Measure of progress

Earlier this month, former state Controller Steve Westly joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a barnstorming tour designed to rally support to put a redistricting measure on the November ballot. Westly’s presence was significant because he narrowly lost to Phil Angelides in the 2006 Democratic primary for governor and is expected to run again in 2010.

The initiative, which would go into effect after the 2010 census, would take away state legislators’ power to draw their own districts—and those of Board of Equalization members—and give it to a 14-member citizens committee balanced between Democrats, Republicans, independents and minor-party members.

The measure doesn’t go as far as it should, no thanks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who insisted that congressional districts be left out. But it’s still much better than the current undemocratic system, which allows legislators to decide whom they will represent, not the other way around.

Their natural tendency is to carve out safe seats for themselves, and this they have done in spades, with two results: Seats rarely change parties, and general elections don’t matter—only low-turnout primaries dominated by ideological voters. Thus we have two kinds of legislators, hard-right and hard-left, with their inability to compromise to solve the big problems facing the state.

You’ll hear the lawmakers say the measure is a bad idea. Don’t believe them. They’re just looking out for No. 1. Listen to Westly and the governor instead.