The recent recommendation from the Think Long committee – a virtuous attempt to rectify California’s dysfunction – of an elite “Jedi” council (per Joe Mathews) really highlights the most glaring problem facing California – a lack of democracy.
You thought the problem was runaway spending, regulation and taxes. No. Those are symptoms. They’re not the disease.
The disease is a legislative branch composed of fundraisers, not policy leaders. They won’t make necessary changes because powerful (read that monied) constituencies will withhold support/fund challengers should anyone have the temerity to challenge the status quo.
Meanwhile, in the real world, most Californians see their legislators – and thus all politicians – as tools of the monied interests and not the people. Thus, we see single digit approval ratings (paid staff and blood relatives).
The answer? Not another undemocratic idea, as attractive as it is to empower some adults to rein in the dysfunction.
The real answer is to empower the people. Yes, trite. But true. What we have to remember is that for reform to work, it has to be approved by the people. An elite council may propose good reform but if it doesn’t bubble up from the people, it won’t be accepted and followed.
The answer is a truly democratic (note the small ‘d’) legislature composed of people who really know their constituents but more important, are independent of the monied interests.
Such is the Neighborhood Legislature. What’s that? It is a legislature truly known and elected by real people – not with 30 second ads or sensational mailers – a legislature that campaigns door to door or in town hall meetings.
How is that possible in a state the size and scope of California?
The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act (now awaiting title and summary) does this by subdividing the large Senate and Assembly districts into about 100 tiny districts appropriately called “Neighborhood Districts”. These tiny (5-10,000 persons) districts elect “Neighborhood Representatives”. These 100 local reps then elect one of their number to venture forth to Sacrament to write laws and pass a budget.
Given the tiny districts, they will run tiny campaigns – competitive – but free of the monied interests. They will be local leaders, people known to their constituents, not detached like many are now.
Essentially, the 12,000 Neighborhood Representatives (who aren’t ‘politicians’ in normal sense) are delegating their drafting authority to a smaller body, a “Working Committee” of 40 Neighborhood Senators and 80 Neighborhood Assemblymen. They also get a crack at approving what comes out of Sacramento before it is sent to the Governor for signature, an important role.
This will get us bottom up reform, not top down. This will get us independent action, not legislation that reflects who pays the most money or makes the most threats.