Monday, November 21, 2011

Redistricting: The Ultimate "Good Ole Boys Game"

The most important decision for the next ten years is on track to be made..and you have not only not been consulted, you probably won't be.

Both the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council and the Kentucky General Assembly are required by law to draw new districts for their elected members every ten years. The districts are supposed to be compact geographically and as nearly equal in population as possible, based on the new census.

Public officials you elect from these new districts will vote on life and death decisions for you for the next decade: war, taxes, auto licenses, fines, smoking, gun laws, and so on.

Yet not one special public hearing has been held on these proposed new districts, and none, so far, is planned by either the Lexington council or the state legislature. The same thing happened ten years ago.

My city councilman says two public hearings were held at regular committee meetings by the committee charged with redistricting. He thinks that's enough. I disagree. Such an unusually important topic should be handled differently. Louisville held six public hearings on its proposed new council districts throughout River City, and some citizens asked for more. Lexington should do no less.

The Frankfort situation is even worse. Lawmakers not only redraw state House and Senate districts, but also Congressional districts. The Herald-Leader rightly calls this an exercise in "incumbent protection." Redistricting is the ultimate "good ole boys" game--but it doesn't and shouldn't be that way.

A dozen states use various methods to keep politics out as much as possible. Many use special commissions of non-legislators to issue new maps, and then the legislature votes it up or down, similar to the base-closing plan which was worked in Congress. If it takes a Constitutional amendment to do this, so be it. In the meantime, the legislature could form such a commission and be guided by its work, even if not required to hold an up-or-down vote.

And it should hold public hearings, certainly on the Congressional districts if not on local districts. But don't hold your breath! That would involve citizens too much in our democracy; and make representative government more responsive to, if not more representative of, the people.

I'm just sayin'...

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