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Hopes were high for California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission last December, when nearly 30,000 applications poured in from all over the state for a seat on the 14-member board that is to draw up new boundaries for state assembly, senate, and board of equalization districts. By April 22, a few days after the final deadline, the state auditor had announced that almost 9000 of the initial applicants had submitted supplemental application packages and letters of recommendation, required to qualify for consideration. The commission, created by the passage of Prop 11 in November 2008, is to be made up of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 members of neither party. A 3-member applicant review panel will narrow the number of finalists to 60. Legislative leadership can cut 24 of those at will; from the remaining list, the state auditor will choose 8 members at random, and those 8 will then pick the final 6 members.

Some of the applications include lengthy essays recounting past glories. Mesa College professor Carl Luna, who declined to state his political party, recalled a 2002 project he’d undertaken to make peace between Russia and its breakaway province Chechnya. “After months of effort, regrettably, the project foundered when the Russian participants — probably under pressure from the Russian government — withdrew from the process.” Luna also cited his role in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. “I wrote a legal brief of the argument and forwarded it to Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard, who then connected me with Greg Craig, the lead counsel on President Clinton’s impeachment defense team. Mr. Craig ultimately used my brief in his closing arguments on the floor of the United States Senate on January 21, 1999.”

Democrat Ardyth Shaw, former executive assistant to ex–San Diego Union-Tribune editor Jerry Warren, responded to a question about impartiality by recalling an experience she’d had hosting a radio program. “One example would be the witch I booked over the phone for a Halloween show. When she showed up, my engineer and I were so frightened we made a promise to support one another through the show. I’d like to think having a live, one-hour, serious discussion, on the radio, with a witch, would be a good example of impartiality.”

Jeffrey Schwall of Rancho Santa Fe, retired president of Time Warner Cable San Diego and another “decline-to-state,” said he lived in South Africa following the Soweto riots. “At one point I was asked by a tribal council of elders to be the judge in a violent dispute between my housekeeper and her boyfriend. I had to find a solution that would keep one or both of them from being subjected to severe physical punishment. I found that solution.”

Asked to describe his “appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography,” Republican Charles Rosen of San Diego, a retired electrical engineer, wrote: “One winter day, my wife and I drove to the mountains for breakfast in historic Julian. By forenoon we dropped down into the desert at Borrego Springs to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. By mid afternoon we were tromping in the snow atop Mount Palomar. The evening ended with a meal at a favorite Mexican restaurant on the beach at Cardiff-By-The Sea. Where else could this be done except in San Diego County!”

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