Policy Today magazine cover showing American founders meeting
September 8, 2006

What do California's mayors think of redistricting?  PT spoke with Ronald O. Loveridge, Mayor of Riverside; and John Beckman, the Mayor of Lodi.

PT: Mayor Loveridge, what's on the minds of the citizens of Riverside?

Loveridge: We are a city of 300,000. I'd describe us as being a diverse, exciting and successful city. If you ask people on the streets or in polls, traffic congestion is an issue that surfaces that people talk about in terms of quality of life. There's also a sort of destiny question of building empires for the major point of growth for jobs and people in California. There's concern over how you sustain quality of life while you grow.

PT: What do you think about redistricting reform?

Loveridge: Riverside Country is really the only large urban county in California that doesn't have any elected Democrats. We're all Republicans. I don't think that would change much no matter what the districting lines were.

I'd favor the open primary where people can vote for either party. I think there's almost a unanimous agreement that the current system supports the people at the ideological extremes, instead of those in the center. But having competitive districts, you can move elections toward the center.

You look for representatives who worry about what the local district worries about. I believe more balanced districts would help with that, although our local assemblyman and state senator have been very respectful and responsive to our city's issues.  Elections now are simply ratifications of whomever the party in office decides to run.

Competitive districts change the focus away from party caucuses to representatives who are more attentive to local or geographic concerns. We are concerned and have been having a debate about air quality here. And many of the Republicans in the inland area, which has a poor level of air quality, have voted against air quality legislation. It's not so much their choice, but it really that the caucuses not have created a lot of restraint. If you had more competitive elections, you would make representative in the senate and assembly more respectful of local matters.

PT: Mayor Beckman, what's on the minds of the people of Lodi?

Beckman: In my community I'd say we're very concerned with the economy, better paying jobs, and crime.  The biggest problem is that the higher levels of government keep stealing too much money from local governments.  If you had more moderate people in government, as opposedto the extremes, perhaps they'd spend less, but I think that's probably unlikely.

PT: What do you think about redistricting reform?

Beckman: I think redistricting would be a good, healthy thing for the state. The fact that the districts are so heavily weighted to one party or another is what leads to extremists in Sacramento. Every district in California is custom-designed to be won by ether a Republican to a Democrat. There's no competition between the parties; it's only competition within the party.

You'll have more moderates getting elected. I think you'll find this creates more reasonable laws instead of some of the crazy stuff they're passing now. Give me the past five pieces of legislation approved in both houses in California and I'll give you four as good examples. They debate and pass laws on who can work on toenails and fingernails, and what kind of food can be fed to animals in pet stores.

They don't spend nearly enough time on oversight of state agencies. They get there and think that because we call them "legislator" their job is to create more laws. That's the fundamental problem right there. They're not there to pass new laws; they are there to oversee the budget system of California and to oversee the agencies of the state of California.  And, they're not doing either. So, they're failing in the primary responsibilities.

I'm not sure if having different representatives at the state level would help me serve my community any better. The thing that makes my job difficult is that they keep taking all of our money.