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Citizens picked to draw political boundaries

November 18, 2010 | 12:23 pm

State officials Thursday selected a handful of everyday Californians to tackle the politically incendiary task of redrawing the state's voting districts -- a job that voters decided to take away from political insiders.

A retired engineer and city councilman from Claremont, an insurance company principal from San Gabriel and an attorney from Norco are among the eight people selected by the state auditor Thursday to serve on the new citizens commission.

Disappointed at seeing state lawmakers gerrymandering their own districts behind closed doors in ways that protect them from challengers, California voters approved an initiative in 2008 that transfers the job to the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Using bingo balls and a hand-cranked bingo cage, State Auditor Elaine Howle conducted random drawings of names from three pools of applicants to select three Democrats, three Republicans and two people who don't belong to the either of those parties.

The first eight people selected from 36 finalists to serve on the 14-member panel will select six more people from the same pool to join the commission by Dec. 31, with an eye toward making sure the panel reflects the state's ethnic and geographic diversity.

The eight commissioners selected Thursday include four Asian Americans, two whites, one Latino and one African American. There are five women and three men.

"I feel very lucky,'' said Claremont Councilman Peter Yao, a retired engineer and Republican selected to serve on the panel. "I saw this as an opportunity to help carry out changes. We have a tough job ahead."

The other commissioners selected are:

-- Cynthia Dai, a Democrat from San Francisco who is CEO of a marketing consulting firm.

-- Elaine Kuo , a Democrat from Mountain View. She lists her occupation as a caregiver for her elderly father, but she previously was a senior research analyst at UCLA.

-- Jeanne Raya a Democrat from San Gabriel who is a principal in an insurance company.

-- Vincent Barabba, a Republican from Capitola who is founder of Market Insight Corp., which tracks shopper preference trends through an Internet website.

-- Jodie Filkins Webber, a Republican attorney from Norco.

-- Stanley Forbes, a "decline to state'' voter from Esparto in Yolo County who is owner of The Avid Reader bookstore.

-- Connie Galambos Malloy, a "decline to state'' voter from Oakland who is program director for the Urban Habitat program, which provides advocacy and education for low-income residents.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that redistricting reform is "one of the most important political reforms in the history of California,'' saying the changes "take the power of drawing district lines away from the politicians and puts it in the hands of the people –- where it belongs.''

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento