Scraps and Ramblings –Is it fair to all concerned? (Redistricting)

A couple of years ago i was invited to join the new Mooresville-Decatur Rotary club that was forming. I had heard or Rotary but really had a very sketchy idea of what they were... a service club... community minded was about the extent. So I attended a couple of meetings, found I liked it and joined. Other than the good fellowship, one of the larger reasons for  that decision was the" Four Way Test" that every Rotarian around the world takes . At  their weekly meeting each of us takes the test,

that in all we do or say,

 1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned ?
3. Will it build good will and better Friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Pretty straightforward and simple. I think every parent..every school teacher... every public official... every person on this orb should work to affirm this basic yet profound  test. ..and if they lived by it, what a wonderful world would we have.

Right now, the #2 test..."Is it Fair?" is weighing heavily on my thinking. This is being brought about by the necessity of redistricting, for at the root of that is the question, "Is it Fair?"   I believe it was John Kennedy that said "Life isn't fair, but government should be." I am certainly in agreement with his views on that point.

Fairness like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  That makes it tough. What is fair to you or your boss or your children your wife....and yes even to the folks we elect to various offices, may be a very different "fair" from your own.  Furthermore, when the "fairnesses" don't mesh, we are not too  passive about it.... we squawk....we might  even name call or threaten or pout.. we struggle with being reasonable and come up with all sorts of anger motivated behavior.... lots of negative energy.

So with those thoughts in mind, let me attempt to explain what I see as necessities to make the system fair or as fair as we are able. When all the discussion is over, I must decide...and at least one other commissioner must decide, "Is it Fair to all concerned.. and you and I may not agree..likely won't completely but I am charged with making the call... fairness like beauty is in the eye of he beholder.

Here is the statute as written:

 (d) Single-member districts established under subsection (a), (b), or (c) must:
(1) be compact, subject only to natural boundary lines (such as railroads, major highways, rivers, creeks, parks, and major industrial complexes);
(2) not cross precinct boundary lines;
(3) contain, as nearly as possible, equal population; and
(4) include whole townships, except when a division is clearly necessary to accomplish redistricting under this section.

The commissioners are charged with establishing four council districts in the county using the language in the above statute. You will notice that the word fair or fairness is not in the language. Parts 1 and 2 seem pretty straight forward. Even number 3 could be seen as fair...I mean there is the word you would think that would be the end of it. However, let me give you an example of where it aint' necessarily so.  Morgan County population is 68,894 in the 2010 census...up a mere 3.3%.  I do not know the total number of precincts ..I would guess around 48 right now.  If we could perfectly divide this then we would have four districts with 17,223.5 people in the 12 precincts... fair right.... well not necessarily what if 10000 lived in 4 precincts... and the other  7,223.5 folks lived in the other 8 precincts.... doesn't look very fair to me.. . nor to those 7,223.5 people who are effectively disenfranchised... their vote doesn't  amount to spit  in the council representation.

So the only solution is to keep like areas with like areas... populated areas with populated areas ...urban with urban and rural with rural... and no, Virginia, I am not talking about segregation ...can't hardly segregate a county where the pigmentation of   97.75% of the folks is white. A recent letter to the editor said I changed what  was saying when I heard the word segregation... that's a lot of huey... I didn't hear it... not even sure it was said..but that is not the important thing here. What I am pointing out is that urban areas need to remain compact districts if there is going to be any semblance of fairness ...and that isn't really very easy.  

More tomorrow ...Gerrymandering?

Don 12-2-2011