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Opinion Time for Civil Redistricting

Governor campaigned on non-partisan redistricting; now is time for proposals in General Assembly.

T he U.S. Census is underwa , an ev- ery-10-year process that attempts to count every single person in the United States at their home ad- dress. From the results of the count come a nearly infinite number of critical decisions. The way those decisions are carried out have con- sequences for every one of us. party decides how to redraw the lines around political districts after each census. The pro- cess in the past has involved the majority party using its power without any checks or balances to create districts that protect incumbents of the majority party and try to force out incum- bents of the minority party. The losers in the process are the citi- zens of Virginia, who first find them- selves in political districts that make little sense geographically or in terms of communities of interest. They then find that even if they are unhappy with their elected officials, the gerrymandering has created dis- tricts that have killed any competition between parties, and that each party strongly discour- ages any primary challenges. One of those decisions is the redraw- ing of political lines for all political of- fices, including the General Assembl , U. S. Congress and local offices. In Virginia, the current process allows the political party in charge to draw the lines. Editorial Proposals in the Virginia General Assembly could lead to a change in politics and democ- racy here. The measures would establish the Virginia Redistricting Commission to redraw Congressional and General Assembly district boundaries without the bitter partisan hatchet that has characterized Virginia’ process under each party in the past. The result: most voters have far less choice in who represents them than they should. There are probably hundreds of ways to set up a commission or non-partisan board that would take the politics out of the process.

Tradition in Virginia holds that the ruling

House Bill 323, introduced by Del. Ken Plum

Summary of Redistricting Bill

“Bipartisan Redistricting Commission created. Establishes a seven-member temporary commission to prepare redistricting plans in 2011 and each tenth year thereafter for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and congressional districts. Appointments to the Commission shall be made one each by the four majority and minority party leaders of the House and Senate and by the state chairmen of the two major political parties. Those six appointees shall appoint the seventh member and chairman of the Commission. If they cannot agree, they shall submit the names of the two persons receiving the most votes to the Supreme Court for the Court to select the chairman. The Commission will prepare plans and submit them as bills to the General Assembly. The General Assembly shall then proceed to act on the bills in the usual manner. The bill provides for Commission comments on plans as they change in the legislative process. It also spells out the stan- dards and process to be followed by the Commission in preparing plans, including limitations on the use of political data and opportunities for public comment on the plans.”

SOURCE: http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm

(D) of Reston, and Senate Bill 626, introduced by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R) pave the way for real reform and integrity in the political process.

  • Mary Kimm,


Letters to the Editor

Put Bounty On Bottles

To the Editor:

Thank you for Elizabeth Martin’s recent letter, “Why Not Bottle De- posit Program?” I fully agree with her suggestion of a nickel deposit on beverage containers to help reduce the amount of trash that is

despoiling the shores of the Potomac. Years ago I participated in the annual Alice Ferguson clean- up targeting an area of the river where I spent many hours as a youth — obviously this was before video games rendered outdoor play a form of punishment. Back then cans, bottles and the occa- sional tire littered the shores just as they do now but not in the num-

bers that I encountered during my clean up. I found the volume of trash shocking. And Martin’s photo is but a snapshot of a much larger problem along our shores.

That is not to say the waters of the Potomac were pristine during the 1960s, when I was growing up. So dirty was the water that in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson re- ferred to the Potomac as “a na-

Photo by Louise Krafft/The Gazette

Snapshot Work in progress: Mary Washington Public Library on Fort Hunt Road.

tional disgrace.” While I remem- ber far less trash along the shore, the water was considerably more polluted because raw sewage emptied into the river. I can still remember the sultry days of sum- mer when the stench would reach well into Waynewood. Neverthe- less, as boys we fished and ex- plored the beaches of the Potomac with stern parental warnings — and the threat of a tetanus shot

  • to stay out of the water!

Since then two events have colluded to transform the Potomac from “a national disgrace” to what it is today. The first was the Clean Water Act of the 1970s that initi- ated a much-needed expansion of the Blue Plains Wastewater Treat- ment Plant to handle the volume of wastewater that was over- whelming the system. The impact of Blue Plains on water quality was significant. Recreational and com- mercial activities soon returned to the river along with normal look- ing fish.

Clean water, however, was only part of the restoration story. Just when and how hydrilla was intro- duced to the Potomac remains a matter of contention, but it most likely entered American water- ways from a home aquarium. Of- ficials originally feared this non- native plant would create havoc for the Potomac just as it had done elsewhere. A bane to boaters and

See Letters, Page 18

10 Mount Vernon Gazette January 28 - February 3, 2010

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