The New 3 Rs?

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Mission Bay Redevelopment San Francisco

Flickr: Allan Ferguson

Redistricting. Realignment. Redevelopment. There's change afoot in California government. But sometimes the verbiage tossed about in Sacramento can make us forget what's at stake. Taking a closer look, it all comes down to how we elect our leaders and what we empower them to do with our tax dollars. Here are a few of the latest twists and turns.

For starters, the state's citizen redistricting commission has selected an executive director, Daniel Claypool. And the 14-member commission should be getting down to work. However, one member, Elaine Kuo, has unexpectedly resigned and must now be replaced with another Democrat from among the runners up. The commission is charged with drawing political district boundaries... a job that used to be left up to the politicians themselves. They have a tight deadline, so they'd better get started soon.

Dominating the headlines... Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing untangling the state-local government knot that he helped create during his first sojourn in the governor's office. That process -- known as realignment -- requires that state legislators let go of some control, as California Watch's Chase Davis explains. And the current budget crisis could potentially offer a great opportunity to change -- and improve -- how services are delivered, as State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier tells Daniel Weintraub, editor of HealthyCal.org. But shifting authority and money back to the local level won't be easy. Cities and counties already have their hands -- and their jails -- full, as the Sacramento Bee reports.

One big piece of the change Brown has proposed is to do away with local redevelopment agencies -- which use property tax money for economic development projects. Partisans debate whether redevelopment helps cities thrive or represents corporate welfare. Brown has said that, regardless of the benefits, those property tax dollars would be better spent on local schools and services. But local governments are already looking for ways to protect their redevelopment funds, as the San Francisco Chronicle's Marisa Lagos reports, or get projects in the pipeline fast, before the money dries up.

It's a prime example of the turf battles that are sure to break out over every facet of the governor's budget plan. In the case of redevelopment, it's a local vs. state fight. In the case of Brown's plan to put a measure on the ballot extending current taxes, it'll be a partisan battle, with Republicans in the legislature resisting, even though the LA Times reports that at least one poll shows that voters might give the plan the thumbs up.

One observer of government dysfunction in California, as well as Arizona and other western states, Mark Muro at the Brookings Institution, argues that the only way beyond the systemic budget mess is to break the partisan gridlock. Any tips on how we might pull that off?

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