January 27, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Aided by a bottle of water, a microphone and a notepad, La Sierra University alumna Connie Galambos Malloy sat in a meeting room at the Bureau of State Audits in Sacramento on Aug. 27, 2010. She faced a trio of independent auditors who plied her with questions for two hours about past political contributions, connections to legislators and any other potential conflicts of interest.
Malloy was in the proverbial hot seat, undergoing a vetting process in her bid to become one of 14 applicants out of a sea of 31,000 to serve an historic role on California’s new, voter-approved Citizens Redistricting Commission. The organization was implemented in an effort to eliminate politicians and potential gerrymandering from the drawing of legislative districts.
Five questions were supplied Malloy in advance of the interview, but three or four dozen others were lobbed at the applicant during direct questioning which was streamed live on the Internet. “I had no idea they [questions] were coming at me. There was a lot of having to think on the spot. It was an intense experience,” said Malloy, an urban planner. “The auditors were looking for evidence that I had an appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography, that I demonstrated an ability to be impartial, and that I brought relevant analytical skills to the task at hand.”
The vetting procedure winnowed the field to 60 semi-finalists. A group of state legislators then each vetoed two from the semi-final group to leave 36 finalists. In November Malloy received an e-mail with the verdict—she had landed on the final list. “I was really excited when I saw I was still in the pool,” she said.
It was then a matter of chance, a lottery-style, televised selection by the California State Auditor’s office to single out eight to serve as redistricting commissioners. Again, Malloy made the cut.
The group’s first assignment, completed Dec. 15, consisted of a public selection process to choose six more commissioners and round out the group to five Republicans, five Democrats and four who are not registered with either party—Malloy’s application was considered in the ‘Decline to State’ pool, based on her voter registration record. All final commissioners’ names along with details of the selection process and group’s responsibilities are posted on the commission’s Web site at http://www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov/. The commission begins its re-districting work in earnest this month.
The panel will make state history as the first commission of residents, rather than politicians, charged with re-mapping congressional, state legislative and Board of Equalization district boundaries based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census. Voters set in motion the formation of the commission with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, the Voters FIRST Act, and last November extended the commission’s responsibilities to include congressional districts with the approval of Prop. 20.
The new district maps will be used for the next 10 years, the length of the commissioners’ terms of service. The responsibilities are great. “Our work will be vital in protecting civil rights and securing a voice for each of us--and someday for our children--in the political process,” Malloy said in a statement from her employer, Urban Habitat in Oakland. In a later interview she added, “ultimately the districts we draw will allocate political power, and therefore access to resources across California’s diverse communities. As we can see from the experience of other states, when redistricting is not done well, it can have a really grave impact.”
The commission is expected to approve four final maps by Aug. 15 defining all Congressional districts, 40 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and four State Board of Equalization districts. The commission will use a variety of tools in determining map boundaries, including census data, geographic information systems and many community meetings, ultimately integrating quantitative and qualitative data into a cohesive whole, Malloy said. In accordance with the Voters FIRST Act, the commission must work “in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians,” the commissions Web site says.
Malloy studied communications and Spanish at La Sierra before graduating in 2000. She initially worked in resource planning at the United Way of the Inland Valleys in Riverside and from there took a job with the Peace Corps handling micro enterprise projects in Bolivia. She earned a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and while there landed several fellowships through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Through the fellowships Malloy enabled low-income communities and minority neighborhoods across the state to increase access to vital services such as affordable housing, jobs and public transit.
Urban Habitat, the regional environmental justice organization where Malloy serves as director of programs, works to ensure that the San Francisco Bay Area’s low-income communities and communities of color are represented in the decision-making processes that shape regional transportation, housing, land use and environmental policies, its statement says. Malloy oversees Urban Habitat’s climate, land use, planning and affordable housing advocacy work.
Malloy arrived at La Sierra in 1996 from Auburn Adventist Academy in Auburn, Washington. She has many family members in the Inland region and other areas of Southern California, a key factor in her decision to attend school here. Her sister, Mayra Cuevas, currently studies psychology at La Sierra. As the daughter of a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Malloy appreciated the various spiritual forums available for young adults at La Sierra, and the varying aspects of faith.
Her academic experience as an honors student at La Sierra, where she interacted personally with professors while writing papers and speaking at conferences, exceeded the experiences of peers who attended much larger schools, she said. “It prepared me well for the professional world and for graduate school.”
For some at La Sierra who knew her, Malloy’s interest in working for the commission is in keeping with her interests and values as a student. Larry Geraty, La Sierra’s president emeritus, archaeologist and Old Testament Studies professor came to know Malloy during her years at the university, during which time he served as president.
“I was delighted, but not surprised, to learn that Connie Galambos Malloy has been appointed to the redistricting commission,” Geraty said. “It gives me hope for the process. Even during her student days at LSU Connie was committed to service, fairness, and bettering the community. I’m proud that the principles for which LSU stands can make a positive difference for California through Connie.”
Added Jeffry Kaatz, Malloy’s former professor and now La Sierra’s Vice President for Advancement, “it is always a proud moment for a professor to see a student succeed. With Connie, it is particularly gratifying as she daily lives out La Sierra University's emphasis on service. Her appointment to this commission is indicative that she has walked the walk.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University