Don’t water down our right to vote on taxes

The Southern California News Group (SCNG) recently published my article about upcoming legislation SB 231 which aims to limit LA County resident’s right to vote on property tax increases.  To learn more, you can read my OpEd below:

Don’t water down our right to vote on taxes

by Judy Nelson

Los Angeles County residents should be aware of stormwater regulations that could dramatically increase our property tax bills. Proposed legislation in Sacramento known as SB231, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Robert Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley, would allow stormwater-control costs to be added to property assessments without a direct vote of the people.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted groundbreaking stormwater-management regulations affecting all cities in the region. Our county is the test site for the rest of the state and the country.

The mandate, called an MS4 permit, requires that cities capture 85 percent of the water from the first 24 hours of a storm. All water that flows out of the city via storm drains must first be monitored and treated for over 30 pollutants.

Those of us in government for local cities support the ideal of conserving water and preventing pollution from reaching the ocean. But the costs of implementing the systems are daunting, as this is a mandate without a funding source.

The big question for cities is “Where will the $20 billion to pay for the stormwater regulations come from?”

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San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Update

November, 2016

Now that the election is over, it seems a good time to offer an update on an issue that I have been following for several years, The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

History:

  • In Oct. of 2014, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring over 346,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest a National Monument. That 2 page proclamation is the guiding document for care of the Monument.  It discusses the special features of the Monument that must be preserved and protected, and the millions of people in the region who will visit it.
  • It directed the Forest Service to create a management and transportation plan for the Monument within 3 years, to be completed by Oct. 2017.
  • Additionally, because the Monument is within such close proximity to the 10 million residents of LA County, the proclamation directed the FS to engage maximum public involvement in the development of that plan.

What has been done so far?

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Great News! We spoke and our legislators listened.

Recently, I wrote an article about my opposition to Senate Bill 1298 which, if passed, would allow stormwater management costs to be added to property tax assessments without a citizen vote. SB 1298 was deeply flawed from a Constitutional and legal standpoint. It aimed to create a loophole in Prop 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” and was a clear disregard of the voting rights of California residents.

I’m pleased to announce that Sen. Hertzberg of Van Nuys, the author of SB 1298, has chosen to withdraw his bill, at least for this year. It is the second time in recent years that a proposed property tax assessment for stormwater management in LA County has been defeated, in large part, to grassroots opposition. Thanks to everyone who shared the word and contacted local legislators and Governor Brown to voice opposition.

However, we must stay vigilant because there is another tax threat in the pipeline: Los Angeles Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is crafting a “funding strategy” called the “Drought Resiliency Funding Plan” which will be unveiled in 2017. I will be following this closely and keeping residents informed.

Sincerely,

Judy Nelson

Citizen Alert: Stormwater Fees that could impact your property tax bill

Senate Bill 1298, called “Local Government: Fees and Charges,” is proposed legislation moving rapidly through the CA State Assembly and Senate in Sacramento. It aims to create a loophole in Prop 218 so that stormwater assessments can be added to property taxes without being placed on the election day ballot. It could open the door to dramatic property tax increases that avoid the standard 2/3 voter approval.  If you are concerned about losing your right to vote on new property tax assessments please read the details below and contact your state legislators and Gov. Brown to voice your opinion.  If it passes in the Assembly and Senate this month, it will be sent to the Governor in September for his signature or veto.

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In 2012, the LA Regional Water Board mandated groundbreaking stormwater requirements for all cities in the county. The mandate, called a MS4 Permit, requires extensive new infrastructure and is estimated to cost more than $20 Billion over the next 20 years to implement. While we all want to conserve water and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean, there is currently no budget to pay for the new systems. The City of Glendora has estimated costs at $233 million.

In order to create a revenue stream, Senator Robert Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley wrote Senate Bill 1298 so that stormwater costs can be added to property tax bills. While it would create much needed funding, it is constitutionally questionable. It removes the 2/3 voting requirement for new taxes and allows stormwater assessments to avoid being placed on the election day ballot.

SB 1298 aims to weaken Prop 218, the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” which was passed by voters 20 years ago to ensure that new or increased taxes, fees and assessments would be approved by the people before being enacted. SB 1298 attempts to change the Public Utilities Code definition of “sewer service,” to include stormwater. It would allow local governments to pass the storm water management costs directly to residents via a “protest ballot” which is a non-standard vote held outside of normal election proceedings, and is historically known to disenfranchise voters.

In the City of Glendora, it is estimated that a stormwater property tax assessment could average $1200 per year for residential properties. It would also impact schools, hospitals, businesses and churches. For people who are on fixed income, the elderly, and those who are struggling to meet their mortgages each month, it could be particularly damaging.

Last year, polling was conducted to determine whether voters would approve a Constitutional Amendment to Prop 218, to allow stormwater costs to be added to the three utility assessments that are exempt from an election day vote: trash, sewage, and household water use. The polling results showed that citizens would not support creating an exemption for stormwater, and the measure would most likely fail at the ballot box. Residents specifically showed disapproval for it being passed “without voter approval.” Shortly after these polling results, Senator Hertzberg created SB 1298 to do exactly that… circumvent the need for voter approval by wordsmithing the language of Prop 218 to call stormwater “sewage.”

The bill is a “gut and amend” which means that the stormwater legislation was stuffed into the bill late in the process. Due to this, it will not be thoroughly vetted in committees. It is moving rapidly and appears that it will be passed by the Senate and Assembly before the end of this month. It would then proceed to the Governor’s desk where many local cities are advocating for a veto. Currently, cities are sending opposition letters to Sacramento on behalf of their citizens. Local journalists on both sides of the political spectrum have also published opposition articles. It is clearly a bi-partisan issue which crosses political boundaries.

If legislators want financial support from residents for stormwater managment, it should be obtained by following the standard practice of placing the measure on the election day ballot. Ultimately, it will also be necessary to find State and Federal funding for the implementation of the MS4 permit.

There are many questions about the legality of SB 1298, and if it is passed there are organizations considering court challenges on behalf of the taxpayers.  What is abundantly clear at the moment, is that attempting to force residents to pay for stormwater by thwarting the democratic process with not sit well with them.

Below is additional background information regarding SB 1298.

Click the links to read the attachments:

Glendora Opposition Letter

Details about the poll regarding Prop 218 Constitutional Amendment

Tribune Editorial

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Opposition Letter 

Sincerely,

signature

Judy Nelson
Councilwoman, City of Glendora

Boardmember:
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Water Committee
San Gabriel Valley Council of Government Energy, Environment and
Natural Resources Committee
San Gabriel Valley Water Association
Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
National Forest Foundation Community Collaborative

WATER WATCH: City Council Opposes Proposed State Stormwater Bill SB1298

Reprinted with permission from Glendora City News

Article and photo by: Aaron Castrejon

Glendora City leaders expressed concern July 12, 2016 over a proposed state senate bill aimed at giving local governments power to set water rates and finance storm water projects.

The council voted 4-0, with Council member Mendel Thompson absent, to send a letter of opposition to the state Legislature, League of California Cities, California Contract Cities and Governor Jerry Brown regarding SB 1298, urging them to vote against any legislation that would subvert Prop 218. (Click to read the City’s letter here: Senate Bill 1298 Glendora Opposition Letter)

Council member Judy Nelson and Mayor Pro-Tem Gary Boyer requested to agendize and discuss the item at the July 12 City Council meeting after business owners raised serious issues with the cost of implementing a stormwater permit possibly passed on to them.

“There was such concern at the meeting amongst business owners about the potential cost that could be assessed on properties without voter approval,” Nelson said.

SB 1298 could conflict with existing law under the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act.

Prop 218, a California constitutional amendment, protects taxpayers by limiting how local governments and charter cities can increase taxes, fees and charges without taxpayer consent.

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit went into effect in December of 2012. The MS4 permit requires municipalities to implement measures to clean polluted storm water emptied into each city’s catch basins, storm drain lines, road gutters and from curbs, but at a staggering cost.

Glendora, the county and five other cities which are tasked with creating an Enhanced Watershed Management Plan for their geographical area calculated a worst case scenario for possible costs incurred by adhering to the permit, said Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers.

Los Angeles County could pay $20 billion over a 20-year period, while Glendora alone could be responsible for $233 million of that amount.

If the conflicting language in SB 1298 remains, it could pass those fees down to property owners, who could see an annual fee of $1200 for “average property” sizes, Nelson said.

SB 1298, authored by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), was created to “safeguard California’s water supplies by giving local governments more authority to finance local water projects and set reasonable rates,” according to the senator’s website.

The proposed bill would add definitions and change others in Prop 218, some of those changes include changing the definition of “water” to define “water service,” meaning “services provided by any system of public improvements intended to provide for the production, storage, supply, treatment, or distribution of water from any source, according to an analysis provided by the Assembly.

SB 1298 also makes findings and declarations that Prop 218 was meant to improve transparency and accountability of local government fees, arguing that some court interpretations see the law as requiring local governments to manage water supplies and address water pollution, establish rates to encourage conservation and provide assistance for low-income residents, the Assembly Analysis reported.

“The whole purpose of Prop 218 was to ensure transparency on tax increases and to ensure that citizens had a right to vote on every tax increase, assessment increase and fee increase imposed on them,” Nelson said. “This proposition [SB 1298] would pass without any voter knowledge or input.”

Boyer expressed great concern over SB 1298’s redefining of “water service” as too vague.

“It can virtually mean anything. The idea of 218 was to really protect us and give us a say. If this bill passes, it’s going to water down Proposition 218 so much that I can see it’s almost going to be useless in the future,” Boyer added.

Even with reasonable adjustments to the bill the city is seeking though, the cost to implement the MS4 storm permit could rise, Jeffers said. To what degree would be depend greatly on testing and results being done on rivers and runoff that street runoff funnels into.

The League of California Cities has raised concerns over SB 1298 with Hertzberg who was receptive and possibly looking to adopt given suggestions, city staff said.

The state Legislature is in recess until August and the new bill language will not be known until then.

Water restrictions in Glendora have been amended

Glendora’s results are in for the first five months of Governor Brown’s Statewide Water Conservation mandates. Glendora residents, businesses, schools and the City have responded and, as you can see from the data shown below, we are successfully meeting our mandated goal of reducing water usage citywide by 36%. We are required to continue at that level through February, 2016, but we are clearly on the right track. Thanks to each of you for your efforts to conserve water.

At our Sept. 8th, City Council meeting, the Council approved amending the current watering restrictions to add flexibility. Previous rules limited watering of ornamental landscape to no more than two-days a week at 10 minutes per station/zone. The new amendment permits more days and time in your watering schedule.

Read more to learn about the details…

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Public comment period is open for the San Gabriel Mountains Monument Plan

The planning phase for the new management of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is underway. Once developed and approved, it will control how the 350,000 acre area is to be used.

During certain stages of planning, the Forest Service solicits comments from the public. The first official comment period is open now until July 27, 2015.

You may comment via the email link below or contact the Forest Service for more information. You may also request a hard copy of the “scoping letter” that explains the process by calling (626) 574-5278 and asking for Justin Seastrand, Forest Planner. 

Below is the email link for submitting comments:

https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/public/commentinput?project=46964

What topics or concerns would you like to see addressed?  Which recreation activities do you enjoy in the forest and don’t want to see limited? Are there areas that are currently closed that you would like to see reopened for recreation?

Every comment will be considered, and concerns that are most frequently mentioned will receive priority. I urge each of you to take the time to let the USFS know of your desires regarding the usage of the natural resources in our backyard. Every opinion is important.

One of my major concerns with this designation is that the San Gabriel River, our primary water source where Glendora collects up to 85% of it’s water, is included within the boundaries. The president’s proclamation, states that there are threatened fish and rare plants living in the river, and there is ongoing debate about whether those species will eventually be given priority over the collection of drinking water. One of my comments will stress the utmost importance of protecting this water source for drinking water.

An additional concern of mine is that there has been serious conversation about creating transportation systems to bring groups of visitors from across the southland to various entrances in the Monument such as at Glendora Mountain Road, Angeles Crest Highway and Highway 39.  One of my comments will stress the importance of working together with foothill cities, including Glendora, to prepare for the impact that an influx of visitors could have— where will they park, how do we provide trail and road maintenance, additional security, and how do we protect the privacy and tranquility of residents who live near the trailheads?

It will be very important for Glendora and other foothill cities to work closely with the USFS on this part of the management planning process, so we urge residents to submit their comments during the June 12th—July 27th public comment window.

Thank you,

signature

 

 

A report on Glendora’s recent water conservation efforts

Water conservation levels among California residential users reached an all-time high for the month of May, with Californians using 29% less water than in the same-month period in 2013.

The City of Glendora posted a whopping 48% overall water savings for that month, one of the highest in the entire state. However, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers remains cautious, stating “I don’t want to pop any champagne yet. This is one month. The next nine months will be the real test.”

In order to continue these efforts, Glendora is hosting two free water workshops:

1. Community Water Workshop: Thurs. July 9th, 2015, 7:00pm, Bidwell Forum, 140 S. Glendora Ave. Glendora

City staff will provide information on the recently adopted Emergency Drought Response Plan, Water Use Efficiency Audits, available rebates, and answer questions including those regarding Residential Gallons Per Capita Per Day (R-GPCD).

2. Turf Removal Workshop: Sat. July 11th, 2015, 10:00am – 12:00pm, Glendora City Council Chambers, 116 E. Foothill Blvd.

Learn how to reduce your water usage by transforming your yard into a drought tolerant landscape. Find out how you can also receive rebates in the process.

In addition to reducing water usage, the City is also focused on how we can still maintain attractive landscaping throughout our city and in our homes. Below is a link to recommendations from the California Landscape Contractors Association about how to help your landscape survive the drought:

http://www.clca.org/clca/about/consumer/drought/

Important City meeting regarding water conservation

Glendora’s newly updated Water Conservation Program, a result of the Governor’s recent mandates, will be presented at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting on May 26th at 7pm at City Hall. Your attention to this meeting, along with your comments and questions will be most appreciated.

The City of Glendora is mandated to reduce water consumption by 36% citywide by February, 2016. In order to successfully comply with the Governor’s order, we will need the participation of every resident and business in our City. Additionally, the City will be making significant changes to the city-wide landscape and irrigation program which will result in a changed appearance of our local landscape and, eventually, an increase to our municipal water bills.

Below is a link to the Agenda Item report:

http://sirepub.ci.glendora.ca.us/sirepub/cache/2/btehkld41lzx2ippheezpw15/25447805252015023501730.PDF

The meeting will be held on:

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015, 7pm

City Council Chambers at City Hall

116 E. Foothill Blvd, Glendora

You can also watch online at: http://www.ci.glendora.ca.us/residents/online-videos

Or on your television on KGLN: Time Warner Ch. 3 and Verizon Fios Ch. 31.

Thank you.

Costly new stormwater mandates on the horizon

On Thursday, May 21st from 3-5pm at Glendora City Hall, the City Council will hold a Special Meeting to hear a presentation about the proposed new treatment requirements for stormwater being required of all cities within Los Angeles County.

This Special Meeting is open to the public. I urge you to attend as this matter could have a painful impact on your pocketbook. The estimated “worst case scenario” cost for Glendora, over the next 10 years, is $95 million!

Here is some background information about stormwater and why it is going to cost so much to manage in coming years:

A little over two years ago, the Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board, issued new, extremely stringent permit requirements for municipalities, including Glendora. Referred to as the MS4, or the Stormwater permit, it requires that water runoff from rain must either remain in our city or, if it leaves via the storm drains, it must not exceed stringent pollutant requirements.

The MS4 permit presents major challenges for our city, requiring extensive testing and mitigation of our water control measures. By the end of this fiscal year, Glendora is expected to have spent close to $600,000 to develop a plan for complying with the requirements of this permit and to begin our monitoring program.

Our city is mandated by the state and federal governments to comply with the MS4 permit but neither are providing funding.  How will Glendora, along with other municipalities in LA County who face similar extraordinary costs, provide for this upcoming expense?

Please attend the upcoming meeting to learn more:

Stormwater Special Meeting

Glendora City Hall Council Chamber

Thursday May 21st, 3-5pm

116 E Foothill Blvd, Glendora, CA 91741

(626) 914-8200

Mandated water conservation

Dear Friends,

If you haven’t already heard, the State Water Resources Control Board of California has imposed new mandatory water restrictions. Glendora households must limit water usage to 125 gallons per person per day.

What does this mandate mean for residents? That depends on your water usage. Beginning with the basics, here’s how to read the details of your water bill and determine what your daily water consumption is.

How to calculate your Residential Gallons Per Capita Per Day (R-GPDC) usage:

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President Obama announcing National Monument at Bonelli Park

Please help us rally to show opposition as President Obama prepares to sign the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument into effect. This will be the 11th National Monument that President Obama has designated with an executive order. On Friday, October 10th, 2014 the President will be holding a press conference at Bonelli Park in the San Gabriel Valley to announce his plan to use an executive order to create a San Gabriel National Monument for over half a million acres of mountain and foothill land.

Rally Info:

Friday, Oct. 10 2014 at 9:00-noon (we want to be set-up early for the press) Main entrance at Bonelli Park  120 E. Via Verde Drive San Dimas, CA 91773

For questions about the rally please contact:  323-899-7694

At the last rally we had 150 people attend, and  hope to have several hundred more at this event. Bring friends. Please arrive early for the press and be prepared with a sign. 
 Suggestions: Be non-partisan. Use your creativity while keeping the message focused on the topic— No Antiquities Act, Hands off our Mountains, No National Monument, Water Rights, Save Mt. Baldy, No Executive Order, Where’s the Public Input?, What Happened to the Democratic Process?, etc. The President is expected to land at Brackett Field Airport and hold his presentation at 1:00. Only invited guests will be allowed to enter the park to hear him. We will be situated just outside the main gate. All of the invited guests and press will have to drive past us as they enter a nearby parking lot for screening and transportation by shuttle into the park. The shuttles will run from 9:45 until 11:45. Then it will probably be just us left on the outside. Directions and parking info are listed below: (more…)

Glendora in the News

The City of Glendora made news recently for mailing a “fix it” letter to a resident with neglected landscaping. The City had received an complaint about the dead yard and we delivered our standardized landscape maintenance letter on July 15th asking them to keep their yard “healthy and green.” On the same day that the flyer was delivered, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued Emergency Drought Regulations, which increase restrictions on water usage. In order to reflect the intent of the new regulations, the City has revised its flyer with no mention of fines.0717_NWS_SGT-L-BROWNLAWN-KB5-L

While the CA State Water Resources Control Board has suggested that fines be issued for excessive water usage including allowing water to run off into the street when watering yards, they do not suggest that residents let their yards die. Blighted landscaping can lead to plummeting property values for neighborhoods. Even with a severe drought, it is possible to have a landscaped property that is both visually appealing and compliant with conservation efforts. The City of Glendora partners with the Municipal Water Department to offer rebates for turf removal and drought resistant landscaping. “Xeriscaping,” which is the use of low-water plants, is a good option for residents who would like to utilize the current rebates for turf removal.

The City of Glendora takes the drought and need for water conservation very seriously. The Associated Press published a report on July 16th, regarding the “Biggest water saving and guzzling districts in California” based on a recent survey by the SWRCB of 276 large water suppliers (those with over 40,000 customers). Glendora was listed as the number one water conserving municipality in Southern California for the month of May, with a 26% decrease in overall consumption. Of all 276 survey respondents throughout the state, only the City of Folsom in Sacramento County conserved more water than Glendora for this time frame.

Our city has reduced water usage consistently since 2008 when we implemented Stage One Water Conservation elements. We are further committed to lowering consumption beyond the SWRCB recommendations of 20% by 2020. Our goal is to seek voluntary compliance with the water conservation mandates and to assist residents in finding solutions they are happy with. Glendora has a Water Conservation Team on staff that is available by request to meet with residents free of charge to discuss ways they can conserve water while keeping their property well maintained.

Sincerely,

Judysignature

Mayor, City of Glendora

Emergency Drought Regulations

California is in the midst of a severe drought and the State Water Resources Control Board has recently issued Emergency Drought Regulations: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2014/pr071514.pdf

The City of Glendora is committed to reducing it’s overall water usage and is working with residents and businesses to assist them with conservation measures. The City’s Water Conservation Team offer’s free home consultations to advise residents in ways they can conserve water including rebates for turf removal. To schedule a personal visit please call: (626) 852-4838.

For more information about the City’s rebate program please visit:
http://www.ci.glendora.ca.us/departments-services/public-works/water/water-conservation/rebate-program

Additional rebates are also available through the Metropolitan Water District at:
http://www.socalwatersmart.com/index.php/home/?p=res

In lieu of lawns: “Xeriscaping”

Due to the drought, the City of Glendora is currently partnering with the Metropolitan Water District to offer property owners rebates for turf removal and installation of drought tolerant plants.

We encourage residents to scale back water usage throughout their homes and yards through conservation measures.  While it may seem that we should let our yards go brown, water conservation need not diminish a city’s aesthetic appearance. Now is a good time to consider Xeriscaping, which can reduce water usage as much as 60% and adds value to the property.

xeriscaping-1

What is Xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping is creatively using low water landscaping to conserve water. “Xeriscaping (often incorrectly called zero-scaping or xeroscaping) is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.[1] It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptance in other areas as access to water becomes more limited. Xeriscaping may be an alternative to various types of traditional gardening.“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping

PTG-Xeriscaping-1The term Xeriscape is derived from a combination of the words “xeri” and “scape”. The work “xeri” comes fro the Greek work “xeros” which means dry. “Scape” means scene. Even though this translates into “dry scene” it does not fully define the possibilities of Xeriscaping. There are many aspects to this type of gardening, but at its essence it involves the use of plant materials that are appropriate for the region and water availability.

xeriscaping3

However, Xeriscape is not necessarily barren, desert, arid, or anything else that you might associate with dry climates. It is possible to have a lush display of plants that are compatible with their environment and are part of a well planned Xeriscape. When water restrictions are implemented by a municipality, xeriscape plants will tend to survive and thrive, while more ornamental plants or lawns may be unable to adapt.

xeriscaping

For more information on Xeriscaping please visit:
http://dpw.lacounty.gov/wwd/web/Conservation/XeriscapeEducation.aspx

To schedule a free consultation from a member of Glendora’s Water Conservation Team and learn more about rebates please call:

(626) 852-4838.

San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area (NRA)

For the past two years, I’ve been studying three pieces of legislation proposed by Congresswoman Judy Chu, California District 27.  In March of 2014 official drafts were released:

NRA draft legislation PDF

Wilderness draft legislation PDF

Wild and Scenic Rivers draft legislation PDF

If passed, the legislation would create a San Gabriel National Recreation Area (NRA). This would place a National Park overlay upon approximately 621,860 acres of the San Gabriel Valley and the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.

Several dozen cities along the foothills and San Gabriel River are included in the NRA boundaries, from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino and south along the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo Rivers to Santa Fe Springs. Additionally, in the San Gabriel Mountains, sections of the river would be designated as “Wild and Scenic” and sections of the mountain range as “Wilderness.” These designations would modify the type of access and usage allowed in those areas.

Should we rejoice, be concerned or both? A closer look:
NRA map
Proposed NRA map PDF
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