You own a piece of it. Or you should. We all do, and we all should. I don’t mean physically, as in a house or other kinds of property, although everyone should be able to, as well as to acheive their other dreams here, too. I mean your state government. It’s just as much yours as anyone else’s, even if it often doesn’t feel that way to most Californians these days.
California’s a big state, the biggest in the country by far. And yet with a state population that has grown to more than 39 million people, California’s state legislature still has only 80 state assembly members, and only 40 state senators.
That’s well above 900,000 people for every member of the state senate. To put it in perspective, there are actually six entire states whose total populations are actually smaller than even one of California’s 40 state senate districts: Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.
A typical California state senate district now actually has a greater population than a federal Congressional district. Seven states actually have only one member of the US House of Representatives (though two United States Senators), while California has 53 (and yet, also only two United States Senators). That may sound crazy, but that’s the way it is.
If California were its own country, it would be the 8th largest economy in the world. Naturally, when a state gets this big, its government gets big. And in the past 30 years, so, too, have California’s challenges grown as well: infrastructure, education, housing, the legal system, and the job market have all come under intense pressure. Competition for resources has intensified, amplified further by the impact of drought and the effects of globalization.
In a state so large, facing issues so complex, it becomes ever more important that the people who are elected are up to the task, and responsive to the people. And yet, that seems to be the opposite of what is going on. In today’s California, the gap between those who are charged with governing and those whom they are charged with serving seems to grow ever wider every year.
For most of us, the state capital in Sacramento is a faraway place, whose workings are both out of sight and increasingly out of reach of the average Californian. The same is far from true of the contributors and lobbyists who seem to be the real masters of the state’s political system. They’ve set up shop there and have greater influence on the day-to-day workings of state government than even the most jaded among us tends to assume.
And because the costs of politics have gotten so incredibly high, even at the local level, they now also get to choose who runs for office, so that by the time Election Day finally comes around, it’s not all clear who is choosing whom by then.
So what can the average person hope to do to change any of this, to put state government back in the hands of its true and intended owners, the people of this great state? Two things: first, better people can run, against the political hacks propped up by the big money and party “leaders.” And second, you can vote. Vote for those who would actually work for you in Sacramento, and not the other way around.
Here in the 29th Senate District, that’s exactly what could happen this coming June. And you can help make it happen.