Stan the redistricting man

The first rule of the Citizen Redistricting Commission? Don’t talk about the Citizen Redistricting Commission,

I stopped by The Avid Reader bookstore on Broadway last week, to ask owner Stan Forbes about his new gig on the commission.

Forbes, who was at one time mayor of the city of Davis, was just one of eight Californians chosen last week—out of an initial pool of 30,000—to help redraw the California’s state legislative and congressional districts.

The commission created by Proposition 11, the “Voters First Act,” passed by voters in 2008. The measure was strongly opposed by the Democratic and Republican parties, who prefer that incumbent legislators draw their own districts. And they’re still pretty sore about the new rules.

John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times last week, saying, “Whoever these people are, they will be run by whoever the staff is, because they will not have a clue about anything.”

Because everyone knows that successful business owners and former mayors of Davis don’t have a clue about anything.

I wanted to chat with Forbes about the process ahead of him, but to my surprise, he politely and apologetically declined and showed me a memo he received at the end of last week, telling commissioners not to talk to the public about their work.

According to the memo, “The Voters First Act prohibits members and staff from communicating with or receiving communications about redistricting matters from any member of the public outside of a public meeting.”

In other words, no press interviews, at least until the commissioners can get in and write some better rules.

I suppose I should mention that before the gag order came down, Forbes did give a good interview to Capitol Public Radio and said he hoped the redistricting process would mean more moderate legislators and more voter confidence in their elected officials.

One of the things I wanted to talk to him about is the fact that Forbes is the only representative from California’s Central Valley. By comparison, the Bay Area has three members, L.A. County has two.

The very first task of the eight commissioners will be to select another six commissioners—for a total of 14 members. The commissioners are supposed to truly reflect a cross section of California—politically, ethnically and, I would think, geographically. But again, the rules don’t make it easy. “The Voters First Act provides the final 6 commissioners cannot be selected by using specific formulas or specific ratios to achieve diversity.”