This ‘reform’ is just another power grab

first_imgA lot of us have mental alarms that go off when politicians say they want to change the rules to make things “fair.” Proposition 77 ought to have those alarms ringing off the hook. Politicians spend a lot more time thinking about redistricting than voters do. And the politicians behind the redistricting initiative have spent months looking for ways to change the rules to help themselves. The sponsors of Proposition 77 are cleverly casting their effort to gain political advantage as reform. Yet organizations who have worked for decades to improve California’s redistricting process – including the League of Women Voters – oppose Proposition 77. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Proposition 77 would turn drawing political district maps for members of Congress and the state Legislature over to three retired judges – instantly making these unelected partisans three of the most powerful political players in the country. Proposition 77 gives the most powerful politicians in the Legislature a role in selecting the judges, and guarantees most of the slots to judges from the biggest political parties in the state. Seniors have a lot to contribute to the political process, but as a group, retired judges – whose average age is nearly 75 – aren’t particularly representative of California. Nine out of 10 are white men. They alone would decide district boundaries for 53 members of Congress, 40 state senators and 80 members of the Assembly. No other state puts so much power in so few hands. But these judges won’t be elected, won’t be accountable to anyone. And there’s no telling how they would draw boundaries for 37 million Californians in a way that’s fair for every part of the state. Under Proposition 77, what the judges say, goes. Their plan takes effect immediately. Voters lose their right to challenge the plan beforehand – a right they’ve exercised in California before. Proposition 77 forces voters to take a back seat to politicians – who will already be using the new lines before they appear on the ballot. That’s backward, and it shows that the forces behind Proposition 77 are more concerned about political power than they are about anything else. The initiative also requires that California draw new lines immediately, even though the census figures used to draw boundaries are six years old. Millions of people who are new to California, or who have simply moved from one neighborhood to another, get left off the map. To make matters worse, Proposition 77 also changes the rules for drawing districts, diminishing the protections that ensure every community gets a fair chance at electing someone to represent their interests. There’s no doubt that our state’s redistricting process, which is written into California’s constitution, needs reform. But it’s equally clear that we shouldn’t rewrite our constitution just to help one party or one set of politicians get more clout. That’s why so many organizations, from the Congress of California Seniors to the California State Firefighters Association and the California League of Conservation Voters all oppose this initiative. They agree that shifting power from one set of politicians to another isn’t an acceptable reason to change our constitution. The politicians behind Proposition 77 have raised millions of dollars from special interests – money they will use for slick television ads attempting to portray the initiative as reform. When they do, a lot of mental alarms will go off. Because most of us know that a politician who says he wants reform is usually talking about something else: power. Hank Lacayo is president of the Congress of California Seniors.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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