Still Pursuing the Neighborhood Legislature

John Cox
John Cox is a San Diego area businessman and a Republican candidate for Governor. He can be reached at

Rescue California Foundation, a 501c(4) foundation dedicated to better state government, filed with the California Attorney General’s office our request for title and summary of the Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act, to be placed on the ballot in 2016.

It’s the third time we’ve filed, because of the exigencies of the state elections system, but the proposed reform act has not changed in substance since we initiated it five years ago. (See the act here.)  Much more importantly, our organization, our resources, and our chances of success have advanced dramatically.

The problem we are determined to solve is structural: the California state legislature of 40 Senators and 80 Assembly (lower house) representatives is built to favor the buying of legislation and legislators by well-funded special interests. The political and commercial value of these 120 seats is so great that the politicians find it easy to raise millions of dollars from funders and lobbyists to fund the media campaigns required to win. Then they are locked in to writing and passing the legislation the funders have paid for.

The only way to change the outcome is to change the structure. In the Neighborhood Legislature there will be 4,000 Senators and 8,000 Assembly members, each representing 10,000 and 5,000 citizens respectively (these Neighborhood Representatives will delegate law making duties to 120 members of two Working Committees but retain a ratification vote on all legislation to assure accountability). 5,000 citizens equates to about 2,000 households, essentially a neighborhood. There’ll be no TV campaigns; you can’t buy one to reach only a neighborhood.  Major spending will not only elicit a backlash, it can be countered effectively by candidates campaigning door-to-door and in town hall meetings. Citizens will have their voices heard directly, they’ll influence policy and they will begin to turn out again in local elections.

Over the past five years, we have built a strong base for success for the Neighborhood Legislature:

  • Multiple market research surveys, each indicating overwhelming support.
  • Several focus groups, enabling real people to discuss the reform, and generating equally favorable results.
  • An academic study by the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, confirming the outcome of the Neighborhood Legislature reform: lower government spending, less debt and a more responsive government.
  • 4 college symposiums led by political science professors in California’s most prestigious universities.
  • Over 500 speeches and presentations to interested groups who requested us to talk to them, including Chambers of Commerce, Rotaries, Realtors, church groups, veterans groups and many more.  All agree that our reform is a vast improvement over the current structure.
  • We have hired a new CEO, highly experienced in electoral politics (at the state and regional level, as well as the national level).
  • We have recruited a support staff committed to not only collecting the signatures required to get the measure on the 2016 ballot, but also to making the argument for the reform door to door in neighborhoods all across California.  It is our feeling that this campaign has to be conducted on a person to person basis, much like the Neighborhood Legislature will operate in practice.
  • We are in the process of recruiting political science students on the 30 largest college campuses in the state.  These are the logical participants who will be interested and eager enough to gather the signatures and carry the message of ending the power of the entrenched interests.

Much has taken place in California in the five years since we started this journey.  While certain politicians and media falsely trumpet a ‘California Comeback’, our citizens are constrained by excessive debt, unresolved long-term government commitments to unsustainable pension pledges, and regulations that reduce productivity, growth and employment.  Our schools are still not producing the results they should, jobs are still leaving the state and the state has yet to deal effectively with huge future responsibilities for employee pensions and health care.  Utility, energy and taxes are among the highest levels in the nation, contributing to the exodus in opportunities.  Major projects in water management and transportation, such as the Governor’s treasured high speed rail, are plagued by corruption, cronyism and incompetence in management.

Meanwhile, active participation of the voters is waning.  This is mostly the result of a feeling that special interest money controls the levers of power.  Voters are detached from their leadership and feel powerless to change policy.   Voter turnout in the recent November elections was one of the lowest in history, as was a recent election in Los Angeles.  When citizens don’t vote or get informed, the crooks and cronies solidify their power.

The Neighborhood Legislature addresses these concerns. Tiny districts mean constituents will meet their candidates.  Policy will be discussed on each doorstep and elections will be won on the basis of issues and character, not superficial advertising or negative allegations.  Every vote will count in tiny districts and voters will feel their influence will be felt, much more than they do now when the funding interests control the debate.  It even saves money; it was scored last time as saving taxpayers more than $130 million from cutting staff and other costs of the legislature.

It is long past time to address the structural deficiencies of our system.  It is not enough for us to just complain.  It is time for action.  We are responsible for the structure of our electoral system.  We are going to have to change it ourselves; the crooks and cronies in charge now like the current system; they make lots of money from it and enjoy their power.  They won’t change it on their own.

We are going to be ready to collect signatures around June 1; we hope to have up to 3,000 activists in neighborhoods across California collecting signatures and educating voters.

It’s time to step up and help if you can.  Forward this article to your concerned friends.  Visit our website,  Sign up for our newsletter. Make a donation.  Join the thousands who like us on Facebook or tweet on Twitter.

Join us in changing the structure of politics in California for the good of all Californians.  Get involved in changing the structure or lose your right to complain.

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