Republicans on the City-County Council appear ready to waste $500,000 in taxpayers' money for purely political purposes at the same time the city has been forced to cut funding for basic services.
The council, controlled by its GOP members, included a half-million dollars in the 2010 city budget to redraw maps of political districts.
Redistricting normally takes place after a Census is completed so that new maps better reflect population shifts. That can't happen next year, however, because new Census data won't be released until 2011.
Which means council Republicans are preparing to draw maps based on information collected in the 2000 Census.
Why the rush? State law blocks redistricting between November 2010 and November 2011, when the next election for council seats takes place. Republicans clearly are trying to push through district maps that are more favorable to them head of the 2011 election.
And they're not even shy about it.
"That's the name of the game,'' Council President Bob Cockrum told The Star's Francesca Jarosz. "It's the same thing (Democrats) did last time.''
Well, Democrats certainly aren't above resorting to rigging district maps to keep themselves in power. (Just look at the political games played in the Indiana Statehouse to understand that point.) But Cockrum is trying to rewrite the history of the most recent redistricting fight in Marion County.
In 2003, the Republican majority approved new district boundaries. After the plan was rejected by Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson, the dispute landed in the Indiana Supreme Court, which declared the Republican map to be too partisan. The court then drew its own map, which is still in effect.
The 2003 election featured closely contested races among well-qualified candidates in several districts. Democrats gained control of the council for the first time. The next election, in 2007, brought a reversal -- with Republicans regaining the majority.
Two elections. Two close results. Two parties alternating power. The system it would seem has worked as intended.
Council Republicans, however, are now trying to protect their turf through power politics. If they proceed, it would be not only a cynical waste of taxpayers' money but also an abuse of voters' trust.
I couldn't agree more. Marion County Republicans are forfeiting their trust with the city's voters if they go down this cynical, political road. Republicans need to be the party of reform, the party of good government if they want to win in 2011. Unfortunately that's not the direction most of the party's elected officials have been moving in.
My question to the Star's editorial board, however, is to ask why the Star isconcerned about fairness when it comes to the 2011 election, but seems to have no concern whatsoever about election fairness when it comes to the Wishard referendum election. Health & Hospital managed to sneak in a provision in the budget bill that allows Wishard advocates to avoid putting into the referendum question how much money HH would be borrowing and that the money would be used to build a new hospital. The Star says nothing. Public resources, including the City's email system, has been used to promote the referendum. The Star has said nothing. Health & Hospital misleads people about the funding for the new hospital. The Star says nothing.
The Star is rightly concerned about the wasted $500,000 for an early redistricting, but seems not at all concerned about the over $1 million taxpayers will have to pay for this unnecessary referendum in an off-year.
The Star should be insisting on good government and election fairness across the board. Instead the editors have taken a selective approach. If it's for a good cause, i.e. a new county hospital, the Star is willing to overlook dishonest, underhanded tactics designed that misuse public resources and mislead voters.
I'm glad they called out the Council Republicans for moving forward with the redistricting. It needed to be said.
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