Monday, October 12, 2009

Situational Ethics & The Marion County Republican Party's Missed Opportunity to Push a Reform Agenda

In a previous post, I criticized what appears to be a Council Republican plan to spend $290,000 to redistrict in 2010 for the 2011 election, using old census data, and then immediately turning around and spending another $290,000 to redistrict again after the 2011 election using the new 2010 census data. The former redistricting is not prohibited by law, but not certainly not required, and would be extremely unusual for a legislative body to do. The latter redistricting, which requires the use of the new 2010 census data, is required by law.

Many people, including Republicans, have criticized the plan as foolish and a gross waste of taxpayer dollars. However, a few Republicans, including Council President Bob Cockrum, have suggested that this is an "okay" thing to do because it is "just about politics." Cockrum even suggested Democrats did the same thing to Republicans after the last census.

Cockrum's memory is faulty. It was Republicans who drew the council map following the 2000 census that ended up in litigation that resulted in map drawn by the Indiana Supreme Court Plus this would be a pre-census redistricting, not a redistricting that is required following a census. That is a big difference. Nonetheless, I would concede Cockrum's point that, if given the chance, the Democrats would produce a post-census gerrymandered council district map.

The whole debate reminds me of the term "situational ethics," the idea that whether an act is right or wrong depends on who is doing the act. If Democrats propose spending $290,000 on an early redistricting plan, not required by law, solely because the they are desperate to retain control of the Council, Republicans would rightly be screaming bloody murder. However, because it is Republicans who have come up with this idea, some in the GOP think what would otherwise be considered terribly wrong if done by Democrats, is now perfectly fine because it was done by Republicans.

It is that mindset that is dooming the fortunes of the Marion County Republican Party. With the upset election of 2007, Mayor Greg Ballard and the Republican majority on the council had a golden opportunity to seize a reform and ethics agenda that would have an appeal beyond Republican-leaning voters who are firmly in the minority in Marion County. But it never happened. The last two big stories out of the Council are this early redistricting measure which is not required by law and would cost taxpayers over a quarter million dollars. The other story is the administration and Council Republicans support for a sweetheart deal for a politically-connected developer that will make the developer wealthy and cost taxpayers millions.

Yep, nothing more than politics as usual. And it is the proverbial politics as usual that will spell the downfall of Marion County Republicans in 2011.


patriot paul said...

Kiddies in kindergarten. You hit me, so I'll hit you back. Only this time using our taxpayer $ to satisfy themselves instead of the public. These kinds of antics are why we need to unseat all incumbents until they learn to look out for citizens; not themselves.

Had Enough Indy? said...

This one isn't just about harming the Republican Party. Its about putting any party first and above the best interests of the community.

Individual elected official should act with some principles in mind, and not rubberstamp what either party thinks might give it an edge or make their 'friends' rich with taxpayer money.

Paul K. Ogden said...

PP, I have never bought into the just "vote against all incumbents" mantra. We need to be punishing the bad ones while voting for the good ones. Just blanket voting against incumbents doesn't work.

Had Enough, I would also point out that a reform agenda is not only the right thing, it can be be a very popular agenda from a political perspective. Republicans are missing the boat. The D's have left the field wide open to them to pursue a reform agenda and they (the Rs) are offering instead the same old Indy politics.