Sunday, July 26, 2009


As long as others are kibbitzing, I will offer 22 suggestions on how California's dysfunctional political system might be arighted.

1. Confederation: The Census Bureau maintains a definition of what it calls an "Urbanized Area", or the densely settled area of a metropolitan statistical area. California had, per the last census, 54 such; six exceeded one million in population, of which two were cheek-by-jowl with larger centers. California could be articulated into six units: these four urban globs with the remainder of the state divided in two along the biogeographic boundary between north and south. You would have one constitution with amendments proposed by a biennial convention of municipal councillors (subject to referenda) but six parallel governments and six law codes. U.S. Senators would be elected state-wide and there might be a statewide board of elections and a small secretariat for the biennial conventions, but otherwise no central government. 

2. Each of the megalopolitan centers would be cut into boroughs of a number to be determined initially by formula with new boroughs created as these cities expand. Each would have a mayor & council, or a council and city manager, or a commission according to its choice. These councillors meeting in common and proceeding according to weighted voting would form the ultimate legislative body for the whole.

3. Settlements outside the megalopolitan centers over 50,000 would be incorporated as cities; those between 2,500 and 50,000 as towns; and the interstitial rural territory would be divided into 160-odd districts (one for each town). The towns and districts would then be assembled into 50-odd counties (one for each city).

4. Legislative authority would be by default in municipal councils. The constitution would confer little  on superordinate bodies. Rather, the municipal councillors, meeting in convention, would enact and amend periodically statutes of government for the more superordinate bodies, specifying what powers they might exercise.

5. Legislative bodies would be unicameral, enact by majority vote with a valid quorum, and all have general jurisdiction, not specialized jurisdiction over things like schools or sewers; executives would have no veto, and all have general jurisdiction except in municipalities with a 'commission' form of government.

6. Revenues of superodinate governments might be expended on projects within the competence of those governments or distributed to subordinate governments according to a formula taking into account population and per capita income; there would be no conditions or mandates attached to these distributions.

7. Legislatures would be elected from multi-candidate districts according to a Hare-Clark system of ordinal balloting, and assigned to single-member 'service constituencies' afterword; executives would be elected by ordinal balloting as well.

8. Elections and referenda would be held according to a uniform calendar, the latter in June, the former in November; federal in year 1 and 3, municipal and county in year 2, 'state' in year 4. 

9. All elected officials would have to be citizens of the United States, would have to not be incarcerated, would have to have been a resident of the jurisdiction in which they are running for at least 18 months, would have paid taxes in said jurisdiction, and would be at least 40 years of age.

10. No one might serve in a particular elected position for more than eight years in any bloc of twelve years.

11. Multi-candidate slates for legislative bodies might have no more than one person who is a member of the bar, a public employee, or a consultant in the employ of any public authority. Anyone who has held such a position in the past would remain tainted for a period of three months for every twelve months he held such a position. A majority of the slate would have to consist of persons who have never been a member of the bar and who have spent no more than seven years of their life in the employ of the state.

12. Judges would be appointed by the most subordinate executive whose municipality & c. encompasses the whole of the jurisdiction of the court in question with the advise and consent of the corresponding legislature. Judges would serve a probationary term of (say) four years after which their continued tenure would be subject to referendum. They would be subject to further referenda every (say) fourteen years until mandatory retirement at (say) 76. There would be provisions for recall and explicit constitutional language restricting discretion for judicial review. Prosecutors would be chosen the same way, with a probationary term of a year or two and the option to stand for two four year terms.

13. Inspectorates (e.g. the comptroller-general, ombudsman, &c.) would be chosen by the legislature from the nominees of parastatal professional colleges (accountants, &c.) and subject to periodic referenda until retirement.

14. Municipalities, counties, and state components would issue bonds strictly on their own faith and credit. If they default, the local judiciary would be obligated to appoint a conservator who would have plenary authority over the municipal finances for twelve years.

15. Governments might institute fees to be collected with the filing of law suits, might lay tolls on public services (roads, water provision) which are analogues of services people buy on the open market, might issue excises on vice goods or on waste, and might lay and collect personal income taxes according to the following formula:

r x (all income) - (sum of credits for each dependent) [n.b. no deductions or exemptions]

(if the sum of credits were to exceed the rate x income, the government might set an upper limit on the amount returned to the taxpayer; it would also be imperative that the sum of credits assessed across all taxpayers exceed receivables attributable to excises);

and might lay and collect taxes on the income of incorporated commercial enterprises according to the following formula:
r x (all net profits);

and might lay and collect taxes on legacies according to the following formula:

r x (total assessed value - lifetime exemption).

16. Public employees at all levels would be terminable at will at the discretion of the supervisor's supervisor, subject to the review of hearing examiners to protect whistle-blowers.

17. Public employees would be permitted to form benevolent associations of about 5,000 or so for the purchase of legal services and insurance. Collective bargaining for public employees would be prohibited. Associations of public employees other than those named would be defined as mafia gangs, dissolved by court order, their members fined, and their executive boards jailed.

18. Public employee pensions would be actuarially sound defined contribution plans; 70% of the financing of same would have to come from the contributions of the employees themselves.

19. All positions in public employment would be considered part of the civil service unless they be defined by explicit statute as patronage positions. All civil service positions would be filled by examinations given within sixty days of a vacancy, with the position to be given to one of the top three candidates, regardless of race &c.

20. The board of regents of each component of the state would be chosen by the legislature from nominations submitted by parastatal professional colleges (engineers, accountants, physicians, retired military, &c) and would have the responsiblity to write civil service and school examinations.

21. Bar schools for incorrigibles run by local sheriffs, primary and secondary schools would be philanthropic corporations financed by state issued vouchers and donations; if they were to accept vouchers, they would not be permitted to charge tuition; if they were to perform poorly on league tables assembled by the board of regents, they would have to  be closed by the registrar of corporations (county clerk, secretary of state, &c). Their financial practices would be subject to regulation by state tax collectors, but not their disciplinary rules or curriculum. Persons wishing to home school could cash out their voucher and do so, but they would have to perform satisfactorily on league tables.

22. Institutes of tertiary education would be philanthropic corporations governed by boards elected by their alumni or by trustees appointed by bishops. They would receive no grants from the state, nor would tuition be subvened. The degrees they might confer would be limited to those given express authorization and definition in statutes.

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