Want to live in a Red State? Want to have gridlock on redistricting in addition to the budget? Want to have the Republicans put in charge of “protecting” our coastline?
This is the reality of the so-called “Voters First” proposition being put on the ballot this year by Arnold and his Republican fat cat cronies. The only “voters” who are elevated will be the Republicans who are attempting to circumvent their declining registration statewide by fooling the voters into the idea that Prop 11 is “independent” and “nonpartisan.” You’ve got to hand it to them. They come up with such good titles that mean exactly the opposite!!!
Under the guise of “reform,” Proposition 11 creates a new state bureaucracy with an unlimited budget. This new drain on the state resources would essentially operate as a parallel second set of employees, since a redistricting staff already exists in the state legislature. Along with the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission (paid $300 per day plus expenses to attend a meeting), this new unlimited bureaucracy would include political staffers (civil-service exempt), private contractors, and private attorneys.
If this commission, stacked in the Republicans’ favor, does NOT reach agreement, and the rules ensure it will not, redistricting is handed to the California Supreme Court who appoints “special masters” to complete the boundary lines. NOTE that six of the seven justices currently sitting on the court were appointed by Republican governors.
Few people can defend the bizarre configurations of our legislative districts that are currently under the direct control of our politicians. Often neighborhoods are split into “communities of interest,” and this is one of the arguments used in favor of this measure that will be on the ballot this November. But, the politicians ARE responsible for what they have done, and they CAN be held accountable by the voters. If Prop 11 passes, all accountability ends.
Proposition 11 sets up a convoluted maze to choose 14 commissioners. The restrictions on selection of applicants are such as to ensure their ignorance of the political process. Excluded are people who have been candidates for office within the last 10 years, or had a family member who was, anyone who has served on a political central committee, anyone who has been on a political staff or been a lobbyist, anyone contributing $2000 or more to a candidate, any staff people to elected officials or their relatives. Thus, the pool of applicants will be severely restricted to those who have the least possible experience dealing with the complex decisions they will be asked to make. Or, maybe not. Interestingly, politicos from the Republican institutes and think tanks are not excluded.
The maze begins with the State Auditor. You say, “Who?” Who, indeed. It’s not as though we’ve ever heard anything about this unelected state official. But now this unknown takes front and center stage and begins the Prop 11 process by choosing three so-called “independent” state auditors to oversee what follows. This is Step #1, in the multiple-step procedure laid out by this proposition.
For the record, the State Auditor is currently Elaine M. Howle. She is a POLITICAL appointee of the governor’s, selected from a list of three submitted to him by the state legislature. The State Auditor, however, is “accountable solely to the California Legislature” after appointment.
The next step (#2) proceeds by choosing from a pool of applicants 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, plus 20 not in either major party. This formula bears NO relationship to the actual political party registration in the state which as of May 19, 2008 is 43.75% Democrat, 32.53% Republican, and 23.72% all others. The losers here are obviously the Democrats who have gained a substantial margin in registration and would now be required to forfeit that plurality.
Moving on to Step #3, the state party leaders (only Dems and Reps now) get veto power. The President pro Tempore of the Senate, the Minority floor leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Minority Floor Leader may EACH strike up to two applicants from each sub-pool of 20 for a total of eight possible strikes per sub-pool. So, the whittled down lists of possibly only 12 Dems+12 Reps+12 Others now go back to the State Auditor.
In Step #4, The State Auditor is to draw random names from the pool submitted by the previous step, and they become the first 8 on the Citizens Redistricting Commission. There are to be 3 from the largest political party (Dems), 3 from the second largest political party (Reps), and 2 from all others. Again, the LOSER on this cozy little split is the Democrats who AGAIN forfeit their significant voter registration plurality to…guess who??? The REPUBLICANS.
Now to Step #5, and if you’ve zoned out by now, well, that IS the point. But, please stay for the finale. The 8 from step #4 review the names in the remaining pool from which they had been drawn, supposedly randomly, and now themselves APPOINT 6 more. These are to be evenly split: 2 Dems/2 Reps/2 Others. Each one of these must then be approved by 5 votes of the existing 8 commissioners with a required 2 each from each major party and 1 other. And there you have it, the FOURTEEN who have made it through this convoluted sieve and are now charged, on paper, with redrawing the district lines after each decade’s census. And again, the losing party is scheduled to be the Democratic Party that holds the greatest voter registration in the state.
By now you’re probably wondering IF those 14 will even have the expertise to know where to begin! But, not to worry. At the end of the text of this ballot measure, glossed over in the ballot summary, we find the fine print detailing all the undisclosed new expenditures of this ill-conceived boondoggle, and you’re welcome to read it yourself.
“The commission shall hire commission staff, legal counsel and consultants as needed.” These employees shall be EXEMPT from civil service requirements, which means they will be POLITICAL appointees. Civil service would have meant appointment under a general system based on merit ascertained by competitive examination (CA Constitution Article VII). And, listen to this, ONLY ONE of those hired as legal counsel needs to have “extensive experience and expertise in implementation and enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.”
There are NO LIMITS on number of staff, consultants, or legal counsel. There’s also no limit on the funding that the governor submits for this new bureaucracy created through Prop 11 OR for the “statewide outreach program” that is to be set up “to solicit broad public participation” — public relations events. Be assured, however, that there is planned fiscal oversight, from the GOVERNOR’S Department of Finance!!!
The greatest travesty is the gridlock built into the commission by a requirement of 9 votes to approve final maps. These votes must be evenly split between Democrats, Republicans, and Others. Can anyone who has watched state government in recent years even imagine agreement? This is where the Republican-appointed State Supreme Court steps in to dictate the final maps.
If Proposition 11 passes, and it WILL if people do not read more than the title and blurb provided by the Secretary of State, there will be a huge faucet of state funds funneled to private consultants and attorneys, overseen by political appointee staff and citizen commissioners paid $300 plus expenses per meeting, and Republicans will be in charge.
And this is being sold to voters as an improvement??? THIS is reform??? Certainly there will be the well-connected who will profit from this new bureaucracy, but it’s not going to be the average taxpayer who will again be stuck with the bill for this privatization of the redistricting process. And the Democrats, who have gained significantly in voter registration, again will be stymied by this seizure of power by the Republican elite.
We now move to the more interesting part — the financing of this interesting excursion into the redistricting wonderland. WHO would be funding this?
Turns out that anyone who wants to check into the FUNDERS of any of the propositions OR candidates can do so quite easily through our Secretary of State’s website. From the main page, click on “political reform” on the top bar, then find the link part way down that page.
I’ve done this and you would not believe WHO is there!! How about New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the tune of $250,000! And there’s Boone Pickens, the Texas oil tycoon, for $100,000. And CEO’s and Chairs abound. I wonder if the shareholders of these companies know where the profits go. From Williams Sonoma –W. Howard Lester, $250,000; from Guess–Maurice Marciano $25,000; from Trust Company of the West–Robert Day $100,000; from Charles Schwab–$100,000; from the Gap–Donald Fisher $50,000; from PIMCO–William Powers $100,000; from Netflix founder Reed Hastings $147,307.01; from Rick Caruso, RE Development, $100,000; from the LA Chamber of Commerce, $32,500. Then there is the New Majority California PAC (more on this follows) with $175,000. Here’s where you check out the donor list.
And that’s just from under the first listed committee, California Voters First, #1299492, that is supporting the measure. They report $4,826,382.01 received for only the first six months of 2008.
Additional donors, insurance companies, land developers, etc., are tucked away under what is called the New Majority California PAC (a major donor to Voters First) here.
Homebuilder William Lyon kicked in $8,000; the Irvine Company $8000; Bank of America PAC $5600; Heritage Development $8000; Robert Follman of RA Industries $8000; Robert Grimm of Strategic Financial $8000; Stephen Fry of Fry Steel $8000; Yokohl Ranch $8000; Horowitz Management $8000. (David Horowitz, that is, who is also within Voters First with an additional $5000); Marion Knott Montapert $8000 (another multiple donor with an additional $2000 disclosed within Voters First too); William E. Simon $8000; Syd Liebovitch of Rodeo Realty $5000.
But for those research wonks you really want to go for it, please check out the New Majority California PAC EXPENDITURES here.
This is where you find the actual FUNDING of petition gathering by Kimball Petition Management for Voters First (indeed), the Republican Governors Association donations, the contributions to Gov Scharzenegger’s committees, various Republican county parties, mailers for Bernard Parks (candidate for LA County supervisor), and $10,000 for Karl Rove!!!
For those of you who have gotten this far, I have a challenge. Within the California Voters First PAC, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Dream Team is listed multiple times for both in-kind and monetary contributions…$280,000 here, $300,000 there…get the idea? Try to figure the total in millions and call his office to ask what each of these contributions represented. I’m curious and have simply run out of time. I also suspect many who were behind Arnold’s failed Prop 77 in 2005 are behind this new incarnation.
What I am certain of is that this proposition #11 is as “fair and balanced” as Fox News. This is yet another one of these “by the rich and for the rich” propositions being marketed by the high priced Republican propagandists to harried voters. Democrats living in the Red Zones are particularly vulnerable, since they are hoping this will benefit them. It won’t. It also only applies to STATE districts, and NOT to Congressional districts.
Expect the Republicans will be continuously pounding the airwaves with their lies using credible-looking endorsements from credible sounding “good government” organizations and people.
Don’t fall for it. Vote NO on PROP 11 and keep the politicians directly accountable for these critical decisions. As bad as some of them have been in the past, this certainly is not a viable alternative. The Republicans are attempting to circumvent their continuous losses in registration over the last Bush years. Don’t let them do it. VOTE NO ON PROP 11 and pass this around.
by Linda Sutton
Truth Now Productions
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