By Steven Tavares
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Fremont’s South Asian community now accounts for
the cities majority. While Indians have pushed for power,
Latinos in Hayward have been quiet as they too amass
greater numbers following the latest U.S. Census.

The vibrant South Asian communities of Fremont and Union City are fighting for political power after the most recent U.S. Census showed the demographic group gained a majority of the population. Latinos in Hayward, though, who, themselves reached just over 40 percent of the city’s 144,000 population have been far more reserve in converting their new found political muscle on the county and state stages.

Fremont residents, primarily of Indian descent, converged last week for a hearing of the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission in what became a raucous and riveting call against diffusing its burgeoning power by splitting Fremont among two legislative districts. Observers, in hindsight of last Friday’s release of the proposed maps, say groups like the aggressive South Asian contingent appeared to have held sway among the body’s 14 commissioners. In the first draft Fremont was spared of any split.

Although, the setting and ramification are somewhat different, the scene in Hayward at the county level may prove the city’s Latino core could be suppressed and without much dissent from the community.

At a county hearing June 1 in Hayward, the number of residents in attendance could be counted on one hand along with two city councilmembers and a school board trustee.

Hayward’s power as the county’s second largest city could be stymied by numerous proposals, three of which, call for it to be bisected among two supervisorial districts. The likelihood of such a split becoming a detriment to Hayward’s position at the Board of Supervisors pushed Councilman Mark Salinas last week to instruct city staff to place the issue on the June 14 council agenda.

To underscore, the importance of maintaining political power at the county seat in Oakland, a city staff report by City Manager Fran David lays out the stakes in stark terms. “The policy question of concern to out community is assuring the strongest possible representation at the county level with the best chance of having the city’s position on issues prevail in a vote on the Board of Supervisors,” said David.

The initial map proposed by the Board of Supervisors ad-hoc committee, labelled “Map A” is the preferred realignment proposal, according the city staff report. Members of group calling themselves the Alameda County Redistricting Task Force, though, balked at the proposal, which separates Pleasanton among Supervisors Nate Miley and Scott Haggerty.

Four subsequent maps submitted by the group (one withdrawn) maintain the coupling of Tri-Valley cities, but split Hayward to varying degrees. While Map A maintains Hayward in its present District 2 form with 47 percent of the district, Map C would divide it among Supervisors Nadia Lockyer and Wilma Chan. Most worrisome, to residents of Hayward, it reduces the city’s representation to 21 percent of District 2 and 27 percent of District 3. Map D has nearly the same split with 25 percent representation in District 2 and 23 percent in District 3. A fourth map recently submitted group, labeled Map G, also features similar representation in both districts.

Salinas voiced worry June 1 over the possibility of Hayward losing additional clout in Oakland when the perception among residents is the Board of Supervisors has been slow in the past in directing funding and support to the south county.

While the flow of residents to the inland areas of Alameda County and neighboring San Joaquin County has brought new found power to its residents similar to the ethnic majorities in Fremont, Latinos are still lagging behind. A report contends Latinos across the state may not reap the benefits of supplying a vast majority of California’s population growth over the past 10 years after release of the proposed legislative redrawings.

The impetus to begin grabbing at the spoils of newly-attained ethnic majorities is no more representative than a recent story detailing the South Asian communities of Fremont and other Silicon Valley cities appealing to their local school districts in hopes of adopting the Hindu religious day of Diwali as a recognized school holiday. Whether it is adopted is not the point, but maybe a signal the quickly-changing demographics of the East Bay are poised to make themselves noticed in a big way over the next few years.