Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Questionable Cost of Indianapolis City-County Council Redistricting

Secretary of State Todd Rokita announced yesterday proposed redistricting rules which he plans to present to the state in a much-needed effort to end political gerrymandering. Indiana's version of political gerrymandering has resulted in decreased political competition within the state as incumbents have successfully used the process to protect themselves to the point where 40%, according to Rokita, face no challenger in the general election.

What caught my eye was that Rokita spent $50,000 to do three state wide maps utilizing his rules, one for nine congressional districts, the 50 state senate districts and 100 state house districts. The proposed 2010 budget for Indianapolis contains $290,000 to do redistricting just for Indianapolis' City-County Council, with an additional $290,000 planned to be spent in 2011. So the tally is $50,000 for three statewide maps and $580,000 for one countywide map. If you go by district, Rokita's map it is $314.47 per district while Indianapolis' 25 council districts costs $23,200 apiece.

While it's not quite an apples to apples comparison, by any stretch Indianapolis is overspending for developing its new council districts. With technology the way it is today, there is simply no reason to spend $580,000 to come up with a redistricting plan.

But alas this is Indianapolis. I can tell you exactly how it will work. A company that has made large political contributions will be given the no-bid redistricting contract. Of course, a highly expensive, politically-connected law firm will also have to be retained, my guess is Barnes & Thornburg. They will assign several attorneys to bill scores of needless hours on the project. That $580,000 will disappear in no time.

Of course, one has to wonder why the money is in the budget at all. As has been pointed out previously, Indiana law clearly prohibits the council from redistricting within a year of a municipal election. That means 2011 is out the window and it can't be done until 2012 for the 2015 elections. So why is that redistricting money still in the 2010 budget? Someone needs to be asking that question and demanding answers.


Doug said...

I thought he spent $60,000 on the redistricting maps and $50,000 on a web site.

The $50,000 he spent on web design seemed excessive.

Downtown Indy said...

While the amount IS excessive, it's probably from one of the larger firms that bills on avg $150+ per hour and spent at least 2 months doing the 'consultant dance' whereby they go through hours and hours of 'brainstorming' before pulling an existing template out of their files, tweaking the graphics and build-out the rest from that.

Clients feel all warm inside when they think they designed the thing themselves. They pay handsomely for the warmth.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Doug, it might have been $60K for the redistricting. I thought it was $50K. The web design fee did seem excessive.


Those firms are billing probably $250 an hour. I've always said it's not how much you bill so much as how you bill. That firm will have multiple attorneys working on the case billing unnecessary hours. That's how you make the moeny.

Downtown Indy said...

By the way, the Rokita site was done by the same web consulting firm that created and indianapoliseconomicdevelopment.comamong others.

Citizen Kane said...

Well, it is even worse, when they could work with city staff who have (or will have) all of the necessary data and ability to do the work. It is not that difficult a task.

Paul K. Ogden said...

CK, you're exactly right. Redistricting is not a difficult task with modern technology. Why it would take $580K is a mystery.