, including a post which listed the redistricting website as a hashtag.
“The messed up information included not just the wrong email, and it wasn’t even a typo, it wasn’t even close to what the email is for the public to send in a question or get information on how to be in this,” Valle said.
Valle said the County staff did release the correct information in a press release earlier in the month, but residents were confused by different information across social media and provided to the Sentinel, despite paying the company $40,000 to create and distribute information.
Tripepi co-founder Ryder Smith said the inaccurate and inconsistent information across social media was due to a rush to get all platforms running and said the company would eat the cost for the additional hearing, a boosted Facebook post with inaccurate information and other potentially inaccurate posts.
Some residents who attended the hearing expressed concerns that all but one scheduled public hearing would be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, during most people’s work hours.
Director of Civic Engagement at the Dolores Huerta Foundation Lori Pesante also said a number of factors in how the hearing was being held served as barriers for Spanish speaking populations in the county.
Huerta listed the meeting taking place during work hours, the lack of translation in the non-public hearing portion of the meeting, lack of translation materials, requirement of technological access to use mapping tools and bad auto on the Spanish live stream as issues.
“Perhaps (the additional meeting is) an opportunity to address some of the things that I experienced today, because any one of the barriers I experienced today, had I not been a native English speaker, probably would have been insurmountable to people,” Pesante said.
Residents also said they see redistricting as an opportunity to make the districts and the council more reflective of the demographics of Kings County today.
Hanford resident Cathy Jorgensen pointed out that the board is all male members who, with the exception of Valle, are White and with similar professions and backgrounds. She asked why there aren't representatives who reflect more parts of the community.
One resident recommended removing districts from Kings County entirely.
The next public hearing will take place July 27, 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers. Residents can submit written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on attending meetings virtually can be found at redistrictkings.com.