None too soon, the Sacramento City Council is moving forward on a key good government reform – establishing an independent commission to draw council districts, taking the task out of politicians’ hands.
The city just released the details of a proposed charter amendment that would go before voters in November. If approved, the commission would be in charge of determining new districts following the 2020 census.
Under the proposal, the commission would be modeled after the one that draws state congressional and legislative districts. Of its 13 members, eight qualified applicants would be picked randomly – one from each council district. The new commissioners would select the other five.
Recent city candidates, big campaign contributors, lobbyists, city employees or campaign consultants, or those with partners or children who fit that bill, would be ineligible to apply. And commissioners could not run for city elected office for at least 10 years, or work for an elected official for four years.
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When the council’s Law and Legislation Committee debates the measure next Tuesday, it should seek the right balance between keeping political insiders off the commission, but also allowing citizens who know a thing or two about politics to apply.
There should be no backing away, however, from requirements that the commission hold an open process, including a public meeting in each council district. That would be a vast improvement over the backroom dealing that produced skewed districts after the 2010 census.
The two other major pieces of the good government package – a sunshine ordinance for City Hall and a stronger city ethics code – are still in the works.
After these changes emerged from the “strong mayor” measure that voters rejected in November 2014, reform groups picked up the baton. But last year, there was a nasty split between Eye on Sacramento and the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.
While that set back the cause, it’s time to proceed. The redistricting panel is the first big step.