Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ohio House redistricting; For cubism lovers only

BY THE TIME the Ohio House finishes its ignoble tinkering, my little neighborhood in Fairlawn will have been dumped into a Muskegon congressional district. Either there or Wilkes-Barre. Nothing is certain when the political carnivores set their sights on exiling voters to where they can do the least harm to the ruling political class in charge of protecting the careers of its sitting congressmen.

We have come to know it as gerrymandering - as in Elbridge Gerry and salamander - and if you've have a chance to look at the jigsaw puzzle that the Republicans at the Statehouse have proposed in their redistricting map you'll get a pretty good idea of what matters the most in politics. We must suffer it with new census figures every 10 years and it will be uglier this year with Ohio's loss of two more congressional seats.

In their wisdom the GOPers have proposed a ribbon of a district (9th) that connects Toledo with Cleveland! Still in an innovative mood, the new map would link Summit County to Cuyahoga, Medina, Trumbull and Geauga Counties and possibly Toronto. That hasn't been decided as yet. The district that slices through Akron appears to have been drawn by a drunken cubist painter. Or M.C. Escher.

Alas, Akron. The city once was well represented solely by the late John Seiberling, followed by Tom Sawyer, both of whom were tightly ensconced in the area's history, identity and needs. A decade ago, the yearning of local Republican officials to get rid of Sawyer (the former Akron mayor) carved out a new district heavily weighted by Youngstown voters. When the GOP redistricting crew wound up its work , Summit County had three congressmen - east, west and north. That was a first for the county. Did I tell you that the crowd that has taken up residence at the Statehouse can be imaginative? There's even talk that the county could end up with four congressmen. With the Ohio House, all things are wretchedly possible, if not in the spirit of basic public service.

As for those concerns for the folks who need easy access to their congressmen, many will have to make long-distance calls. And I'll bet you may have thought that the perps were in office to tend honorably to your business. Think again, folks. Again. You and your alleged lawmakers live in different universes.

1 comment:

David Hess said...

When the U.S. Supreme Court, nearly half century ago, decided that congressional districts should be approximately equal in size it also suggested that redistricting authorities make them compact and contiguous, as well as reflective of local interests and, as near as possible, following local jurisdictional lines (such as city, county, borough, or township boundaries). Over the years since then, as might have been expected, partisan blocs in state legislatures have ignored those recommendations in order to satisfy their lust for political power. These blocs have fallen under the thrall of ideologues and have sadly contributed in large measure to the partisan deadlock that has gripped the nation and transformed the word "compromise" into an empty shell. Several states -- unhappily, Ohio is not among them -- have already enacted new laws, or are in the process of doing so, to strip the redistricting power from political bodies and hand it over to non-partisan commissions with instructions to fashion new maps that feature compact, contiguous and equal-sized districts that largely preserve existing jurisdictional boundaries. Should such an approach be adopted in every state, the icy gridlock that now paralyzes public policy-making would likely thaw our political institutions, particularly Congress, and our elected officials there might begin solving some of the economic and social problems we face rather than making them worse.The high court itself could help remedy this situation, were the right cases brought before it. However, considering the court's recent ill-begotten decision to grant corporations and unions the same status as individual persons entitled to contribute money to political campaigns and causes, one should hold the faintest hope that this court, as now constituted, would do the right thing.