Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Why do we conduct a census? Because the constitution tells us to, in this unassuming language:

"The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct" (Article I, Section II).

(Interestingly, the sentence right before that one is the infamous Three-fifths Clause.)

One of the purposes of the census is to figure out how many congressmen each state gets. However, the Constitution says nothing about how legislative districts should be drawn. Pennsylvania's Constitution does, but it does not, apparently, say enough.

Which has led to blatant gerrymandering. For a close-to-home example, check out the Sixth Congressional District:

They drew it in 2001 for Jim Gerlach.

And, based on the 2010 census results, the partisan line drawers in Harrisburg are likely to come up with even more abstract shapes.

To prevent such abuses, a few state legislators have introduced bills that would seek to limit gerrymandering. The goal is congressional districts, state senate districts and state house districts that do not unnecessarily split up geographic regions, neighborhoods, municipalities, school districts, etc.

State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-157th of Tredyffrin, is one of the legislators who has introduced such a bill. He held a hearing on Thursday at which he sought feedback on his bill and on a similar bill by State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-182 of Philadelphia.

Drucker sought testimony from the League of Women Voters and Common Cause for Pennsylvania. Spokeswomen from both of those agencies testified that Drucker's and Josephs' bills were a good start, but were highly flawed.

The problem, the spokeswomen said, was that both Drucker's bill and Josephs' bill call for the creation of bi-partisan redistricting committees. The League and Common Cause would prefer if these committees were non-partisan.

The committees that Drucker and Josephs call for would be composed of the house and senate majority and minority leaders. Drucker's bill would add on the majority and minority whips. Both bills call for the committee to be chaired by a non-legislator appointee.

The League and Common Cause wonder, "Why the hell would you want to leave legislators in charge of redrawing legislative districts."

You can read Drucker's bill here. You can read Josephs' bill here.

You can read the League of Women Voters' response here. You can read Common Cause for Pennsylvania's response here.

(There are other redistricting reform bills. I've concentrated on these because they were the subject of yesterday's hearing, which I covered.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

First Sixth District Congressional Forum

What struck me most about this forum, held by the Chester County League of Women Voters at the Chester County Library on Sunday, was the candidates' closing statements.

Jim Gerlach, the Republican incumbent, said that there's more to a congressman than how he votes. He said he has a top-notch staff that is excellent at constituent services. He followed that with his standard line about how various publications have determined that he is one of the most independent-minded congressmen in Washington.

Bob Roggio, the Democratic challenger, closed with, "If you like the economy, vote for Jim Gerlach." He added that, because Gerlach has taken large sums from oil companies, he cannot be relied on to promote alternative energy.

Roggio was acting as if job number one was to criticize Gerlach and job number two was to talk about his own policies (Mark Campbell, I know you're listening. Want to lift that quote and throw it on a campaign mailer?)

Gerlach was acting like an incumbent who was sure he would be reelected - this in a district where he nearly lost three times, in a year that heavily favors Democrats.

Anyway, the point of my post is not to delve deeply into each campaign's strategy or lack thereof. It is to bring up a few issues the candidates discussed that did not appear in my article on the debate.

1) Immigration. Significant difference.

Roggio said that we should get tough on immigration. How? By increasing border security and enforcing already exist ant immigration laws. "It is illegal to hire illegal aliens ... if those laws had been enforced, we wouldn't be where we are today," he said. It is wrong, Roggio added, that 21 million illegal immigrants are taking advantage of America's tax-funded social services. He said that illegal immigrants should be returned to their homelands.

Gerlach also argued for increased border security. But he said that a "streamlined" process should be put in place so that illegal immigrants could go back to their home countries, get the proper papers, and come back to the U.S. in order to "fulfill their role in our economy."

2) Reinstating the Draft. Small difference.

Both candidates said that we shouldn't reinstate the draft.

But Roggio used the question as an opportunity to argue that Gerlach incorrectly supported the invasion of Iraq, which put an unnecessary strain on our military. He said that troops should be pulled out of Iraq and sent to "critical areas like Darfur or Afghanistan."

Gerlach said, "Defense folks tell us they are meeting their recruitment goals." He said the legislature should pass policies that will make it easier for military personnel to stay in the military.

3) Abortion. Small difference.

Both don't think the government should subsidize abortions. But while Roggio supports "comprehensive sex education," Gerlach supports "pre-pregnancy education." I have no idea what either of these terms mean, or what the difference between them is.

4) Infrastructure. Difference in detail.

Roggio argued that we need to rebuild our infrastructure. Rebuilding efforts, he said, will create jobs in these tough economic times.

Gerlach didn't disagree, but he said, "My opponent didn't say he had found a way to fund that." Gerlach pointed out that highway repair is paid for in part by the liquid fuels tax - fuel efficient cars and high fuel prices mean the government will be taking in less money from this tax. The solution? Look for alternative funding sources and possibly pursue public/private infrastructure projects. (Dan's note: For a local example of an ongoing public/private infrastructure project, see the Paoli Transportation Center).

5) The Iraq War's effect on the economy. Question not really answered.

Gerlach acknowledged that all government spending affects the economy. He added, "One thing we can't do is raise taxes as my opponent would do and expect to create more jobs ... Raising taxes, as my opponent would do, is a surefire way to send a heckuvalotta jobs overseas."

Roggio said he "agrees 100 percent" with Barack Obama's plan to cut taxes on the middle class. Ending the Iraq War, he said, will help the economy.

6) Aid to veterans.

I'm not touching this one. There were some accusations made by both candidates that I don't want to reprint without doing some fact checking.

7) The Iran Threat. Might be a difference.

Gerlach said, "We have to continue to use every economic and diplomatic means possible to get Ahmadinejad and his regime to back off nuclear weapons development ... and perhaps the Iranian people will change course."

Roggio said that the biggest threat facing the U.S. is Iran. "It's interesting that Jim Gerlach talks about diplomacy because as far as I can tell diplomacy between Iran and our Republican president began four months ago." He then said he agrees with Obama's plans for diplomacy with Iran.

OK - this post went longer than I expected. For the candidates' discussions of the economy, the environment and health care, see my article. I hope this post is useful to two or three people when they make their decision on Nov. 4.

Labels: , , ,