It's important to remember that, in any reform effort, the people involved frequently make the difference. The best idea ever can be sunk if the wrong folks back it. And of course, as our Governor can so capably demonstrate, bad ideas with marquee-worthy backers have legs.
This article cites 8 attempts at reform since 1926 - all of them failures. It also quotes Ted Costa, calling him a "grassroots political organizer" - a technically correct, if laughably misleading ID (to me "grassroots" implies a certain earthy, poor, scrappy effort to overthrow the establishment or unite the workers. If Costa is "grassroots," it's in a multinational agribusiness kinda way).
Costa's proposal - on which he's desperate for gubernatorial support - would redraw the lines before the 2006 cycle. Forget the rest of the language - that there pretty much guarantees incumbents and both parties (yeah, the Rs too, if they're smart) will run screaming in the other direction.
The article speculates that Schwarzenegger may use the threat of a special election on the redistricting question to "bully Democrats into supporting his efforts to streamline state government and trim the budget:"
. . . But a bitter, drawn-out campaign over redistricting could make the Democrat-led Legislature even less willing to compromise with the governor. And if voters see the redistricting changes as a political ploy to put more Republicans into office, it could endanger all of Schwarzenegger's government reform efforts.Very true. And it would be a shame, since this reform - as opposed to most "reforms" - is actually a good idea for the state. It does have about a 75% chance of becoming just another football. Perhaps part of a ball bin if it gets lumped in with a reform package - a method some say is the only way to gin up enough public interest in redistricting reform. I think that will just hurt it - but I can understand the strategy since maps aren't necessarily a sexy issue.
Reform supporters argue that the results of the last drawing should be proof enough that the time is ripe for reform:
"I'm sitting on the Sunset Strip (in Los Angeles) and my state senator is (Democrat) Sheila Kuehl,'' said Hoffenblum, a former GOP consultant. "Her district extends from the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles to Oxnard (Ventura County). It's ridiculous that the people in Oxnard should have a state senator from West Hollywood.''I hate to agree with anything Alan Hoffenblum says (fun phoblog family fact: Alan Hoffenblum was my father's opponent's campaign advisor way back when), but he's right. If you look at my area - we've got an Orange County congressman whose district follows a teeeeeeny stretch of land around the coast to pick up the Palos Verdes Peninsula - along the way it also separates the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from their parent cities. Fortunately, by a matter of blocks, I managed to stay in a blue district. Of course, perhaps the PV Republicans appreicate not having to worry about voting anymore - since they're totally packed into a friendly district. Wonder how much time Mr. Rohrabacher spends worrying about PV? Though he does have some great PR opportunities with the Ports (all that fun homeland security rhetoric, wohoo!). And don't ge me started on my State Senate District. I got sucked into a district centered much further north in the city - completely annexed from the South Bay generally.
But how many people have walked the borders of their districts? Or even examined a map? Not many. And I do hate the idea of selling a measure using divisive "not one of us" language, which is what would happen, but these districts mock basic notions of representative government. Though I believe people are capable of "Representing" a lot of diverse interests, views, and communities, there's no reason to make a brain teaser out of a basic unit of democracy.
So get ready, kids, it's going to be a fun year.