How We Can Fix Congress
We live in California’s 48th Congressional District (CA48), and we have an idea for fixing Congress which, when distilled down to its barest elements, is this – Members of Congress need to meet much more regularly with the people they represent. For this to happen, we need to organize districts into communities of 30,000 – 60,000 people each – the number used in the Constitution as the ideal figure for a district size. We’re calling the idea, “Congressional Communities.” In order to explain this idea of how we can fix Congress in greater detail, we’re going to be going around CA48 filming ourselves behaving the way we’d behave if we were a member of Congress.
A very important point – none of us are running for office and have no interest in running for office. Our interest is in getting the idea for Congressional Communities out to the people in our district and to people in districts around the country, in the hopes of building a “How To” guide so that every district around the country organizes itself into Congressional Communities. Here’s a list of more than a dozen things we’ll be doing that seem to us to be basic to good representation. We’ll be going into greater detail on each of them in subsequent blogs.
Checklist for Effective Representation
- Organize California’s 48th district into Congressional Communities of 30,000 – 60,000 people each.
- Meet with residents in these different communities to get them to start meeting among themselves and to spread the word about the Congressional Community idea.
- Provide an accounting of how money is being spent in the district and begin the process of figuring out how that compares to other districts around the country.
- Explain how much the members of Congress allocate to their staff and office and explain why it might make sense to spend more.
- Explain how much time members of Congress spend in session and why it’s not unreasonable to ask them to spend several months a year meeting with us directly.
- Explain why the current members of Congress spend so much time fundraising.
- Give each individual community the concrete goal of identifying the three most important issues to the community that Congress can help them solve.
- Organize the local Congressional Communities into a district wide task force to identify three things most important at the district level that Congress can help them solve.
- Ask the Community members for their help in developing ways to sample voter sentiment on the various bills that members of Congress vote on. (Initial focus will be on major bills but getting voter sentiment on all bills is the ultimate goal.)
- Ask the community members to help determine a metric for what it means to be a good representative – that it isn’t just about representing members of one party.
- Ask community members whether we should be asking each new Congress to eliminate winner-take-all chairmanships of committees.
- Ask community members for their help in building a way for Congressional Communities to exchange ideas within the district and with other districts throughout the country.
- Explain why this is the people’s movement- why we want it to be self-sustaining financially, and why we don’t want this funded by billionaires or the government itself.
- Explain why, for this movement to succeed, Congress does not need to pass a single piece of legislation. This is up to us.
As we film ourselves meeting with people in CA48 to explain this idea, we will be posting short videos to help people around the country see what we’re doing. We will be reaching out to members of Congress for their reaction. Are they going to support the efforts? If elected (or
re-elected), will they agree to spend the time at the local Congressional Community level? Will they be willing to dedicate one staff member to each individual community?
One more thing. There’s a quote attributed to John Lennon that we have found applies to many areas of life, not just Congress – “Without structure, there is nothing.” None of us has even been able to find the source of that quotation to verify whether John Lennon said it or not. But it resonates. We already have a wonderful structure of government based on the U.S. Constitution. But Congressional Districts are not discussed in the Constitution. There is little conversation anywhere about their structure. Fortunately, the Constitution provides us with the rights and flexibility to work on districts, to make their structure better. Here’s a quote we know we can safely ascribe to John Lennon: “Power to the people.” We believe we have that power. We can fix Congress.