Thursday, November 19, 2009

State Auditor Q&A, site launch

Today's Capitol Weekly features this Question and Answer interview by Malcolm Maclachlan with State Auditor Elaine Howle, whose office is charged with implementing the new Citizens Redistricting Commission. The interview coincides with the Bureau of State Audits' launch of its new web site, WeDrawTheLines web site, featuring a growing bounty of information about the new commission, including the draft initial and supplemental applications and a description of the role of a commissioner. At a news conference at the Sacramento Public Library today, Ms. Howle was joined by Rivkah Sass of the Sacramento Public Library, who said all 27 of Sacramento's libraries will help the public access the application process.

Excerpts from the Capitol Weekly Q&A are below.

What kind of commitment are we talking about if you’re on the Commission?

The Commission has to be established by the end of calendar year 2010, so our job is to get this commission established. We actually pick the first eight names, randomly draw them in November, and then those eight commissioners pick the remaining six. There are 14 commissioners in total.

The commission is required to commence its work in January of 2011. They must have the maps drawn by September 15th, that’s about an 8 ½ month time frame. How frequently the commission will need to meet, how long they will need to meet on a particular day is going to be entirely up to the commissions depending on the workload. We’re in the process of putting some materials together that we can get on our website to try to educate people so that they’re making an informed decision when they decide to apply.

The commission is in all likelihood going to be meeting in a variety of locations in the state, because they need to hear public input from people from throughout the state. Beyond that, we don’t have any more specific information as far as the commitment. But again, we’re working with some re-districting experts who have done this in the past, who can help us develop some more materials that will educate the public about what the expectations will be.

It’s a big commitment, but it’s also a huge opportunity for you to be the first citizens’ commission in this state. There are some commissions in other states. Most of them are either appointees of the legislator or appointees of the governor. This is truly going to represent the citizens of the state because the commissioners are actually going to be everyday people. Not only is this an opportunity to be on a commission for the first time in California but it could end up being a national model.

Don’t you have a difficult job even when this process isn’t going on? Do you have extra staff?

We actually do not have extra staff. We have lots and lots of work. It was kind of thrown in our laps, a bit of a surprise to us. It’s a huge challenge, but to be quite honest, we are flattered that the voters have that kind of confidence in my office. As I said in an editorial, the voters picked the right agency to do this job. We’re going to do it well. We have some funding that was appropriated by the Legislature, and I will keep asking for additional money. But we’re committed to doing this job as well as we do our audit work.

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