Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 14, 2006

Dog adoption illustrates gerrymandered district

It’s a cockapoo!


Our final choice of a dog to adopt was a difficult one – we narrowed the field to two excellent canine candidates – but in the end we adopted a 3-year-old cockapoo named Sparky from a family in Tracy that didn’t have room for him any more.

He’s a wonderful, affectionate, obedient, adorable, quiet dog – until we leave him home alone. Then his separation anxiety surfaces and he whines and barks and breaks our hearts.

He’s been with us less than a week – and that time has been stressful to him, no doubt. When I consider that he was taken from the only home he’s ever known, neutered and placed in a new home with – can you believe it – not one but two cats, I really can’t blame Sparky for being fearful when we leave.

So, we’re working on building trust so that Sparky will believe that we’re coming back. My sister-in-law suggested trying a Kong toy with a snack inside that he only gets when he’s being left alone at home in his crate, and that seems to have helped calm him a bit. We’re slowly increasing the time we leave him home alone. I work from home, so I’m generally around, but I do have to leave occasionally for meetings, doctor appointments and errands.

Our odyssey of adopting Sparky involved two trips to Tracy – one trip to meet him and another trip to pick him up. The first trip was the Sunday before the election, and the second trip was on election day.

Those trips took me on a 90-mile each-way journey in and out of California’s 11th congressional district. Even though Sparky moved across 90 miles, three counties and likely a dozen towns and cities when we adopted him, he’s still a constituent of the 11th congressional district.

While I was heartened that I didn’t see a single Pombo sign and did see several McNerney signs on my two journeys through the East Bay arm of the 11th district, I was once again reminded that California’s redistricting system is a mess.

Angry about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to hold costly special elections, in 2005 Californians rejected Proposition 77, a sensible redistricting reform initiative.

That’s too bad, because as much as I dislike the proposition process in general, redistricting reform is the ideal problem to be solved by proposition.

Instead of having state legislators redraw districts after each census, as they currently do, creating districts that protect incumbents instead of protecting constituents, Prop. 77 would have had a panel of three retired judges draw the districts. It’s a system that’s working well in several other states.

Now, perhaps buoyed by his landslide win and renewed popularity, Schwarzenegger is renewing his call for redistricting reform.

“Every one of the (legislative) leaders said to me that we’ve got to continue working on [redistricting reform]. Every one of them mentioned to me, let’s get going again in January about redistricting,” the Associated Press quoted Schwarzenegger as saying last week.

While I wish Schwarzenegger well, I have to believe that legislators don’t want to give up the cushy current system that protects their jobs and their political parties. Talk is cheap. Let’s see what those legislators actually do.

California’s system is so broken that it’s rare for a state or congressional legislative seat to change hands. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reported that in last week’s election, “a third of legislative candidates won their races with 70 percent or more of the vote.” (Nov. 9, 2006)

With seats that ridiculously safe, legislators don’t have to be responsive to constituents, in large part because they don’t have to compete in tough races against viable candidates.

With legislators drawing the maps, we have a system where legislators choose their voters so that voters have a difficult time choosing different legislators.

I’m glad Gov. Schwarzenegger is going to spend some of his post-election political capital on pushing redistricting reform. If he succeeds, it might be his most important legacy.

Because it shouldn’t take a perfect storm of radical environmental proposals, lingering questions about corruption and unflinching support for an unpopular and ill-advised war and for compromising civil liberties to unseat a congressman like Richard Pombo. Really, shouldn’t any one of those be enough?

And a dog that moves 90 miles, three counties and a dozen towns and cities ought to have a new congressman because of geography, not because he moved on the 11th district’s perfect storm election day.



  1. […] what I wrote in 2006: “California’s system is so broken that it’s rare for a state or congressional […]

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