Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Redistricting and the Chamber of Commerce

Just a reminder that your elected officials, at least some of them, are holding a town hall tonight to discuss the proposed redistricting. Go give Jane Kidd and Keith Heard an earful tonight at 7:00 pm, at the Athens-Clarke County Public Library.

Speaking of redistricting, we managed to get our hot little hands on the pro-redistricting talking points that the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce is passing around amongst their membership. We’re not going to post the whole email here, because the Chamber rivals us in their tendency to ramble and bloviate. According to the email, the Chamber supports the redistricting for four reasons.

“1.Two of the five largest employers in Athens-Clarke County (UGA & CCSD) get a large source of their funding from state government. These 2 entities alone employ over 11,000 working individuals. If wages for the majority of these employees are to increase, it will come as a result of increased funding from state government. This reason alone is enough to support increasing ACC’s representation in the legislature.

2. Clarke is the only county over 100,000 in population that has only one state senator representing it. A number of much smaller counties listed below have more representation than Clarke. [Editor’s note: in the email, the Chamber includes a list of counties with smaller populations than ACC with more than one representative. We omitted it for reasons of space.]

3. Athens Technical College is in desperate need of increased funding to simply meet the existing demand for highly skilled individuals, especially in the area of healthcare. More representation in Atlanta gives our community a better chance of helping our young people get the skills they need to make a living wage.

4. Our community’s largest employer and the state’s flagship university needs full funding in order to reach its potential, especially in area of the biosciences.”

First of all, to think for even one moment that the Chamber has any interest in a wage hike for UGA and the CCSD is just fallacious. We know that you already know that, but let’s work through the logic, just for grins. UGA and the CCSD are among the five biggest employers in Athens, as the Chamber acknowledges. The Chamber of Commerce is composed of the owners of employers number six through whatever. What happens to them if UGA and the CCSD raise their wages? It pushes the market value of labor in ACC up, meaning that the wage they pay will also rise, if they expect to remain competitive in the resource market for labor. In fact, the membership of the Chamber has a vested economic interest in keeping wages low.

Not that that really matters, because if there’s one thing more fallacious than thinking the Chamber is suddenly the standard-bearer for higher wages, it’s thinking that increased funding for UGA will be used to increase wages. Sure, some folks at UGA may get more money out of a funding increase, but we’re betting that it’s going to be more like professors and administrators, rather than the folks who mop the floors and cook the food. More likely though, most of any increase in funding will go to projects that we can’t complain about, more research, perhaps better facilities. Of course, there’s no reason to suspect that having more Senators will necessarily lead to increased funding.

Under the current system, UGA is the big ugly couch in Brian Kemp’s political living room, and he has to arrange all of his other furniture around it. With two Senators, the proportion of UGA to other constituents is much smaller, and the big ugly couch becomes kind of like that ashtray your nephew made you at summer camp last year. You still have to have it on display, but you can hide it behind your DVDs most of the time.

In fact other than the sudden and hilarious dedication to raising wages at UGA and the CCSD, the Chamber’s entire set of talking points is predicated on the assumption that having two Senators will increase, rather than decrease UGA’s representation in Atlanta, an assumption that is, at the very least, arguable.

Finally, please note that the Chamber is trying to rally its forces for the town hall meeting tonight. According to the email: “We urge your attendance to show unaninimity in our desire to see increased representation for the people of Clarke County.”

Rallying the troops, on either side, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s our impression that this thing is a done deal. Don’t expect the feds to make a big deal about this one, either.

[Edited to add: Here's a good analysis from PeachPundit. Eds.]

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really don't get why no one's making a bigger fuss about this. Why is it so important to keep Madison County whole that you'd divide up a much larger county? This is another great example of Republicans' blatant hypocrisy and the Dems aren't doing anything with it.

gap said...

The Chamber should not be taking a position on this issue. The increase in representation from 1 to 2 senators would only be a side effect of a purely political move. The COC has a PAC that deals with politics in the interest of it's members. If it want's to issue a statement of support or contribute money through the PAC, I have no problem with it. The vast majority of chamber members vote republican, so that would be in their interest. The way that this is presented to members through the regular COC channels as a way to appropriate more funding for ACC with more representation is purely political and the Chamber is stepping out of bounds by getting involved.

monticello_pres said...

I think even the die-hard "R's" in Atlanta smirk when they try to say this is anything but political.

But what I find more humorous is the squealing of Dems crying hypocricy. And it's not only on this issue - but so many others as well (changing rules, etc.). The bottom line is that being the minority party sucks. And as I recall, redistricting is not a new idea concocted by Sonny and his merry band of aged white anglo saxons.

Now I'll admit, the "R's" are acting a bit childish. But the Dems had their run throughout the century and abused power in more instances to name. After all, will anyone try to claim that Tom Murphy was the torch bearer of open mindedness? Will anyone try to argue that Roy Barnes didn't single handidly run off the banking industry from Georgia just to keep ancient and protectionist legislation alive - protecting the community banks on which he served as a board member?

Anyone?

bulletdawg said...

I've only lived in Georgia since 1994, so please fill me in...

At what point, did Democrats redraw district lines, six years after a census taking and five years prior to another round of redistricting, for the purpose of obtaining a partisan political advantage?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

I'm not defending Tom Murphy, Roy Barnes, or any D from the past you wanna name. I'm saying I'm a D, today, in Athens, that's sick of getting screwed over by the jackass R's in power right now.

But you're right; the solution is to win some damn elections.

bulletdawg said...

It's hard to win elections, DoubleDawg, when the Republican's have rigged the process to begin with.

Publius said...

Well, it's the price the Dems pay for not winning in 2002 and 2004, and now it's our turd sandwich to enjoy. Deeeee-licious!

Monticello, in one of the earlier posts on this, I said, "When your party is in charge, you get to make changes like this. If you’re a Democrat and you’re pissed off, we don’t blame you. We’re pissed off too. But we all, and we include your crack editorial staff, are to blame. Maybe we should have worked a little but harder for Becky Vaughn in 2004."

We're pretty partisan, but not that partisan. It isn't a matter of party, it's that, if you really care about a fair electoral process, you can't trust either party to draw the maps. And, I've been trying hard to avoid beating up on the GOP for redistricting, other than to attack the smoke and mirrors they're using to cover up the partisan stink. By the way, I was pissed off at the Democratic maps in 2002 as well. The 12th Congressional is a good example of why. You just flat can't trust either party to draw good maps, because they've got a huge vested interest.

I'd like to think that if the Democrats were in charge, and all of the roles reversed, I'd be banging to Dems just as hard, but to be honest, I probably wouldn't. I'm pretty partisan, but give me some credit for admitting it.

And yeah, being the minority party sucks, but we brought it on ourselves.

Fishplate said...

This is by far the best example yet of the folly of political redistricting. In the past, I've advocated redistricting being handled strictly by machine - you could devise criteria for the smallest boundaries enclosing an equal number of people in each district. I'd like to think that the criteria would avoid splitting the smallest county in Georgia, but maybe not...so computer-generated districts with unbiased (or even-handed) manual oversight is the only fair way to handle the task.

To split A-CC for whatever cockamamie reason is just plain stupid. To tell me that my comuunity of interest does not include the people who happen to live five miles away from me in the same county is just plain stupid. To think that I'm going to buy some professional politician's lame explanation is just plain stupid.

Did I mention that I think the Georgia Legislature is just plain stupid? It looks like there's a chance they may fix the seat belt law*, so maybe sanity will prevail. But I doubt it. Reelection will trump and vestige of common sense that may fiter in between the Dome's gold atoms.

*As an avowed Libertarian, I think seat belt laws are stupid, too, as long as I don't have to pay for your endless care in a vegetative state because you didn't wear yours. But if you are going to have a law, why exempt pickup trucks? Sheesh...

bulletdawg said...

This new (2006), new (2005), new (2002) map proves that we need a computer-generated redistricting process similar to that found in Iowa.

Someone around here can better explain the advantages of the Iowa system.

Publius said...

You footnoted...sweet! I'll be expecting MLA-style citations in the future.

It's interesting, and possibly good fodder for an open thread to discuss how we should change the redistricting process to make it fair. Should we open thread this simialr to the poverty thread from early December?

I would say that the machines should get first crack at the new maps, with human oversight to provide the common sense factor. (Essentially what you said.) However, I don't think that even the machines could avoid splitting some counties. I'm ok with that, as long as the splitting is minimized and makes sense. My problem, or rather, my question is, who appoints the human overseers?

I did a lot on this in a previous post, which you can find at http://athenspolitics.blogspot.com/2006/01/redistricting-madness.html

I'm still stymied by how to keep the politicians out of the process at all, since it seems that the human overseers have to be appointed by someone. My initial suggestion on that was nomination by the governor with a 2/3 approval by the state senate, but I'm open to other ideas.

By the way, anyone know how to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot without running through the legislature?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

We don't have to keep the politicians completely out of the process, any more than we have to let computers call balls and strikes in baseball (even though we obviously have the technology for it). Problem is, right now the players are calling the balls and strikes (well, sorta; since it's the South there is a little oversight from DOJ, but not much it seems like these days). I agree with the general concept of districting reform, although I'm not sure exactly what form it should take.

monticello_pres said...

"You just flat can't trust either party to draw good maps, because they've got a huge vested interest."

"Problem is, right now the players are calling the balls and strikes"

These are 2 statements that I completely agree with. I don't know enough about how Iowa (or anyone else) handles redistricting. But I can tell you that the Dems used that tool for years and the R's are using it now. When the balance of power shifts back, which it will at some point, it will be used again. And again. And again.

To Publius, I don't mind partisanship in general. But I do appreciate the transparency regarding it. And I do think you swing back against the Dems often enough to show some element of balance. As much as O'Reilly on the right, anyway.

Publius said...

Thanks for the kind words...not sure how I feel about the O'Reilly comparison, though.

New posts forthcoming later today, after classes and work.

SchleyGuy said...

A few lies:

Of the 13 counties larger than Athens, 9 of them are so large that they have to be split regardless. In other words, the maximum size a state Senate district can be is X (about 150,000 people) and if the county is larger than X (which 9 of them are) they can't be in one senate district regardless.

It's a pointless comparison. Map drawers have a choice to split 150 of Georgia's 159 counties, but they don't have a choice with those counties. They are comparing Clarke to Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Chatham and Bibb. That is not an apt comparison.

Besides, when they say all 13 larger counties are split, they aren't just fudging with the truth, they are LYING. Hall County is larger than Clarke county (I believe it is #10 on the list) and it is represented entirely by one Senator, Casey Cagle.

The other lie is that they have to split Clarke to make Madison whole. Not true. The portion of Madison in SD 46 (with Clarke) has 5,100 people in it. The portion of Elbert in SD 47 (Hudgens district) has 5,400. If you swap the two, you are well within the allowable deviation, Madison becomes whole and Clarke,Oglethorpe and Oconee are left untouched.

These R's will just say anything, true or not. Outrageous!