Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Will-of-the-Voters Budget

Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of this Constitution, the budget bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill may be passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, a majority of the membership concurring, to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation.
This language seems pretty straightforward to me. It's part of our State Constitution, Proposition 25 approved by 55.1% of the voters on November 2, 2010, the same day they elected Jerry Brown Governor and elected a Democratic majority in each house of the State Legislature.

On June 28, 2011, that Legislative majority approved a budget containing major spending cuts in all program areas, sending it to Brown who said he's on board with the budget bill.

But also it's a budget predicated on significant revenue growth. In the first seven months of the current fiscal year, 2010-11, the total of Corporate, Personal Income, and Sales Taxes exceeded 2009-10 by 12.16%. Based on that surprising news, every budget proposal discussion since February has assumed continuation of the growth.

The problem is February through May the 2010-11 total was the same as 2009-10. If February - May is indicative of a trend, the adopted budget will be $10-$12 billion short on revenue without even considering the gimmicks that may not work because they are illegal.

This may be the worst California General Fund Budget ever adopted. But it is truly the Will-of-the-Voters Budget.

The voters did not give the ability to raise taxes to a majority of each house of the Legislature, assuring that taxes would not be raised. The voters did not elect a majority in each house of the Legislature that would completely eviscerate funding for schools, caring for children, caring for the aged and the infirm, law enforcement, courts, fire protection, emergency medical services, libraries, etc. But the voters did set in place a system that would result in major funding cuts for all those government services during bad economic times.

With complete foreknowledge, the electorate put in place a system that could only produce this Will-of-the-Voters Budget. And the list of knowledgeable people who supported establishing this system is an impressive list of wise and politically savvy folks - just ask them.

So imagine my surprise when I read on the San Francisco Chronicle website who angrily came out swinging in reaction to the Will-of-the-Voters Budget:
The president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association -- who happens to work as a DOJ special agent -- also had some choice words for the governor and Democratic legislators. Alan Barcelona accused Democrats of welcoming drug gangs to California and called the budget cut "absolutely astounding."
Gee,the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association is on the list of wise and politically savvy folks who supported Proposition 25.

Department of Justice (DOJ) funding is a good example of "where the rubber meets the road" in State Government, so let me take some time here to review the truth for Mr. Barcelona and others.

The DOJ employs a lot of those expensive state employees we hear about from the anti-tax forces. For the past four years, now-Governor Jerry Brown was Attorney General (AG), the head of the DOJ. Here's how the functions of the DOJ were described in former-AG-now-Governor Brown's January 10, 2011 Budget:
The DOJ represents the people in all matters before the Appellate and Supreme Courts of California and the United States; serves as legal counsel to state officers, boards, commissions, and departments; represents the people in actions to protect the environment and to enforce consumer, antitrust, and civil rights laws; and assists district attorneys in the administration of justice.

The DOJ also coordinates efforts to address the statewide narcotic enforcement problem; assists local law enforcement in the investigation and analysis of crimes; provides person and property identification and information services to criminal justice agencies; supports the telecommunications and data processing needs of the California criminal justice community; and pursues projects designed to protect the people of California from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities. The DOJ receives funding support from the General Fund, as well as federal funds and a number of special‑purpose funds related to the Department’s regulatory and legal enforcement activities.
In Brown's January proposed budget, on Appendix Page 19 what one can learn is that the $0.6 billion projected 2010-11 expenditures in the DOJ increased 9% over 2009-10, even though federal funding dropped $4.5 million and General Fund support dropped $25 million.

What one can also learn is that in Brown's January 2011-12 budget proposal, DOJ spending was still 5% higher than 2009-10. This was true even though federal funding was projected to be slightly lower than 2009-10 and General Fund support was to be cut another $37 million (making the General Fund support reduction $62 million from 2009-10 levels).

So the Chronicle story tells us the folks at the DOJ, including newly elected Attorney General Kamala Harris, are upset about the adopted June 28 budget:
Harris' Department of Justice would see a $35.8 million reduction in its law enforcement budget next fiscal year, and another $35.2 million in the year after that. That $71 million cut could cost the DOJ another $40 million in matching federal funds over the next two years, said Division of Law Enforcement Director Larry Wallace.

"We could be looking at cuts in excess of $100 million," he said. "It's unprecedented, unsafe and unsustainable to the Department of Justice and it will greatly handcuff California law enforcement. We could lose up to 600 law enforcement positions if we take this hit, and possibly have to eliminate the bureau of narcotic enforcement and the bureau of investigations and intelligence."

Since these cuts were more or less included in the Governor's January 2011 budget which assumed an extension of temporary taxes, all this looks like political spin aimed at the anti-tax Republican base which is typically pro-law-enforcement.

On the other hand, it does appear from the quote noted above that California Statewide Law Enforcement Association President and DOJ employee Alan Barcelona "didn't get the memo" and appears genuinely angry at Democrats in the Legislature. Maybe Barcelona was surprised when Wallace, his boss, pointed out that the Will-of-the-Voters Budget eliminates jobs in the DOJ.

Unfortunately for Mr. Barcelona, Californian's aren't enamored with what they perceive as "the bureau of narcotic enforcement."  For the majority of Californian's the most visible squandering of law enforcement time and money is the marijuana eradication program. In fact, polls indicate that the majority of Americans, including many thinking conservatives, have second thoughts about the whole War on Drugs thing.

So when Californians expect every department in State Government to reduce spending because of The Great California Slump, given the choice of activities in the DOJ...
  • prosecuting violations of consumer, antitrust, civil rights and environmental laws;
  • providing persons and property identification, communications, data processing, lab and other services for the criminal justice community; and
  • coordinating drug enforcement such as marijuana eradication;
...guess which activity many folks might think is the least important.

In the years immediately following the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, then Governor Jerry Brown working with then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown started gaming the system. It has taken over 30 years, but it's over. Like many leaders in California's public employee labor organizations, Mr. Barcelona does not understand that we are nearing the end of the gaming of the governmental finance system.

When Californian's in 1978 decided to move away from the one stable governmental revenue source - the property tax - and shift to the volatile income and sales taxes, they presumably expected government to adapt. That means eliminating functions in hard times.

Governor Brown's May 2011 budget revision devotes 13 pages to such function eliminations most of which, I assume, have been incorporated into the final budget.

Interestingly in that May revision there is one reference to the DOJ:
DNA Identification Fund Shortfall - The May Revision proposes to transfer $10 million General Fund to the DNA Identification Fund, and restore $4.1 million Genera l Fund to the DOJ for lease revenue payments on regional forensic laboratories. Revenues to the DNA Identification Fund have not come in as projected; therefore, these changes are necessary in order to ensure the DNA and regional forensic laboratories are able to continue performing critical public safety work
In other words, "when push came to shove" Brown restored funding to a DOJ program that makes sense, seems necessary, and would have general public support.

That's how the process established by Proposition 25 is going to work. You don't furlough employees to save money like the Gubernator did. You particularly don't furlough employees at the DMV whose Department receives no tax money and is experiencing no reduction in fee revenue. You lay off employees working in tax supported functions based on how important you think those functions are to the people of California. And if you can't do those functions adequately, you stop doing them.

Now, of course, comes the part people will only begin to understand today. Late last night, the Senate approved Assembly Bill 114, the last of the budget followup bills needed to make the budget work. A key element in this bill "slides" $5.6 billion of tax revenue out of the State General Fund and into county revenue to support transferring prison inmates to county jails. It sounds reasonable. But the tax revenue no longer counts as State General Fund tax revenue which means it no longer is subject to Prop 98 that would require 40% of it on K-14 education.

Of course, in order avoid being lynched by one of their key constituencies, the teachers' unions, Democratic Legislators included a provision that suspends school district powers to issue teacher layoffs between now and August and requires districts to ignore the possibility of mid-year cuts for revenue projection purposes. Plus approved budget provisions requires that districts deal with a potential mid-year budget cut by slashing school days and laying off bus drivers rather than teachers.

The problem, of course, is that the budget cuts related to slashing school days and laying off bus drivers are the ones called "trigger cuts" and the bill require districts to bargain any further reductions in the school year with unions that represent teachers and non-classroom staff.

The "trigger cuts" relate to only $4 billion of the $11 billion in tax revenue growth over 2009-10 actual included in the budget. Here's how it works:
  • If $1 billion or more of that growth fails to materialize, no cuts are needed and any shortfall will be dealt with in future years' budgets.
  • If more than $1 billion but less than $2 billion of that growth fails to materialize, a list of $600 million in cuts will maybe occur and the rest of the shortfall will be dealt with in future years' budget.
  • If more than $2 billion of that growth fails to materialize, $1.9 billion in cuts may be imposed including the ones on the schools and the rest of the shortfall will be dealt with in future years' budget.
  • If not only the $4 billion, but some or all of the remaining $7 billion fails to materialize as is possible no solution is offered because that just can't happen - right?

According to the Sacramento Bee:
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders have pledged to pursue a 2012 ballot measure that puts this "realignment" plan in the constitution, giving counties sufficient assurances that they will continue receiving money for providing services in lieu of the state. Based on AB 114, that measure also will include tax increases to pay for realignment in future years, just as Brown's original budget sought to do.

AB 114 says that if the voters reject this measure -- or if it never reaches the ballot -- the state must determine in November 2012 how much it would have owed schools for 2011-12 had the $5.6 billion never gone to local governments. Right now, that amount stands at about $2.1 billion. The money would be repaid over five years with 20 percent of it dedicated to paying off deferrals, mandates and other onetime purposes.

If the ballot measure fails, the bill seems to ensure that schools are essentially held harmless by the tax shift -- and that their base will effectively be $2 billion higher this year and in future years than Brown's original January budget proposed.

If the measure passes, schools will not get repaid that $2 billion, but they stand to get more money from voter-approved taxes in future years.
At this point, this is so convoluted I hope the language in the various bills as adopted makes some sense.

As I said before, this may be the worst California General Fund Budget ever adopted. But it is the Will-of-the-Voters Budget.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The morons in the Magic Kingdom

The Republicans in Sacramento are basically moronic. But we’re hopeful that they can realize we’re on an unsustainable trajectory here, one that is not fiscally responsible and one for which they are at least partially responsible. - Gil Duran, Brown's press secretary, in a interview with KPCC
California Government reflects the fact that the State is the Magic Kingdom as noted in a previous post. In keeping with that view, a key member of the Brown Administration declared the Republicans are the "morons" in our State Government? Really?

Here's what I wrote on January 11, 2010, the day after Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown presented his budget proposal (emphasis added):
Foolishly I thought Brown was going to offer a severely reduced balanced budget to the Legislature with a possible solution such as proposing to increase the Proposition 13 tax rate of 1% of assessed value to 1½% of assessed value to avoid completely devastating our systems to educate and care for children. I thought he was going to create a serious discussion about the future of California government rather than attempt to put it off for five years.

In five years, the opportunities to keep California "golden" will be even more severely constrained. This is some legacy the son of Pat Brown is going to leave us.

Of course, with these proposals he simply just restarted the same old political arguments....
On January 30, I noted:
"When we unwind what has been done (in the past)," Brown said, "it's very difficult," noting the outpouring of opposition. But if it's not done and the tax extensions aren't approved, he adds, the alternative is "so horrible that we don't want to release it."
On the following day, Brown compared the Republicans in the Legislature to those in Egypt not wanting to fair and open elections despite the fact the Legislators and Brown were just elected in a free, fair, and open election just 90 days before.

Guess what! This year the Democratic majority in the Legislature adopted a budget on June 15 without a voter-approved tax increase. We had a budget! It did seem to have many cuts, but was it really "so horrible that we don't want to release it?" Yes, it was filled with gimmicks, many of which would likely be determined to be illegal. The "gimmicks" violated one of Democratic Governor Moonbeam's promises to the electorate. So he vetoed the budget bill.

During his campaign last year, Governor Moonbeam promised that he wouldn't accept:
  1. an unbalanced budget,
  2. a gimmick-filled budget,
  3. a budget that gutted education, medical care, and social services,
  4. a budget that included new taxes not approved by the voters.
To balance the budget, Moonbeam was advocating what now would be a voter-approved tax increase. To get that on the ballot, he needs the votes of all the Democrats in the Assembly plus the votes of two Assembly Republicans and the votes of all the Democrats in the State Senate plus the votes of two Senate Republicans.

He has tried since January to get the Republican votes, but he couldn't get them. Despite the fact that he'd been California Attorney General the four years immediately prior to 2011, he didn't know he likely wouldn't be able to get the Republican votes. In my opinion if there is a "moron" here it is Moonbeam who didn't understand the situation.

As usual in politics, to get the four votes Moonbeam and Legislative Democrats would have to compromise. The negotiations were messy and a compromise would clearly alienate some of the Democratic constituency. On June 14, for the record the Republicans provided an outline of what they wanted which you can view here. Though there is some important ideas in the proposals, the Democrats were never going to accept the key elements.

And everyone but Moonbeam is "reluctant" to adopt a budget bill based on a tax increase approved by the voters because the voters are unlikely to approve a tax increase.

Moonbeam lost his public employee and teachers union support for an initiative effort because the polls make it clear that getting a majority of voters to approve a tax increase is unlikely. It is unlikely he will get the Republican votes he needs to put a tax increase on the ballot and even if he does, at the risk of repeating myself, getting a majority of voters to approve a tax increase is unlikely.

Assuming income and sales tax revenue projections in the vetoed budget bill were accurate (which is a questionable assumption), to avoid gimmicks and legally questionable proposals and to begin to repay money borrowed from schools and local government and to prudently provide for a 1-2% General Fund reserve, the Legislature would have to cut another $11± billion from the adopted budget which included $11 billion in cuts the Assembly Democratic majority really didn't want to make.

In a recent Sacramento Bee article, absent a tax increase the dilemma is described as follows:
"I don't think there's a responsible way to cut your way to a solution," said Jean Ross of the California Budget Project, which advocates for low- and middle-income residents. "There's not a way to still have viable programs that meet federal standards, court standards, constitutional standards and the standards of the voters of California."
That pretty much describes it all.

To make any significant cuts, the Legislature would have to cut spending for  K-12 schools and community colleges. The voters established Proposition 98 which prohibits that without a two-thirds vote to suspend its provisions for another year. The Republicans have rejected that and it is clear that the voters are looking at that with a great deal of skepticism.

To make any significant cuts, the Legislature would have to cut spending on Medi-Cal and various programs for the poor elderly and children all of which would face legal problems in court or with the federal government, the latter probably resulting in loss of federal funds which would result in even higher unemployment in California. As the Gubernator proposed, the state's welfare-to-work program could be eliminated, but it's unlikely there would be enough votes in either house of the Legislature to do that.

Today we have this news:
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced today that they have reached an agreement on a new majority-vote budget plan.
A story earlier today explained:
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats are hashing out a new majority-vote budget that relies on $4 billion more flowing into state coffers but "triggers" mid-year cuts to education and other programs if that money never materializes.

The trigger cuts would replace some of the most dubious solutions in the previous Democratic budget, such as selling state buildings and imposing a quarter-cent local sales tax on a majority vote, according to sources unwilling to be named. If revenues fall short, cuts would hit K-12 schools and higher education, public safety programs and In-Home Supportive Services.

...The new budget includes a tax swap that redirects 1 percentage point of the statewide sales tax to counties for Brown's public safety "realignment," sources said. Under that plan, the state would redirect lower-level inmates to county jails and shift parole responsibilities. The tax swap has the added effect of reducing the state's Proposition 98 requirement for schools.

This raises the question of what's a "gimmick" when we talk about the budget.  I've prattled on in previous posts about what gimmicks have been included in the various budget proposals - including Moonbeam's - and in prior year adopted budgets. Fortunately, others have begun to catch on. The venerable Pew Center on the States Stateline web site explained what budget gimmicks are. The writer also noted that "editorial boards have praised Brown for exercising responsible fiscal judgement" then wryly noting that "Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register has written that Brown's own budget plan uses gimmicks too."

That Register article explains:
For example, the Democrats’ budget was blasted [by Brown] for deferring payments to education. Well, in January, Brown proposed deferring $2.1 billion in payments to education, although his May revision scrapped the idea because the governor planned to have extra money, either because of an uptick in the economy or because he assumed his plan for a tax extension would pass.

Or take the issue of borrowing. In his veto message, Brown complained that the Democrats’ plan included “costly borrowing.” That’s a fair complaint. But in January, the governor’s budget plan called for $1.8 billion in borrowing from special funds, which was later reduced by $744 million in his May revision.

Then there’s the matter of one-time fund shifts. These are particularly galling to budget purists, because fund shifts entail robbing Peter to pay Paul. They solve nothing long term and create a hole elsewhere. Brown’s May revise relies on at least two major fund shifts, diverting $98.6 million in Proposition 63 funds to county health services and moving about $1 billion in Proposition 10 (First 5 Commission) dollars to Medi-Cal.
The Pew Center article lists "five ways states hide deficits." For example, Gimmick #1: Putting off payments. California has a handle on this one - we use it extensively. The easiest one was a simple bookkeeping entry. We dated State employee payroll checks for June 2009 payroll July 1 instead of June 30. This was the least problematic of our State Government "putting off payments."

Gimmick #2: Accelerating revenue was used when we increased our income tax withholding tables and accelerated Corporate Tax estimate payments.

We've basically used up all possible versions of Gimmick #3: Using temporary money for recurring expenses.

The Legislature this year used Gimmick #4: Counting on savings that aren’t likely to materialize.

And Gimmick #5: Counting on revenue that isn’t likely to materialize is the key element in what appears to be a final budget agreement.

So the Legislature and Moonbeam cobbled together some budget just as happened in previous years. But it won't solve any real problems other than getting the Legislators and state vendors paid.

As I've noted before, the one major "structural" problem in California's government is Proposition 13. We rely too heavily on volatile tax sources like income, corporate, and sales taxes. A greater share of government funding needs to come from property taxes. I've outlined previously how the Proposition 13 system should be revised,  as follows:
  • Proceed to use the Brown Corporation Tax proposal;
  • Cut the current Personal Income Tax to generate a third less revenue;
  • Reduce the state sales tax back to 5% (from 6%); and
  • Increase the Proposition 13 property tax rate from 1% of assessed value to 1½% of assessed value and put two-thirds of the revenue derived from the 1½% in a state special fund to fund education, from pre-school to graduate school, and to assure health care and day care for infants, toddlers, and all students.
  • Remove property other than owner-occupied residential property from the assessed value near-freeze of Proposition 13.
  • In the case of rental residential property, the assessed value should be tied to changes in tenants and rents paid by new tenants combined with appropriate renters tax credits.
  • In the case of all non-residential property, the assessed value should be increased 10% a year until it is equal to market value.
  • Restore and fund from property tax revenue the Williamson Act to conserve agricultural properties.
  • Establish a spending cap (general fund and special funds, exclusive of federal funds and enterprise funds) that is equal to a 1990-91 as base spending year:
    • for spending other than spending for K-12 schools and prisons the base year adjusted by the cumulative change in the CPI and the cumulative change in population,
    • for K-12 school spending the base year adjusted by the cumulative change in the CPI and the change in the number of students attending all K-12 schools, and
    • for prison spending the base year adjusted by the cumulative change in the CPI and the change in the offender population, all more or less as described in the Republican proposal.
A spending cap would be critical. Californians, as historically reflected by state spending, lack the discipline to not squander monies in good revenue years. But there's virtually no chance the voters would overhaul Proposition 13.

The Brown Administration had its one chance to make history by presenting a balanced budget for California on January 10, a budget balanced on cuts. It would have been unacceptable to everyone. But no one would have been able to find a legitimate way around it. And he could have called for the voters to solve the revenue problem.

But he didn't do that. So the Republicans are the morons and we have another gimmick-filled problem budget from the Democratic majority. And we're all here in the Magic Kingdom....

Addendum: Confirming my view that our State has become the Magic Kingdom, we have this in the LA Times:
"That's nearly $11 billion in new revenue that the Democrats assume will magically appear," said Senate Budget Committee Vice-Chairman Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). "That's a wand that Harry Potter would be proud to wield."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The coming shift in California politics, or maybe politics as usual?

In the June 2012 primary election Californian's have a chance to significantly alter their state government.

Some think that the voters made a significant change when they approved the California Top Two Primaries Act in June 2010 and the Voters FIRST Act in November 2008. Maybe. But what we do in June 2012 will determine whether we have the ability as rational voters to take advantage of the changes or whether existing interest groups will just simply adapt to effectively keep things pretty much the way they are.

The 2010 Top Two Primaries Act requires that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. That seems radically different than having candidates run in party primaries with the winners in each party meeting in a general election.

I'm not so sure we Californian's have the political capacity to make this work for us. It isn't radically different from the recall election process that gave us Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And the first tests of the process in April didn't seem to offer much promise.

But one year from now we have a chance to make the two Act's work for us at the same time to create a viable State government.

The 2008 Voters FIRST Act established the Citizens Redistricting Commission giving it, not the Legislature, the task of handling reapportionment of State Legislative Districts in 2011. In November 2010 the voters added Congressional Districts to the task.

Last Friday the Commission released the first draft of the 80 State Assembly Districts of about 465,674 people, 40 State Senate Districts of about 931,349, and 53 Congressional Districts of about 702,905.

Whatever else one can say about the results, the Commission did its job as outlined in the Act:
The commission shall establish single-member districts for the Senate, Assembly, Congress, and State Board of Equalization pursuant to a mapping process using the following criteria as set forth in the following order of priority:

(1) Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution. Congressional districts shall achieve population equality as nearly as is practicable, and Senatorial, Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts shall have reasonably equal population with other districts for the same office, except where deviation is required to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act or allowable by law.

(2) Districts shall comply with the federal Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 and following).

(3) Districts shall be geographically contiguous.

(4) The geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, local neighborhood, or local community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes their division to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any of the preceding subdivisions. A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process. Communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.

(5) To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with the criteria above, districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant population.

(6) To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with the criteria above, each Senate district shall be comprised of two whole, complete, and adjacent Assembly districts, and each Board of Equalization district shall be comprised of 10 whole, complete, and adjacent Senate districts.
The problem facing anyone with this job is the complexity of creating 80 Assembly Districts of approximately the same size regardless of criteria used, but when you are told not to consider political parties, incumbents, or political candidates it is actually harder - it's easier to create boundaries with the sole objective to assure the reelection of incumbent office holders.

The point is to get rid of Districts that look like this District (click on the image to see a larger version):

The current State Senate District on the left puts together the people of these two communities:
  1. Compton (indicated by the marker near the top right), incorporated in 1889, has a mostly lower income population of 96,455, is still often thought of as a primarily black community though Latinos are the largest ethnic group in a city that used to be notorious for gang violence, primarily caused by the Bloods and the Crips, plus SureƱos gangs that are allied with the Mexican drug cartels, though latest reports show that Compton's violent crime rate has been reduced by 30% over the last ten years due to significant efforts of the population to reduce crime.
  2. Palos Verdes Estates (on the ocean), incorporated in 1939, is a high-end residential community of 13,438 (mostly white) with no traffic lights and relatively limited commercial shop areas masterplanned by the noted American landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., which regulates community aesthetics and architecture through an Art Jury, a non-governmental organization which must approve any exterior alteration to any building, fence, sidewalk, or other structure; most residences and business buildings within the city limits have uniform Mediterranean red ceramic tile roofs and often feature architecture with column and arch motifs, resembling European coastal communities; a substantial amount of land in the community is planned and dedicated as undeveloped open field habitat, an extensive system of hiking trails, and road bike lanes and mountain bike trails with equestrian facilities and horse trails are nearby.
The new proposed new Senate District including Compton includes many communities of people of mostly similar ethnic and economic makeup. And the proposed new Senate District including Palos Verdes Estates looks like this (click on the map to see a larger version):

The proposed district includes coastal communities but the boundary had to wrap inland to get enough people - it includes Beverly Hills not Compton.

Was this a perfect solution? Given the criteria to place together populations which share common social and economic interests, in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities (limo's), have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process, one can say it is as near to perfect as one can achieve.

The process is not without results that are imperfect. It's interesting to examine the North Coast, the area that is currently contained in Assembly District #1 and California Congressional District #1. The graphic below indicates how the current Assembly, Senate, and Congressional districts compare with the proposal click on the map to see a larger version):

What you discover is that the current Assembly District and the proposed Assembly District are similar though the latter is geographically larger because of population shifts in California.

Then you notice that the current Senate and Congressional districts wander over to an area around Sacramento while the proposed districts continue down the coast line to the Golden Gate, including Marin County.

One could argue that Crescent City residents might have more in common as with those in rural parts of the Sacramento Valley than with those in wealthy Marin, but in fact when one moves progressively from the south end of the proposed new Senate District, many Marin residents have much in common with many Sonoma County residents who have much in common with many Mendocino County residents who have much in common with many Humboldt County and Trinity County residents, who have much in common with Del Norte County residents.

The Senate and Congressional Districts containing Marin residents will change substantially:

Whoever designed the current Marin districts did something "interesting." The current Assembly District is about the same as the proposed one. But Marin is included with a San Francisco Assembly District in its current Senate District while it's included with Santa Rosa to the north for enough population for a Congressional District - but not San Francisco.

The proposed new configuration has an interesting effect on San Francisco. While it's Assembly and Congressional Districts aren't changed, it finally gets to be in a single unified Senate District if the proposals are approved as is.

So it seems this all works out. But there is one area that is sure to be contentious - Santa Rosa and the area of Sonoma County immediately surrounding it:

Here's the odd thing. In 2000 Santa Rosa and it's surrounds was included in an Assembly District that included much of Napa County and over into the Sacramento Valley almost to I-505.

But it was included in the North Coast Senate District and in a Congressional District with Marin which was not in that Senate District.

The Santa Rosa situation remains odd. The proposed Assembly District is similar to the current one. But it is proposed to include the Santa Rosa Assembly District with an Assembly District that includes Lodi to create a Senate District. On the other hand, Santa Rosa is included in a Congressional District that crosses the Sacramento Valley including Yuba City and into the Sierra's including communities like Frenchtown.

The apparent first need was to reduce population of a contiguous coastline North Bay Senate District population by about 250,000 to make it a viable size.  In the end, there may be no way to avoid this kind of oddity because of population shifts. If combining this way promotes the stated goals in 90% of California while not promoting some political objective, then we probably are stuck with situations like this.

Will the voters that created this Commission support it publicly or will we have the usual government agency public hearings where only opponents turn out in large numbers? Can the Citizens Redistricting Commission stand up to hostile attacks from interest groups on its proposal? I hope so, because it is clear they did a credible job.

But the real question is will it be politics as usual in 2012 after the dust settles? When it comes to encouraging people to run for office and voting for independent-thinking candidates, we Californians don't have a very good track record.