Green Focus: Three Greens are California Citizens Redistricting Commission semi-finalists

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

By Mike Feinstein, Green Focus. Fall 2010 issue.

Three Greens are among the 120 semi-finalists – culled from 30,000 people originally considered – to be members of a Citizens Redistricting Commission, created in 2008 by California voters when they approved Prop. 11. The commission will redraw new district lines for California’s State Legislative and Board of Equalization districts. It will consist of 14 members: five Democrats, five Republicans and four who are registered neither. 
 
All 120 semi-finalists are being interviewed this fall at open public meetings. Of the 120, 40 were required to be Democrat, 40 Republican and 40 registered neither. It is from this latter group that Greens are being considered.
 

Teresa España 

España, of Fresno, is an adjunct faculty member in art history, appreciation and education at State Center Community College District, working at the Fresno City College, Madera and Clovis campuses and teaching on-line. She is a member of the city of Fresno’s Historic Preservation Commission and former department chief at Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science. España has been registered Green since 1992 when a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a Masters in History of Art and Architecture. Before that she received a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Art from CSU Fresno. See España's application here.

Stuart Flashman


Flashman is an Oakland attorney who specializes in environmental, land use and elections law. In his solo practice he represents private individuals, and community, environmental, and other public interest groups during administrative processes and in litigation.

Flashman currently serves on the Rockbridge Community Planning Council in Oakland. Previously he served as a member of Board of Directors of the East Bay Municipal Utility District and as past president of the Board, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District and as past president of the Board, a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of California Water Agencies and a member of the Emeryville City Council. Flashman has A.B. and Sc.M. (biology) degrees from Brown University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry & molecular biology from Harvard.  See Flashman's application here.
 
Vylma Ortiz
 
An attorney in California since 1997, Ortiz, of Berkeley, began her career as a deputy public defender in Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties. She has served as California director of YouthBuild USA’s Criminal Justice Advocacy Project, assisting low-income and at-risk youth in changing their lives through learning construction and other life skills.
 
She was Director of the East Bay Community Foundation’s Disproportionate Confinement Initiative to assist Alameda and Contra Costa County’s juvenile system stakeholders in addressing disproportionality found within their system. She also served on the steering committee of the California Coalition for Civil Rights.
 
Fluent in Spanish and the mother to two young boys, Ortiz has a B.A. in Political Science/International Relations from the UC Santa Barbara and a Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. See Ortiz's application here.
 
Final Selection Process
 
The Applicant Review Panel established by Prop.11 must narrow the applicant pool to 60: 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans and 20 registered neither.
 
At that point, the Majority and Minority Leaders in the California Senate and Assembly may each remove two applicants from each pool.
 
This means that there may be as many as eight removed from each of the three pools, leaving a minimum of at least 12 names in each of the three pools. From these there will be a random drawing by no later than November 20 to select the first eight members of the Commission, who will select the final six members of the commission from among those applicants who remain in the Applicant Pool, by no later than December 31.
 
For approval of any Redistricting proposal it would then take at least three votes from the largest and second-largest parties’ members and three from the “other” pool.
 
Greens on redistricting
 
The Green Party of California originally opposed Proposition 11 when it was on the ballot in 2008. On one hand, the Green Party recognized that there are advantages in taking redistricting away from the politicians that benefit from it, as well as from requiring that final approval receive support from from all three pools. On the other hand the party felt that drawing electoral districts is a profoundly political act and there would be a loss of accountability for the final product when voters could not 'vote out' the legislators who crafted it. 
 
At the same time, there was the concern that under Proposition 11, no member from any of California's other ballot-qualified parties would be on the Commission in the end, and. that the four non-Democrat/non-Republicans would all be awarded to 'decline-to-state' voters, understating the role of the state's smaller, independent parties in the democratic process. This was especially the case given that the Majority and Minority Leaders who are Democrats and Republicans could simply choose to eliminate all applicants from all then other parties. 
 
Then there was the concern that the Citizens Redistricting Commission would be responsible for redrawing the state legislative districts, but the state legislature would still be responsible for drawing the US Congressional districts. Since then a ballot measure to remedy this has qualified, Proposition 20. It will be on the Novmeber 2010 ballot and would give this responsibility as well to the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
 
But perhaps the biggest concern of the Green Party was that the real problem with representation is not how districts are drawn, but the use of single-member, winner-take-all legislative districts in the first place, and that 'reforms' that would only tinker with the present system would be distractions to real reform. Instead of redistricting, the Green Party supports multi-member districts with proportional representation. 
 
That being said, the three Greens still in contention come from diverse and impressive backgrounds and would bring important values and perspectives to the Proposition 11 implementation process. To follow the process, go to the home page of the Citizens Redistricting Commission. 
 
Dems, GOP game Prop. 11?
 
This was especially possible because Democrat and Republican legislators could simply choose to eliminate all applicants other than from their parties.
 
There was concern the commission would be responsible for redrawing the state legislative districts, but state legislature would still be responsible for drawing US Congressional districts.
 
But perhaps the biggest concern of the Green Party was that the real problem with representation is not how districts are drawn, but the use of single-member, winner-takeall legislative districts in the first place, and that ‘reforms’ that would only tinker with the present system would be distractions to real reform.
 
Instead of redistricting, the Green Party supports multimember districts with proportional representation.
 
That being said, the three Greens still in contention come from diverse and impressive backgrounds and would bring important values and perspectives to the Prop. 11 implementation process.
 

Additional background:  Over 30,000 people submitted initial Stage 1 applications to be on the commission (including 293 Greens), of which approximately 25,000 were deemed tentatively eligible (including 211 Greens) Of these 4,564 completed the more extensive Stage 2 application, 37 of them Greens. In early June, 2010, California’s Applicant Review Panel (ARP) reviewed these applications and narrowed down the number of applicants to 622 and then 314. Then again in July, 2010 the number was reduced to 120, all of whom were interviewed face-to-face at open public meetings in August: 40 who were registered Democrat, 40 who were registered Republican and 40 who were not registered Democrat or Republican. Among the latter group were the three Greens. Ultimately, none of them were chosen to serve on the Commission.


 

Please describe why you are interested in serving on the Citizens Redistricting Commission
(from the official applications to serve on the Commission)
 

Vylma L. Ortiz (Berkeley)
Stuart Flashman (Oakland)
Teresa M. España (Fresno)

I am interested in serving on the Commission because I believe in a government for the people and by the people. Every time election season rolls around people are often disappointed by the candidates running. We all have have heard or voiced complaints over the years about the quality of the candidates in public office; Yet seldom do these good people look to themselves as a solution. Do they take the leap and throw their hat in the ring and decide "Okay, I am going to run for that position". A few do, but many more don't. I think it has a lot to do with courage and not letting money and other barriers keep one from fully engaging in the political process.

This is what we need in this commission, average Californians willing to get involved in order to effectuate real change. We can't keep complaining about the state of things with no corresponding action. We need people willing to step up and serve. I like the way that the Redistricting Commission has been structured. I think it is an honest effort to draw new people into the political process and to try to ensure that district lines are drawn as accurately and fairly as possible. I was genuinely affected by the ads that ran stating how important it was that this commission represent the diversity and richness of this state. Yet it is so easy to look to others to do that representing! But from jury duty to helping out at your local school or senior center, there are things that we all must do from time to time in order to keep our good state running.

I have nothing against long time politicians and value their expertise, but such skills are best balanced with people who, although they may lack knowledge of the political process, are real experts in what the everyday Californian is experiencing. Politicos can and do become removed from the everyday struggle of what it is like for the average Californian to live, work and do business in this state. Keeping district lines static and unchanging results in politicians with the same characteristics. Drawing district lines fairly to reflect naturally changing demographics and shifts in population is simply good Democracy at work.

I don't believe that it is a good thing that our incumbents get re-elected 80% of the time. Of course, if someone is popular and has a crowd of happy constituents behind her/him, then they should maintain their positions. Yet some of these districts can be so oddly drawn that you cannot help but start believing the old adage that the candidates are choosing their voters (rather than the other way around), and something needs to be done. I want to help do that something, that's why I am interested in becoming a member of California's Citizen Redistricting Commission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having lived in California for thirty years, I have come to appreciate both its diversity and the difficulty in achieving the fair representation of all Californians that is necessary for Californians to have confidence in their representatives and their state government.

To put it bluntly, the current system, where the legislature determines its own district boundaries, was broken. Boundaries were drawn to protect incumbents and to further narrow political aims. As a result, many Californians have lost confidence in the legislature and state government.

I believe I have both the appropriate skill set and appropriate motivation to help in the process of designing an objectively neutral and trustworthy set of state district boundaries. In doing so, I think I would be helping to bring California back onto the forward-moving path that Californians want their state to be on. If I can help in doing that, it would be worth all the work and frustration that I'm sure it would entail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My interest in serving on the Citizen's Redistricting Commission arises in large part from my respect, regard and passion for family and country. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents left their country of origin (Mexico) at a young age so that they and their descendants could freely pursue happiness and meaningful economic, professional and educational opportunities in the United States.

My maternal grandparents -- Rafaela and Candelario Mora -- immigrated to America from Michoacan, Mexico in the 1920s. They were uneducated and poor when they arrived but in spite of that, they eventually built a successful family tortilla business in Fresno’s Chinatown. Their ambition, courage, and enthusiasm for our system of government -- and way of life -- made a deep and lasting impression on me as a young girl. My grandmother’s favorite day of the year was the Fourth of July and my grandfather’s was election day. They never took living in the U.S. for granted and taught me that residing in a democracy came with responsibilities. Democracy was secured and made permanent, I learned, through active participation in the political process. Those lessons inspired me to study political science as an undergraduate student and to remain a life-long political activist.

The strength of our nation lies in protecting and ensuring the integrity of our political process. In 2009, I traveled to the nation’s capital and witnessed firsthand the peaceful transfer of presidential power. That experience deepened my commitment to actively safeguard our way of life.

I am inspired by the courage and wisdom of Californians to propose and pass Proposition 11. For too long we have endured a legislative redistricting process that has failed the test of fairness and eroded our confidence in government. I am excited about the possibility of contributing to the important business of re-drawing Senate, Assembly and State Board of Equalization districts in a manner that is fair, open and impartial. I posses skills, abilities and experiences that would make me an important contributor to the commission.

As a woman, Latina, resident of a diverse, politically moderate region, and member of California’s Green Party for nearly eighteen years, I bring an independent and salient perspective to the political process. I have experienced on an intimate level a system that doesn’t fairly or adequately represent all voices. I am firmly committed to promoting and guaranteeing a transparent and inclusive redistricting process.

I’ve had a wealth of professional and volunteer experiences (museum department head, college instructor, member of Historic Preservation Commission and San Joaquin River Parkway Education Advisory Board) that have enhanced my abilities to work effectively as a member of a team, agreeably and professionally lead meetings and discussions, make assessments based on the analysis of complex data, easily work on both Windows and Macintosh computer platforms, write and communicate in an easy-to-understand manner, use legal data to form opinions, and creatively problem-solve. I would be honored to help restore integrity to California’s redistricting process.

 

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