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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 3:37 am | Fair 49º


Mark Hamilton: Citizens Redistricting Commission Deserves a Chance to Work

Vote no on Props. 20 and 27 so panel can take first crack at redrawing legislative lines

Two propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot deal with how California’s legislative and congressional district boundaries will be drawn. The process of redrawing these boundaries occurs every 10 years based upon the results of our national census. I am opposed to both of the ballot measures, Propositions 20 and 27.

Mark Hamilton
Mark Hamilton

Two years ago, California voters approved Proposition 11, which authorized the creation of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The commission’s job is to redraw state legislative and Board of Equalization district boundaries.

This commission was formed because California voters wanted to create a process for drawing new state legislative boundaries that was removed from the bias and self-interest of a gridlocked, partisan Legislature. The hope is that an independent commission of citizen voters would draw districts based on nonpartisan rules that put the best interests of communities first and end the gerrymandering that was designed to protect incumbent legislators of both parties.

I applied to be on this commission and can assure you that applicants were questioned extensively on their thoughts concerning how boundaries could be drawn fairly and equitably. This was to assure that the various interests and populations would be adequately represented without giving unfair advantage to any one group or political party.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected. I would have liked to have served. Based on my experience and knowing that those who were selected went through the same processes and responded to the same challenging topics that I did, I am confident they will put their full energy into doing what they believe is best for California and its citizens.

I hope that the process of selecting the members ensures the commission’s ability to reach consensus and avoid the gridlock that people feared would develop if the Legislature remained in control of redrawing its own boundaries.

Will the commission devolve into gridlock? Will the bureaucracy supporting the commission take control due to members not having the background, expertise or firmness to resist outside influence? I don’t think so, but it could happen.

I think it is a process that should be given the chance to meet the hopes of the people of California. I believe it should be allowed to proceed and succeed. That’s why I oppose Prop. 27.

I also oppose Prop. 20, which would expand the commission’s responsibilities and task it with the additional job of redrawing congressional district boundaries.

We have no idea about the selected members’ knowledge about congressional boundaries or their views about what topics and problems should be considered, nor do we have any idea as to whether the structure of the commission is a good one for this job. Further, we also don’t know the topics, questions and explanations of the duties of the commission all related to redrawing state legislative boundaries. There were no topics, questions, explanations or definitions that related to drawing congressional boundaries. Californians voted for this commission based upon its job description, the process for choosing the members and the structure of the commission.

Our democratic structures are built to meet the needs of citizens far into the future. They are not created as temporary panaceas only to be changed as other conflicts arise. They are built to temper the conflicts and ensure fair representation of a variety of opinions and needs.

I believe the commission’s structure and process is a worthy experiment. It represents a hope for success, but that success is not assured. We should let it work, see how it does. Only if it succeeds should its powers be expanded. Let’s give the Citizens Redistricting Commission the opportunity to do what it was charged with doing. It may need some modification along the way. Once we experience its success or failure, then we can decide if this process should be applied to congressional district boundaries.

For the reasons outlined above, I oppose Propositions 20 and 27.

— Mark Hamilton is a retired Santa Barbara educator, community activist and member of several local nonprofit boards. He has lived in Santa Barbara since 1961.

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