Friday, March 25, 2011

"Redistricting"


Recent panel appearing in the Ester Republic: an attempt at customizing the two tired and lame metaphors of the two primary parties in Alaska. Now there's two new lame ones - one that mindlessly follows a herd around, while the other is supposedly extinct but remains preserved in the permafrost.
(Mo Belo)
Not to be a wet blanket or anything, but despite the few rays of hope following the last local elections, Alaska's in line for a bout of gerrymandering that'll effectively quash any random outposts of liberalism that accidentally broke out in the Interior.
And to get an idea of what retired politicians can aspire to for future employment opportunities, we have Exhibit A: the resurrection of another ousted Republican. How anybody in his right mind would even entertain for one second that these guys, or for that matter, the majority of current right-wingers in office, could possibly maintain objectivity and fairness throughout any process, is beyond me. 
"Jim is a no-nonsense, ‘tell it like it is’ kind of person...” - House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski
Much of my own personal opinions about local representatives can be traced back to time spent as a waiter, and remembering how some of these arrogant jerks aspiring powers treat "the little people"... word gets around in a small town, and folks have long memories. Separating personality issues from policy is actually pretty easy - you just don't have to in the case of many politicians. Their actions will speak just as loud as their words.

"You sank my battleship"

Long enough to recall the creative field-dressing that results from how redistricting carves up the demographics of communities (folks out in Ester and Fox can surely empathize). One example being  the residential district surrounding the University having pseudopods extended out into far-flung rural areas. That dilution pretty much neuters any constitutional mandate:
"Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area. (...) Consideration may be given to local government boundaries. Drainage and other geographic features shall be used in describing boundaries wherever possible."
Meanwhile, intrepid blogger Steve over at "What Do I Know" has been on this topic as it unfolds, liveblogging meetings and giving some background and perspective - here's hoping local media at least makes an effort to cover it in detail. It's no small irony that now the snowshoe is on the other foot, as last time this happened, the Democrats were being "criticized for skewing the process" (that sure played out well in the end). One of the choicer opinions uncovered so far has been from Gordon S. Harrison, a former executive director of the Alaska Redistricting Board, in the Alaska Law Review:
"The draft article used the term "nonpartisan" to describe the citizen advisory board, but it was subsequently dropped by the Committee on Style and Drafting in favor of the requirement that appointments be made "without regard to political affiliation." Members of the Apportionment Committee objected to the [*pg 57] change, complaining that the new language failed to express the full intent of "nonpartisan"; instead, they insisted on adding a new sentence: " Deliberations and decisions of the board shall be free from political considerations." The term "political" was later changed to "partisan," but on reflection the delegates decided to strike the entire sentence from the final document on the grounds that such an admonition was unlikely to be effective."
In other words, any pretense of neutrality is effectively a lost cause: a moot point in an even more hyper-partisan climate, especially given the grace and ulterior motive of some of the redistricting board's members.
So the - the part of the problem is not just the rhetoric. It's the fact that we - we're so polarized in what we've done to each other as parties over the last thirty years in redistricting that it's very, very hard to overcome your own constituencies and move to the middle." - Howard Dean

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