Experts Expound

Experts Expound

Is California’s electoral system in need of a top-to-bottom overhaul? Two
lawmakers, Republican Keith Richman and Democrat Joe Canciamilla, want to
create a citizens’ commission to propose changes in such things as
redistricting, term limits and campaign finance and place the
recommendations before voters. Is this a good idea?

Every political observer, pundit and scholar says the same thing–we have a
broken system that is in need of some sort of overhaul. Is this just
another in a long list of “reform” packages that ends up collecting dust
over at the Capitol?

It is a horrible public policy but makes great politics. Citizen
commissions in California are just cover for politicians to do what they do
not have the political courage to do on their own. (look at the
compensation commission and the political cover it has given legislators)
This is because citizen commissions are always appointed by politicians with
a very specific agenda. I can predict today what will come out of a
1) change Proposition 13 (really…how can schools be expected to teach kids
for $10,000 a child per year!)
2) expand term limits
3) campaign finance changes with “fantastic loopholes” and limits on
corporate donations
4) Redistricting reform light that allows politicians and the political
parties to continue to dominate the process

Do I need more coffee before answering your questions…

There is great room for improvement in California’s electoral system, but it
remains to be seen whether the overhaul proposed by Richman and Canciamilla
would make things better or worse. It’s sort of like an old joke from “Annie
Hall”: You have a crazy dysfunctional system that thinks it’s a chicken, but
you don’t get rid of it because you need the eggs.

Good lord, not another panel holding hearings on reform. Rich-amilla wants
this commission to take yet another dog-and-pony show around the state, to
gain citizen input for changes to term limits, whatever. Haven’t we been
down this road before with Constitution Revision Commission and California
Performance Review? Each of those final reports met the same fate as the Ark
of the Covenant in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” –buried for eternity on an
official government shelf.

If this one goes forward without iron-clad guarantees that the Legislature
will pay more than lip service to the results, the electorate is going to
feel suckered yet again –just like Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the
football away one more time.

Throw out all the laws–just put a mike and camera on every elected official.
Send the live feed to Internet. Problem solved.

It’s a terrific idea. Sure, they may be tilting at windmills, but it
doesn’t make the question about whether the state should change the way it’s
governed and how its representatives are elected any less valid.

Why not? There’s plenty of room on the bookshelf next to all the other
reports on overhauling government written by “blue ribbon” and other

The Richman-Canciamilla collaboration has been so successful in so many
ways. It seems a shame to stop now.

The people from whom we sought opinions: Andrew Acosta, A.G. Block, Don
Wilcox, Evan Goldberg, Deborah Gonzalez, Dan Schnur, Jason Kinney, Karen
Hanretty, Kevin Spillane, Jon Fleischman, Michael Houston, Matt Ross, Sam
Delson, Mike Madrid, Morgan Crinklaw, Richard Zeiger, Ralph Simoni, Bob
Hertzberg, Scott Baugh, Steve Maviglio, Tony Quinn, Peter Demarco, Adam
Probolsky, Barbara O’Connor, Jack Pitney

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