Re: Proposition 27 is a bad deal | TheUnion.com

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Re: Proposition 27 is a bad deal

Back on June 26, The Union reader Chris Kane wrote a guest editorial explaining the functioning of the California Redistricting Commission, its history, and the initiative that was then circulating to eliminate the Commission entirely.

To bring readers up to date, the Commission dates from 2008’s successful Proposition 11, which created an independent body to redraw California’s Assembly and Senate district boundaries, rather than to leave the process to the Legislature itself. The idea was to create districts that will offer voters a better selection of candidates and to eliminate the present system of some-districts-always-Republican and some-always-Democrat.

In an only-in-California situation, the initiative circulators managed to obtain (or pay for) enough signatures to get Proposition 27 on our November ballot. As a result, what we voted for just two years ago is now up for repeal!

After the initial proposition went into effect, over 26,000 Californians demonstrated their support of the new commission by applying to become members. Some 4,500 of those citizens – including over a dozen of us from Nevada County – continued their support by going to the considerable trouble of submitting a secondary application requiring five essays, considerable disclosure of personal and financial matters, and three letters of recommendation.

Subsequently, the list of candidates was narrowed down to several hundred, 120 of whom were interviewed by a selection panel, and on Sept. 29 a final list of 60 candidates (no Nevada County applicants, unfortunately) was forwarded to the state Legislature and Auditor, who will make final selections. The goal is to have the required 14 Commission members seated and functioning in time for the 2012 general election.

At present, all state legislative district boundaries are drawn by members of the Legislature themselves, mainly with an eye to arranging things so that incumbents are reelected, or at least remain in their own party’s hands. Hence, the saying that that citizens do not really elect their representatives; rather, representatives select their voters.

Since almost all state Senate and Assembly districts are assured of forever remaining Democratic or Republican, there is little incentive for legislators to hold moderate views or to engage with each other to reach a compromise on important issues. The opposite is true: Candidates in each party’s districts go overboard to show that they are “the Real Conservative” or “the People’s Choice.” There is almost no point of running for office if you are a Republican in Marin County, or a Democrat in Placer or Nevada counties.

Instead of debating actual issues such as our dismal high school graduation rates, future statewide water shortages, universal medical coverage for state residents, or transportation infrastructure, candidates mouth empty slogans intended to emotionally stir up their “base” (“Restore the Constitution!” “Power to the People!”). And every two years we are subjected to a blizzard of meaningless election television ads and throw-away postal mailers that make many of us want to simply tune out for the months of September and October. The situation is made worse by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate funding of political attack ads with no disclosure of funding or backing.

Legislative malfunctioning is caused mainly by the entrenched ideological positions taken by both Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento. Maintaining Proposition 11 in effect, therefore, and defeat of Proposition 27, will go a long way toward ending this situation, the annual budget stalemate in Sacramento, and the inability of our Legislature to actually pass important legislation rather than leaving it to the voters via the much-abused initiative process.

This effort to overturn Proposition 11 is bankrolled mainly by a single Hollywood entertainment billionaire who has a history of funding various political causes, and is – naturally – backed by entrenched members of the Legislature who want to preserve their safe seats. It deserves to be decisively defeated. Please vote “no” on Proposition 27 and allow the California Redistricting Commission to do its job.

Harry B. Wyeth lives in Grass Valley.