Missouri's Redistricting News
Kansas City Star:
"Judicial Panel Hears Views on Legislative Redistricting." November 1,
More than a dozen lawmakers and members of the public spoke at a hearing Thursday before a panel of state appeals court judges charged with redrawing district lines for the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.
One by one, speakers came forward to submit their own maps or discuss the assignments of towns that lie on the outskirts of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
State Sen. Mary Groves Bland, a Kansas City Democrat, favored a proposal to split Jackson County into four complete senatorial districts, one of which would be a "safe" Democratic district with a 65 percent African-American population. The county currently makes up all or part of five senatorial districts.
Benny Ward, the mayor of Excelsior Springs, asked the judges to consider keeping his town in a senatorial district with Clay County, rather than Ray County, because "99 percent of our people work in Clay County."
The task before the six judges is to come up with new districts for both houses of the legislature by Dec. 28. The panel cannot discuss its deliberations, which began in August.
The Missouri Supreme Court appointed the judges after Republican and Democratic commissions were unable to agree on new district lines after months of debate.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, following a national census.
The judges' decision will be final.
"That's why we decided to hold these hearings, so that any ideas that people have, we can hear them," said the panel's chairman, Judge Robert Ulrich of Kansas City. "This process belongs to the people."
Thursday's was the third of the panel's four public hearings across the state. The last hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Springfield.
To reach Shashank Bengali, Missouri correspondent, call (816) 234-4759 or send e-mail to [email protected]
Like all state maps, Missouri's aeronautical chart - basically a map for pilots - features a photo of the governor.
But for the latest edition, which just came out, Gov. Bob Holden opted to forgo the standard picture for something different.
The photo features Holden, dressed in a turtleneck and leather jacket, standing next to a 1958 North American T-28C Trojan - a plane used to train military pilots. His hand is resting on a pilot's helmet. The background is a vibrant orange sunset.
The photo was taken at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in December, before Holden took office, said a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Holden, who once served in the National Guard, says he didn't fly the plane.
The picture is touching off some chuckles in his critics' ranks - who recall that unforgettable photo of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis in an army tank.
But Holden says he simply followed the lead of his predecessor, the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, who first broke away from the official-photo mold. The last state road map during his tenure featured Carnahan and his wife, Jean Carnahan, in running outfits alongside bicycles. At least three aeronautical charts featured Carnahan, who was a pilot, wearing a leather jacket and standing next to vintage airplanes.
The photo could be a symbol of Holden's predicament should Republicans win their redistricting fight.
Redrawing the legislative boundary lines affects everything, especially which party controls a governmental chamber. That party, in turn, controls which laws get passed.
Former Rep. Jim Talent, a Republican who's now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, observed last week that he credits redistricting with playing an important role in the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. "A lot of it may have been the delayed effect," he said, of the redrawn congressional lines to reflect the 1990 census.
He predicts that redistricting in Missouri could create "an era of pretty consistent Republican-controlled Legislatures."
That could make it tough on Holden or any Democrat who's elected governor.
Such speculation is widespread as a judicial panel starts drawing new lines for the state's 34 Senate districts and 163 House seats. The panel is evenly split between GOP and Democratic appointees. It took over the job last month after Holden's bipartisan commissions failed to come up with new maps.
At the panel's first public hearing last Thursday, both parties made their pleas. Mike Kelley, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said everyone had agreed that "political fairness" should be part of the process.
But what's fair to one party seems unfair to the other.
The Democratic view is that judges should look at the overall voting trends in the state and draw boundaries that "accurately reflect the political dynamics of the state," Kelley said.
Democrats won five of the six statewide posts last fall, which Kelley said proves that Missouri "is a (politically) close state, but a Democratic state."
Fair maps should create slight Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate, he said.
The Republican argument is that the new lines should represent "the 2000 census and population trends, not past elections," said state GOP spokesman Scott Baker.
In the state House, for example, the state GOP says that 66 Republican districts have gained population and only nine have lost. But among the Democratic districts, the GOP says, 44 have gained population and 44 have lost. The upshot, said Baker: "There should be more districts in Republican areas." That could lead to Republican majorities in both chambers.
The judges' next hearing will be Oct. 25 at the Drury Inn at the Airport, 10490 Natural Bridge. Testimony begins at 9 a.m. The judges have until Dec. 28 to draw the new lines. Holden's next photo session may hinge on it.
Reporter Jo Mannies: E-mail: [email protected] Phone: 314-340-8334 .
Taxpayers have spent more than $285,000 to help two commissions charged with drawing district boundaries for the Missouri Legislature.
But much of that money has gone down the tubes. By law, Tuesday was their deadline. Tuesday morning, the state Senate commission deadlocked and disbanded. A House commission quit Monday. As a result, two panels of appellate court judges will take over. The Missouri Supreme Court will appoint two panels of six appellate judges each, one for the state Senate and the other for the House. These panels must come with new sets of district lines by late December.
Every 10 years, the legislative lines must be redrawn to conform to new census figures. This year, each of the Missouri House's 163 districts must have about 34,000 people each. For the 34-member Senate, the number is roughly 165,000 residents apiece.
Party leaders are deeply involved. Subtle changes in district maps can swing some districts from one party to another.
Over the weekend, Republicans and Democrats gathered at a nondescript office building behind the main shopping mall in Jefferson City.
The commissions met inside. Party officials paced the parking lot, talked on cell phones, mouthed sound bites and caucused behind closed doors.
Gov. Bob Holden lunched with Democratic commission members on Saturday. Holden's spokesman, Jerry Nachtigal, said the governor was disappointed that the groups reached stalemates.
"Even in the best of scenarios, it's a difficult task to get these maps drawn," Nachtigal said.
In 1991, the House redistricting panel came up with an acceptable map. But the Senate redistricting commission deadlocked, forcing judges to draw district lines.
The maps are often subject to suits. In 1972, a federal suit challenged a state Senate map, saying that one St. Louis district "jogs unexplicably" from the Chain of Rocks Bridge in the north to Bates Street in the south. The state Supreme Court ultimately upheld these district boundaries in 1975.
This year, the outcome of the redistricting process is again cloudy. State Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis, said, "The Supreme Court is an unknown," and so are the appellate judges.
State House Minority Floor Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, said her party had been recruiting people to run for district seats since January.
"As we recruit them we have to say, 'We think you're going to be a good candidate for state rep, but we don't know what candidate district you'll live in until it's over,' " she said.
Andy Wood, the Democrat from Neosho, Mo., chairing the state Senate commission, said Republicans seemed intent on sticking to a plan they offered on Saturday. He said their proposal would create 19 or 20 Republican-leaning districts. The GOP now holds 18 state Senate seats.
"I believe the Republicans never wanted a map that had fairness in it," he said.
The vice chairman, Republican Warren Erdman from Kansas City, accused Democrats of offering a map Monday that was a "full frontal attack on three of our incumbents."
"They threw it in our face," Erdman said.
Kansas City Star
Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats trying to redraw district maps for the Missouri House broke down Monday, so the process now is headed to court.
The Missouri House Apportionment Commission adjourned for the last time Monday after five fruitless hours of debating redistricting maps. The 18-member bipartisan commission had until today to adopt a preliminary map but dissolved Monday after it was clear no agreement could be reached. One frustrated member of the commission berated both parties for the "bickering" that has lasted several months.
"Why should we even have a commission if we're going to sit right here and let the courts decide it?" asked Norm Harty, a Republican from Dexter.
The Senate Reapportionment Commission, which was meeting Monday evening, was not expected to fare any better in approving a map based on 2000 census data.
The commission rejected three maps presented Monday by Democrats and had rejected three Republican-backed maps Saturday.
The Missouri Supreme Court will have to appoint six appellate judges to draw House district lines.
"We don't fear going to court," said John Hancock, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
Hancock said there is no way courts - using accepted criteria - can draw new maps that do not tilt seats toward more Republicans in the House and Senate.
But Jim Grebing, spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, rejected notions that the state is turning Republican. He said Republicans brought a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the commission meetings.
"They never wanted to put up a fair map," Grebing said. "You could build a case that maybe Republicans wanted to go to court all along."
Legislative districts are redrawn each 10 years to coincide with population shifts revealed in the most recent census. The Missouri General Assembly approved new congressional districts months ago, but the bipartisan commissions are charged with redrawing maps for the state House and Senate.
According to information supplied by the state Office of Administration, 66 Republican House districts gained in population since the last census while only 44 Democratic districts grew.
Meanwhile, 44 Democratic House districts shrank in population while only nine Republican districts lost people.
Republicans argued that constitutional criteria dictated that the GOP would pick up a significant number of seats in the House.
One map presented by Jeff Roe, a Republican from Brookfield, would have created 94 Republican-leaning districts in the House to Democrats' 69. Currently, Democrats hold an 87-75 advantage in the House with one vacancy.
Democrats blasted the map as not having "political fairness," something Republicans said is not in legal criteria for redistricting.
"The problem is fairness is a subjective standard," said Warren Erdman, a Republican from Kansas City.
Democrats pointed out the number of Democratic statewide elected officials - governor, state auditor, state treasurer, attorney general - as evidence that Missouri is not turning toward the GOP.
They presented their own map which still would have given Republicans a lead in the House, with an 83-80 split among districts.
Mary Nelson, a Democratic commission member from St. Louis, said the map was "a starting point" for negotiations.
GOP commission members ridiculed the map as nowhere close to reflecting population shifts.
"We can sit here and argue about fairness all we want, but the people have picked up and moved to where they thought they could find a better life," said Jerry Hunt, a Republican from St. Louis.
A St. Louis alderwoman who refused to end a filibuster for a trip to the restroom was charged with public urination in an incident last month in which City Council allies surrounded her with a quilt and handed her a pail. The alderwoman, Irene Smith, who has not said whether she used the pail, faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine for the July 17 incident, in which she argued against a redistricting proposal that could have cost her seat. Consideration of the plan was put off until a later date.
Imagine my surprise to wake up Wednesday, turn on the national news and Find my own city featured.
This, unfortunately, wasn't a story that put the Gateway City in the best light. No, there on the screen was Alderman Irene Smith, apparently relieving herself in the aldermanic chambers. She stood over a trash can while supporters gathered sheets and quilts around her.
Smith is displeased with a redistricting bill that would place her home and that of Alderman Sharon Tyus in the same ward. All of this might have been funny had it not been so pathetic. Unhappy with that measure, which had the support of a majority of the aldermen, Smith decided to filibuster to prevent the bill's passage.
The filibuster continued for hours in the hot, unair-conditioned aldermanic chambers. At some point, nature called. Smith announced that she was going to take a bathroom break, but was informed by acting Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury that if she left, she would have to give up the floor.
Another alderman sought to overturn Shrewsbury's ruling, which would have allowed Smith to go to the restroom. But the aldermen voted against that proposition, 13-11.
So Smith made her point in a way that would attract nationwide attention.
Ironically, it took place on the same day that the city officials were trying to send the message that St. Louis -- which had been behind other cities that experienced comebacks in the '90s -- is finally on the right track. The $54 million Sheraton St. Louis City Center Hotel & Suites downtown officially opened Tuesday, a notable event because the building had been converted from an Edison Brothers warehouse.
And while that attracted attention locally, it was the aldermanic act that put St. Louis on the map this week. Yes, St. Louis -- the city that also drew national attention for the "nose blowing in public" bill and one that proposed caning graffiti writers.
To top our city's day off, one of the aldermen, Kenneth Jones, told reporters Tuesday that he was on Viagra and didn't plan to stick around for an all-day aldermanic meeting because he had other things to do. % You've got to wonder what kind of aldermen we have who refuse to take a five-minute break to let a woman use the restroom. And you've got to wonder what kind of aldermen we have when one of them feels so strongly about an issue that she chooses to abandon her dignity for such a demonstration on the floor of the Board of Aldermen.
Many words come to mind, but "shameful" seems to be a good one, for all parties concerned.
What kind of message does this send to impressionable young people, especially -- God forbid -- those who might be considering public service?
Beyond that, what happens the next time a cop gets after some beer-drinker who decides to relieve himself in public? Can the suspect use "the Board of Aldermen defense"?
One interesting aspect of all of this is that it's the result of ward redistricting -- an every-10-year phenomenon at City Hall. The redistricting plan being considered would move Tyus' north St. Louis ward to an area in south St. Louis. % Twenty years ago, another alderman found his ward -- then in the Central West End -- moved to south St. Louis. That alderman, David Pentland, suggested that the number of aldermen should be reduced, and he was punished for it.
Based on the actions of the aldermen on Tuesday, maybe Pentland's idea wasn't a bad one after all.