Fixing Sacramento: Don’t hate the player, change the game

State budget problems, high taxes, prison overcrowding, and a never-ending education crisis has California voters fixated on their Legislature and its 120 members with a proposed initiative that would cut annual legislative sessions to a maximum of 95 days and slice lawmakers’ pay by at least 50 percent.  While I like the idea of a part-time Legislature, why stop there?  The problems in Sacramento are more serious than how much they are paid.  It has more to do with who is being paid in the first place.  Something tells me that we’d dramatically cut down the amount of career politicians seeking public office in California’s Legislature if they couldn’t enjoy the perks of living in the best neighborhoods, sending their kids to private schools, and  selectively seeing the world from behind the tint of their tax-payer funded vehicles.  

 There continues to be a disconnect on the behalf of some state representatives regarding the condition of their district and the people in it.  A disconnect that I believe is the reason why they fail as a group at getting anything accomplished where California’s budget crisis is concerned.  The tint on those Lincoln Town Cars and taxpayer-funded vehicles can be awfully dark and does an exceptionally good job of shielding what some officials just don’t want to see.

 That needs to change.

 What would happen if lawmakers’ who want to represent California voters were mandated to not only live in their districts, but to live in the most economically depressed part of their district as identified in the most recent U.S. Census Report?  For some elected officials in California it might not be that  much of a difference.  But for others like State Senator Rod Wright, who represents the 25th Senate District of California, a district that includes Palos Verdes, Lawndale, Hawthorne, Gardena, Inglewood, Compton, and parts of South Los Angeles, it would mean moving out of his four-plex in Inglewood, which he listed as his residence when he registered to vote in 2007 or his single-family home near Baldwin Hills that is not in the 25th District, and moving to either Compton or South Los Angeles.

 I don’t see anything wrong with mandating that lawmakers’ live in the poorest area of their districts. Why shouldn’t they hear the same police sirens we hear at all hours of the day and night and be kept awake by the police helicopter’s beaming light, which in some communities has managed to replace the moon?  Shouldn’t they have to jump too at the sound of gunshots and screeching tires?

Maybe then they’d be more willing to come together in solving California’s problems if those problems were right outside their front door instead of down the road, at the bottom of the hill, outside of their gated neighborhood.

 I get very disturbed when I read reports about lawmakers’ who don’t live in the district that they represent.  It bothers me even more to find out where they choose to live after elected might not even be an issue under current state law.  California voters deserve to be represented by people who truly live in the districts they represent, and are not residents on paper only.  

 As an added bonus, since they can’t seem to fix California’s education crisis, why not tack on another mandate that members of California’s Legislature be forced to enroll their children in the same public schools, community colleges, and state universities that our kids have to attend?  That ought to get them working.  After all, if it’s good for the gander, it’s even better for the goose.

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