News item: Charles T. Munger Jr. — who spent $14 million
backing campaigns to establish the citizens redistricting commission — said
last week that he considers himself "a bit of a proud father" now that the
commission has done its work.

Reaction: Charlie, please adopt me.

Because, Dad (if I may), I can guarantee you this much. If
you give me $14 million, I can make you at least as proud as the redistricting
commission made you.

Which is to say: I can do every bit as much for improving
governance in California as the redistricting commission has done.

Heck, I’ll do every bit as much for half what redistricting
cost you. For $7 million, we have a deal.

It’s an easy guarantee to make, because the redistricting
commission is, at best, irrelevant when it comes to addressing the state’s
needs for political and budget reform.

That’s not the commission’s fault. For all the controversy
and referendum and accusations around the commission, its members, from what I
can tell, did the best they could do at reconciling the conflicting goals of
impartiality and protection of voting rights.

But the commission didn’t change the game because it
couldn’t. Despite campaign promises about greater political competition, the
commission’s maps seem to have made no discernible impact on political
competition. Because it’s not possible because of California’s political
geography (people live with people who vote like them) and its small
legislature, with only 120 representatives for a population of nearly 38
million. There was simply no way for the commission to draw lines to juice

If anything, the redistricting process may blunt the impact
of the top-two primary, by making ever districts so slightly more competitive.
Just competitive enough to make sure that two candidates of the same party
won’t advance to the general election (which would create competition for votes
of independents and the other party) – thus negating the primary moderating
mechanism of the top-two system.

Now Charlie – I mean "Pop" — why this makes you proud isn’t
clear. But they say love is blind.

And there’s plenty of blind love when it comes to the
redistricting commission – and not just from its "father." Good government
groups keep talking about it as an accomplishment and advance.

This is understandable, given the hunger for "positive" news
in the bleak California governance news. But it’s also distracting – and
potentially damaging.

The distraction of redistricting refers to all the time and
money it’s taken away from bigger changes – a new election system that uses
proportional representation, an elimination of constitutional tax and spending
rules, initiative reform – that would change California’s governing reality. All
the time spent on redistricting has consumed good government attention as the
current system melts down – leading to disinvestment in public higher
education, a shorter school year, and historic cuts in services, without any
compensating tax or economic relief during a bad economy.

The potential damage of redistricting comes from the
juxtaposition of this diminished California – and the celebration of
redistricting as a triumph by elites. One wonders why anyone would believe good
government groups when they come to the ballot with future reforms – on the
heels of a redistricting victory that doesn’t seem to have done much good.