If Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle’s “crack” political reporting staff isn’t already convinced that the California Redistricting Commission is illegally drawing lines for California’s partisan political offices which will result in intentionally tilted outcomes favoring the Democrats, take another look at the maps they have drawn for California’s four Board of Equalization seats. Our publisher Jon Fleischman has blogged on these lines, and I intend to carry his reasoning a little further here.
Interested people should visit the Commission’s website at the self-absorbed named URL “www.wedrawthelines.com.” (The “Village People” graphic at the top of the site says it all about these bozos.) There you will learn that while the Commission is doing a good job at having public meetings across the state, about the only thing it is hearing at those meetings is what partisan Democrats have to say. And what it is not doing is following the law.
Proposition 11 is very specific on a point the Commission is missing, and had evidently surely illegally disregarded, in publishing the BOE lines: “To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with the criteria above (Federal Voting Rights Act) districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant population.”
One of the BOE districts, the “Nevada border” district, just published, stretches vertically the entire length of California and includes residents on the Oregon border as well as residents on the Mexican border, a distant 900 miles, while “bypassing” nearby areas of population with more commonalities. In “law school Latin,” that one district is ipso facto illegal. You cannot get more “distant” in California than 900 miles from point-to-point in the same district. I cannot imagine a judge not upholding a challenge to that district.
The vertical “coastal” district, spanning maybe 800 miles from the Oregon border down California’s coast into Orange County, is even worse from the “community of interest” standpoint that the Commission must demonstrate for its lines to pass legal scrutiny. This district is clearly a screw job to diminish GOP voting strength in the southern coastal portion in favor of stronger liberal Democrat voting power in the northern coastal part of California. But while “political parties” are not supposed to be considered in the process, lifestyles can be, and there is no mistaking that there is hardly any commonality of interest between Arcata, California and San Clemente, California other than you can see the Pacific Ocean from both their shores.
Let’s dig down on this. Arcata is a city adjacent to the Arcata Bay (northern) portion of Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, At the 2010 census, Arcata’s population was 17,231. This college town, located 280 miles (450 km) north of San Francisco (via Highway 101), is home to Humboldt State University. According to Wikipedia, in the past, Arcata has been “notably progressive in its political makeup, and was the first city in the United States to elect a majority of its city council members from the Green Party. As a result of the progressive majority, Arcata capped the number of chain restaurants allowed in the city. Arcata was also the first municipality to ban the growth of any type of Genetically Modified Organism within city limits, with exceptions for research and educational purposes.” Arcata and the surrounding area is known for illegal growing and manufacture of marijuana. Residents include retired hippies and anti-war protestors. A major BOE issue in the area is whether or not the BOE will collect sales tax on the sale of the area’s dope production. Arcata shares much more in common with the more inland areas excluded from the BOE district the Commission proposes to stick it in, than other communities in the distant south.
San Clemente, on the other hand, according to Wikipedia,”is a city in Orange County, California. The population was 63,522 at the 2010 census. Located On the California Coast, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego at the southern tip of the county, it is known for its ocean, hill, and mountain views, a pleasant climate and its Spanish Colonial style architecture. San Clemente’s city slogan is ‘Spanish Village by the Sea’. The official City flower is the Bougainvillea and the official City tree is the Coral tree.” Bougainvillea, a tropical plant that does not grow too well in the north, is quite a contrast to the marijuana plant that dominates Humboldt Counties blackmarket marijuana industry, don’t you think? San Clemente’s city council is dominated by Republican, not radical Green Party members. Residents in San Clemente are more interested in digestive relief than genetically modified organisms. A big part of the senior population in San Clemente are military retirees who fought in the Vietnam War, rather than protesting against it. I don’t think San Clemente City Council has “capped the number of chain restaurants” and I enjoy stopping at the Carrow’s there next to Hwy. 5 every now and then for the $3.99 breakfast, a chain restaurant with many hundreds of stores nationwide that you don’t see around that often locally. I wish there were more around, like in Arcata, but there are none, another lack of “commonality.” I looked it up. No Carrows north of Santa Rosa, which is still a distance from Arcata. And I am not sure that there are any restaurants in San Clemente that serve solely non-genetically modified organisms.
Most telling about the lack of commonality of interest in these “vertical” districts is how the Commission plan balkanizes and lessens effective communications in multiple media markets in the districts. Big districts like BOE can be expected to have maybe one or two major media markets, where reporters are more likely to cover events in the district. officeholders are going to be better able to communication with taxpayers through press releases and statements to the media, and candidates are going to be able to campaign most effectively for office in buying time in one or two media markets. Thus, under the current BOE lines, for example, Jerome Horton in the Fourth District is covered entirely by just the Los Angeles Media Market. Michelle Steel in the Third District is covered by just the Los Angeles and San Diego Media Markets. George Runner in the Second District has a long north/south district that covers several smaller media markets, but the district is mostly northerly and does not extend the full length of the state as the Redistricting Commission proposes. Betty Yee in the First District anchors on the San Francisco media market but includes minor media markets north and south and falls short of the Los Angeles media market. Under the Commission’s plan however, commonality based on media communications is thrown out the window. The current First District as proposed would extend much farther south to include both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco media markets, two of the most expensive markets in America for buying advertising time for candidates, and covered by the state’s two biggest competing newspapers, the Chronicle and the Times, but only in the coastal part for each market, giving perhaps some pause to editors about stories focused on the district, and completely screwing a candidate on a media buy on local radio or television, which would well over-shoot the intended audience and force the cost of campaigning to go up to reach fewer actual voters in the district. In the First District, voters who are also baseball fans would root for the Giants and the Dodgers, and the Athletics and the Angels, causing a big “commonality of interest” problem for whoever is elected to fill the seat under the Commission’s plan. Especially at a Giants/Dodgers game.
Proposition 11 seemed like a potentially good idea, because it promised to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan Democrats, but the hoped for nonpartisan nature of the Commission has been compromised as we see the results of their work. Their lines just stink, period. San Francisco’s former Congressman Phil Burton, who did the famous liberal Democrat gerrymander of 1980, would be drooling over this Commission’s BOE lines. As one of my sister-in-laws once said to me, “any idiot could do it,” namely, try to be fair and nonpartisan and follow a law that mandates such. These commissioners prove themselves not to be idiots, but simply tools or a few manipulative partisan Democrats on the Commission who are dominating decision-making and coming up with whacky justifications for political districts the likes of which we have never seen before in our political history. Even Burton’s gerrymander didn’t attempt to create districts spanning 800 or 900 miles in distance, for example. Because he knew they would be laughed at by political professionals and thrown out by the courts. Vertical lines for BOE districts that cover distant ranges from farthest north to farthest south? Who do they think they are dealing with in the judicial review, morons? Well, at least the San Francisco Chronicle’s crack political reporting team can be counted on to either cover-up or support those clowns at the Redistricting Commission.