By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The eight randomly selected commissioners will hold public hearings to select, by Dec. 31, six final commission members from the names not selected on Nov. 18. Their mission is to enhance the final, 14-member commission geographically, racially and by skill set.
A sort of sly humor was built into the rules: As the process unfolds, state legislators and members of Congress are forbidden from speaking to the eight commissioners, like groups under quarantine.
Legislators can speak to citizen commissioners only at a microphone at the hearings, or in writing that's been publicly disclosed.
That cracks up consultant Wilcox, who imagines legislators going to buffoonish lengths to bump into the commissioners in hopes of influencing their six commission selections. "I can see their minds working now," says Wilcox. "'Hey, commission member, here's your dog! Your dog got out of your house!'"
By August 2011, the 14 members, using 2010 U.S. Census data, must finish drawing up 120 new state legislative districts and 53 congressional districts — difficult work for which they will be paid $300 a day.
The districts won't be based on protecting incumbents and their parties but on protecting communities of interest and respecting natural geography.
The finalists are equally divided: Democrats, Republicans and decline-to-states. Almost half earn more than $125,000, and many were chosen for specific skills. The final 60 had to submit four 500-word essays to the state auditors who culled the applicant pool.
The group is diverse, with whites and Latinos underrepresented compared to California's population. Blacks, Asians and Native Americans are overrepresented.
One of the 60 finalists, Leiland Saito, teaches sociology at USC. A Democrat, he served on a San Diego redistricting committee that drew new council districts. "I'd been very involved in redistricting, since I study it," he says, and he "believe[s] in public service." But compared to dividing up San Diego, "this will be a much larger task."
Jodie Filkins-Webber, a finalist from the Inland Empire, is a Republican lawyer who became involved because "I had the time, I'm educated enough, and I wanted to give back to the community." She says the selection process has been "very transparent — the whole thing was streamed live on the Net." She's glad to see the end of gerrymandering and "politics as usual."
Another finalist is Patrick Jefferson, dean of student affairs at Los Angeles Southwest College. He heard about the commission on NPR and jumped in, he says, "just to try to give citizens a voice in the process again." He hasn't followed the gerrymandering issue much, and isn't closely tied to a party: "I vote for whoever I think is gonna do the best job."
The commission is about to become the most closely followed body, at least in Sacramento, since the year that cameras were installed in committee rooms and legislators could see themselves on TV.