As reform measures go, Proposition 11 -- the redistricting reform measure -- is hardly a transformational law likely to supercharge activists (of any political stripe) eager to make Sacramento more effective and more accountable to the public. Proposition 11 is too complicated and too tame. Alas, it is the only measure on the November ballot that can improve the political climate in California.
See how low the mighty have fallen. If Proposition 11 does not pass, it will signal yet another victory for entrenched state lawmakers, as it will bolster the system in place since the last redistricting in 2001, when, as is their habit, state politicians passed a bill that allowed them to carve out their legislative districts and cherry-pick voters most likely to re-elect incumbents or replacements from the same party.
Unless voters put an end to the status quo and push for change after the 2010 census, Californians will be stuck with a setup that enables politicians to pick their voters, when democracy is supposed to be a system that allows voters to pick their politicians. Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies and California's guru of good government practices, helped draft Proposition 11, which would establish an independent 14-member commission to draw legislative district boundaries. Stern noted that since the last redistricting plan passed in 2001, there have been more than 450 district elections in California. In all that time, only one seat has changed parties.
Think of all the political upheaval in California this decade. Yet the only party switch in the state Assembly, state Senate and California delegation in the House of Representatives occurred in 2006 when Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy lost his congressional seat to Democrat Jerry McNerney. "It shows how good they are," Stern observed -- referring not to how good state pols are at governing, but how effective they are at safeguarding their precious fiefdoms.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is: The people who wrote Proposition 11 knew that if they included congressional districts in the measure, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could amass millions to bury their humble effort, so they didn't dare include congressional districts in the measure.