Following the 2000 census the California Assembly, Senate and Governorship were all controlled by Democrats. In line with tradition they used their majority power to create new electoral districts designed to maximize the Democratic majority. They did this by drawing district lines that bunched Democrats and Republicans together in some very oddly shaped districts.
(Click to enlarge)
Look at district 15, drawn here in brown. It sends branches up toward Sacramento, an arm toward the East Bay, a stump to the south, etc. This is what a safe district looks like. Neighboring district 10 has an equally odd arrangement of offshoots to the east and south and a little hook over there on its left.
In 1990 this drawing of districts to create safe seats backfired. With safe districts turnover of legislators became rare and lawmakers became less responsive to voters, which made voters angry enough to pass term limits to try to solve the problem.
But that didn’t stop the games. The 2000 census created a new batch of safe districts, and I think this backfired again, only worse. First, no one foresaw 2008’s electoral sweep. This redistricting created safe Republican districts as well as Democratic districts because they increased the number of Democratic seats by bunching Republicans together into a few districts. The 2008 sweep could have taken out several more Republicans than it did because of the concentration of Republicans in these districts. In SD-19 Hannah-Beth Jackson lost her Senate race by less than 900 votes in that “safe” Republican district. A fair redistricting would have turned Santa Barbara’s Senate district over to the Democrats because enough voters there were fed up with the increasingly extremist Republicans running for office.
But the very worst consequence of the 2001 redistricting was that it guaranteed just enough safe Republican seats to enable the remaining extremist minority to block budgets while avoiding the political consequences. The way their districts are drawn they are going to get reelected no matter what, so they refuse to approve any budget that does not yield to all of the most absolutely extreme right-wing demands.
This November voters passed Proposition 11, which tries to set up a neutral process for drawing legislative districts. I hope that this process works as intended, creating districts that fairly represent their constituents’ interests. I also hope that this opens up the possibility of truly contested elections in which responsive politicians are asked to stay in office — and politicians who do not represent their constituents can be replaced.
I want to point out that if Proposition 11’s fair redistricting is successful this removes the justification for term limits. Voters should be allowed to keep representatives as well as remove them.
In Santa Clara County they want to extend Bay Area Rapid Transit down to San Jose. To fund this they put Measure B, a 1/8 cent sales tax, on the ballot. In California all tax measures must pass by a 2/’3 margin and on Election Day the voters approved Measure B by a 2/3 margin.
That would be the end of it, except the vote was very close to exactly 2/3. For several days it looked as though the measure would fail because it reached a few votes short of exactly 66.66% but when the last ballot was counted the result was 66.78% in favor. So in the face of a 2/3 vote by the people, a group sued to block certification pending a recount. Yes, with 2/3 of the public voting for this, a group sued to stop it!
My observation is that this demonstrates something important about the “anti-tax” forces in our state. Their intent is to hobble our democracy and thwart the will of the people. It is time for us to take back democracy and return majority vote to tax measures!
It is nearly impossible to get 2/3 for anything, ever, in an election. Clearly this 2/3 requirement is about hobbling democracy, not protecting rights. The public wanted to bring BART to San Jose. A remarkable 2/3 voted for this, yet a group sues based on the count being close to exactly 2/3. And in our state legislature the budget process has completely broken down as a 1/3 minority blocks every budget, every compromise and every last attempt to pass sensible measures to run our state! We are now in a “Fiscal Emergency,” cutting back our schools and laying people off during a recession. This is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing and of what the public wants, but there is no choice because we are hobbled by rules that anti-government extremists managed to sneak past misinformed voters decades ago.
We must get rid of the 2/3 requirement. It is time. Democracy and good government are back in fashion so let’s get on with it!
(By the way, California’s Secretary of State ruled that the law says automatic recounts
occur when the vote count is very close to 50/50. Since the vote count
was 2/3 the law does not apply even though the election was close. A
judge ruled Tuesday that the attempt to block Measure B came too late.
Try this: Every time you read the word “government” substitute the appropriate variation of the term “We, the People” or “democracy” and then see how you feel about what is being written. Use the same substitution for the term “the state.”
This is especially fun when reading anything written by a conservative or a right winger.
Ronald Reagan’s famous phrase, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem” takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? He was saying that “democracy is the problem” — and here we are 25 years later seemingly living under corporate rule instead of democracy. How has that turned out?
When conservatives complain about government or “the state” they are complaining about control of decision-making by the people rather than by a few. Never forget that.
One problem that many people attending this convention are forced to deal with is the sheer distance between events. First, getting from the airport into town is a very expensive cab ride with few other choices.
I was immediately struck that there is no light rail system out to the airport! I don’t understand how a major airport near a major city could have been planned and built without incorporating light rail from the start. Of course, this was all done in the unfortunate oil/car-dominated era that we are all working to end…
In town convention events are vast distances apart. Even inside the security perimeter itself things are far apart. It is a long walk in the sun to get from the Pepsi Center to the Tivoli, where the Starz Green Room is. It is a very long walk from the Big Tent to the Starz Green Room. Etc.
Getting my official convention credentials this morning meant taking a cab for miles, to a hotel in another part of town. (Long lines, waiting, waiting…) And then there were no cabs available to take me back. Miles and miles… There was a free city “16th street mall” shuttle that helped part of the way.
So this is a problem with this convention. Having things far apart might be OK if there was some way to get from one place to another. You can’t have a car here but everything seems to require that you do.
And of course in the larger picture this is the problem with the way America has built up its housing/mall/freeway infrastructure. You have to have a car, period, or you cannot participate in the modern America except in a few larger cities that have well-thought-out transportation. This requirement that you have a car imposes a certain cost on people. But there are plenty of people who can’t meet those costs and are forced to drop out of participation. So look what happened in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Many people simply could not evacuate because they did not have their own cars, and there was no real transportation available otherwise.
America has created distances between people, classes, and even physical distance requirements that work against us in the long run. This kind of approach, where you can’t participate if you can’t afford your own car is anti-democracy. In the case of this convention, it was just dumb.