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Scott Harris: Proposition 11

When three out of four Californians believe representatives are doing a poor job and we don't do anything to change it, it is our fault.

The most important initiative on November’s ballot is Proposition 11. In simple terms, Prop 11 will take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and create a 14-member (five Democrats, five Republicans and four others) independent committee. Every 10 years, the Legislature goes into a dark room, redraws the legislative districts to virtually guarantee the status quo (just about the only time the two parties can agree on anything), and effectively prevents real reform in Sacramento for another 10 years.

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Scott Harris
Let me give you 11 excellent reasons to support Proposition 11 and end the incumbent-protection program.

1. Last month’s Field Poll shows that only 27 percent of Californians think the Legislature is doing a good job. Yet, 99 percent of our legislators are re-elected. Either we’re stupid, or the system is rigged. I would rather think we’re not stupid.

2. In 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006, not one of California’s 120 legislative seats changed parties. Odds are that none will again this year, and if there is no redistricting, it may stay that way through 2020.

3. In 2006, two state senators and five Assembly members won with 100 percent of the vote — 100 percent. As former state Controller Steve Westly, a Democrat who with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is co- chairing the pro-11 campaign, said, “It was easier to get voted out of the old U.S.S.R. Politburo than it is out of the California state legislature.”

4. In 2005, the two parties came together to help defeat a similar measure, Proposition 77, by promising to pass their own redistricting legislation. When they reneged on their promise, this is what state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said, reportedly with a straight face: “I don’t think our whole idea was so much to get it on this year’s ballot as it was to show people that there was a determination to have an alternative method to draw the state lines.” Three years later, we still don’t have the promised redistricting reform and Perata, not surprisingly, is leading the charge against Prop 11.

5. This redistricting measure is important enough to Californians to bring together people who are rarely on the same side of any issue. The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable are standing side-by-side with the ACLU of Southern California and California Democratic Council, along with hundreds of other organizations and prominent individuals.

6. Opponents falsely claim that minority representation will be put in danger should Prop 11 pass. Love them or hate them, does anyone believe the ACLU of Southern California would support legislation that had even a remote chance of hurting minorities?

7. The time is now. The next scheduled redistricting is 2011, and to prepare for a fair redistricting, we need to put reforms in place at once. If we don’t, our next opportunity won’t be until 2021!

8. The current system prevents moderates from either party from getting to Sacramento. Since general elections are a foregone conclusion in our party-safe districts, the only battle is in the primaries when extremists prevail thanks to historically smaller turnouts that give the rabid wing of each party disproportionate influence on candidate selection. Nonrigged districts would restore the relevance of general elections and give moderates a chance to win.

9. Because there are no moderates in the Legislature (see above), we have gridlock, as evidenced by the budget crisis. Democrat and Republican legislators vote as mindless blocs. Our state is imploding while our elected officials ignore the needs of 38 million constituents to focus on the needs of 120 power-hungry, partisan legislators.

10. We deserve better. We deserve a Legislature that is fair, responsive, effective and efficient. The only way we’re going to get this is through honest redistricting and right now, Proposition 11 represents our best — and maybe only — chance.

11. Because it is our fault and our responsibility. When three out of four Californians believe our representatives are doing a bad job and we don’t do anything to change it, it is our fault.

On Nov. 4, we need to stand up as Democrats, Republicans and independents and say, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

Scott Harris is a political commentator. Read his columns and contact him through his Web site,, or e-mail him at [email protected]

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