Wisconsin's Redistricting News
The Post-Crescent: "Big changes ahead for
council." March 18, 2003
APPLETON ó This time next month, the Appleton Common Council will look quite different.
There could be as many as seven new members on the 16-member panel soon after the April 1 election.
Ald. Helen Nagler, council president, said the election will bring greater diversity to the group.
ìThere is always the potential for something we havenít thought of when you get new people on,î she said.
Three incumbents face challengers, and four other incumbents are leaving.
The city elects council representatives on alternating years; the even-numbered districts in even years, and the odd-numbered districts during odd years.
The infusion of new candidates this year is likely due to the redistricting of 2000, which included the reduction of the council from 18 to 16 seats.
The moves drastically changed the boundaries of many districts, and that may have brought challengers out of the woodwork, Nagler said.
Four incumbents opted not to run for re-election: Jo Egelhoff, Karen Harkness, Charlie Goff and Ronald Klemp.
Nagler, an alderwoman since 1998, said budget constraints brought on by a probable loss in tax revenue shared by the state will make for a challenging year.
ìOne thing we canít forget is weíre not only in the business of lowering taxes, but also to provide services,î Nagler said.
Bill Siebers, assistant to Mayor Tim Hanna, agreed that overcoming budget challenges will be a dominant theme during the next term.
ìWe need to learn how to do things differently without the financial resources weíve been accustomed to, or take a serious look at what weíre going to have to eliminate,î said Siebers, who was an alderman himself for 22 years.
Development of the Fox River waterfront is another issue that likely will come up repeatedly in the next year. Siebers said the riverfront revitalization is a continuation of redevelopment that has happened in the downtown.
However, the pace of progress on the riverfront, like all else, could depend greatly on the economy, both Siebers and Nagler agreed.
ìIt all comes down to what you have the money to do,î Nagler said. ìYou canít do anything without some kind of commitment to funds.î
Other recurring themes likely to pop up on the councilís agenda are collaborative efforts with surrounding communities and managing growth, Siebers said.
Naglerís advice to newcomers: study the budget.
ìOnce you understand the budget, itís pretty much the blueprint for the rest of the year,î she said.
A core of experienced aldermen and department directors should help ease the transition, Nagler said.
ìThe first budget is always a challenge, but we have a very strong finance department and they are always available to someone who wants to understand the (budget) document,î she said.
Many of the new candidates have regularly attended council and committee meetings to get up to speed on city issues, which could shorten their learning curve.
ìThose people who have taken time to do that will at least know the discussion that led up to decisions they are asked to make,î Nagler said.
Greg Bump can be reached at [email protected] postcrescent.com
The move could prompt opposition from groups that fought reduction last time - and from aldermen who don't like the proposed district boundaries.
Advocates say the change could save more than $3 million over an eight-year period. But the timing is also critical; with two vacancies on the council, the reform could pass with 10 votes instead of 12.
Aldermen Michael Murphy and Willie Hines are pushing for another vote on the size of the council. A hearing is likely to be held next month.
Other aldermen, satisfied with redrawn districts, aren't thrilled to go through it all again, scarcely a year before the 2004 election, when new districts take effect.
"There is something that doesn't quite smell right to me about this entire process," said Ald. Bob Donovan, who had supported a smaller council in the past. "There haven't been any community meetings. No input. They've been running around with a secret map."
A central question will be how minorities fare under the proposed map.
Before the two vacancies, there were six African-American members and one Hispanic on the 17-member council. Under a draft map of a 15-member council released Thursday, there would be five majority African-American districts and one majority Hispanic district.
That could be about the same proportional representation on the council, 41% compared with 40% on the smaller council.
Hines, who opposed the smaller council in 2001, notes a seventh district would have a near African-American majority, and another would be substantially Hispanic.
The 2000 census showed Milwaukee to be a minority-majority city for the first time. It also showed the city lost 31,114 people since 1990, which prompted the original calls for a smaller council.
The council's two vacancies are in seats once held by Rosa Cameron, who resigned after pleading guilty to federal charges, and Terrance Herron, who left last month to take a job in Washington, D.C.
Under a 17-member council, each alderman would represent a district with about 35,000 people. At 15, it would be about 39,800.
When a 15-member council came to a vote in August 2001, it generated eight supporters. With Herron gone and Hines now in support, it would still need to pick up two votes to pass. Donovan, however, could vote no this time, so a third new vote would be needed.
The idea of shrinking the council has been kicked around for months as aldermen struggle with how to confront an ever-tighter budget and the possible loss of some state aid.
"It appears to get more gloomy every day," Hines said.
The draft map released Thursday would effectively eliminate the northwest side district now represented by Ald. Tom Nardelli, who is running for mayor.
The 10th District, which had been represented by Cameron, would largely be absorbed by districts now held by Hines and Ald. Marlene Johnson-Odom.
That seat will be filled in an April 1 special election. In theory, a new map could be adopted before then that would leave the winner outside the district where he or she would run next year.
In general, districts would shift to the north and to the west. On the proposed map, Johnson-Odom's current home would not be in the new 6th District. She has indicated she will not seek re-election.
The 1st District, represented by Common Council President Marvin Pratt, would remain substantially intact. Pratt is also running for mayor.
Donovan, who represents a south side district, would see the new 8th District shift considerably north and west.
Betty Grinker, a board member of the Southside Organizing Committee, said residents should be alarmed that the process is moving so fast.
"I'm not sure why this all of a sudden came up, when so much time and money was spent a year ago," she said.
Their cookie jar depleted of cash, Assembly Republican leaders voted Wednesday to cut Assembly spending by $2.1 million, but Democrats predicted the house would run short of money again - as outstanding legal bills in the caucus scandal investigation and the redistricting lawsuit are paid.
Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) and four other GOP leaders on the Assembly Committee on Organization voted to accept a series of cuts offered by Assistant Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller. Three Democrats on the committee abstained, protesting short notice on the vote and the lack of a hearing.
Among the cuts is a limit on daily expense claims by lawmakers. Beginning Sept. 1, they can claim per diems only three days a week, not five, for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2003. Fuller estimated that would save about $1.08 million.
Besides the per diem cut, reductions the Assembly GOP leaders approved included: $297,000 by reducing legislative office accounts by $3,000 Jan. 1; $209,137 by lapsing funds members did not claim for in-district mileage expenses; and $202,251 by delaying a 2% pay increase for staff until June.
The Assembly organization committee didn't meet to discuss or vote on the cuts. Instead, members returned their ballots to Jensen's office by Wednesday. However, Assembly Democrats held their own public hearing Wednesday on the proposed cuts, and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) was quick to challenge the estimated per diem savings. The committee action is final and does not need approval of the full Assembly.
When working in the Capitol, lawmakers can claim $88 a day - $44 a day, if they are from Madison. Not everyone can claim the full amount, nor does everyone claim per diem five days a week, Pocan said. But assuming they did on both counts, the savings would be $696,960, not $1 million plus, Pocan said.
Even if that figure is correct, Pocan and others said, the Assembly budget would quickly become out of balance, despite the latest round of cuts. They warned more legal fees would quickly run the Assembly in the red.
At their hearing, Assembly Democrats displayed a chart showing legal fee payments so far, $488,000 for the caucus investigation into illegal campaign activity and $574,822 for lawyers representing Republican lawmakers in the redistricting case.
"Both of these figures are going to increase," Pocan said. "However, those haven't been mentioned, at least by the speaker and others, as to why we have a $2.3 million deficit. They seem kind of large and hard to miss. The fact that they weren't included makes us wonder why, how much more they're going to grow, and what that really means? A $3 million deficit? Where does it stop?"
At the hearing, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, predicted the caucus legal fees in the Assembly could exceed $1 million. He said Jensen's legal tab already is $181,000, including $89,000 for legal advice on a settlement reached with the state Elections and Ethics boards to eliminate the partisan caucus staffs. Common Cause has filed suit to stop the legal payments.
Jensen was in a meeting and not available for comment, his aide Steve Baas said. Baas said Pocan and fellow Democrats were wrong in arguing the legal fees were the main reason for the Assembly deficit. He said the cuts Republican leaders approved Wednesday would put the Assembly's finances in order. While the deficit had been estimated at $2.3 million, Bass said earlier cuts reduced the size of the shortfall.
"These address costs that we can control in the Assembly," Baas said of Fuller's proposals. "The only person who can control the legal fees costs is the district attorney, who's been running up those bills for the last 15 months. So we're focusing on costs we can control."
Baas blamed Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard for the rising legal fee expenses. Since June 2001, Blanchard has been leading the caucus investigation with the assistance of Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann and state Department of Justice agents.
Baas also noted that Assembly Democrats had joined Republicans in voting to cover legal expenses in the caucus investigation and that some, including the former minority leader, Democrat Shirley Krug of Milwaukee, had her legal fees charged to taxpayers.
Despite Pocan's math, Fuller stood by his estimated savings on per diem. Besides the approved cuts, Fuller noted additional savings, as did Jensen in his cover letter to the ballot, resulting from voluntary cuts by members. Fuller said two GOP vacancies would save roughly $56,000 in staffing costs for the rest of the year: Scott Walker of Wauwatosa, elected Milwaukee County executive, and Tim Hoven of Port Washington, whose resignation was effective July 25.
The Legislature operates on a sum sufficient budget, meaning it can spend whatever members deem necessary to do their job. State budgets, however still set a spending level for the Legislature. At the hearing, Terry Rhodes of the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the Assembly's annual budget totaled $18.56 million under the budget repair bill Gov. Scott McCallum signed Friday.
Rhodes said the $18.56 million spending level reflected reductions in the budget repair bill and the biennial budget enacted last year. He said the Assembly budget would have been $21.8 million for the current year, but for the sagging economy, a state deficit of $1.1 billion and the Assembly's financial problems.
The legal battle over redistricting has cost state taxpayers more than $1.3 million, and that does not include the final bill from lawyers and expert witnesses working for Assembly and Senate Republicans.
The $1.3 million-plus paid so far is more than double the $527,600 paid a decade ago to resolve the redistricting battle in court.
The Legislature is supposed to draw new legislative district boundaries based on the latest census, but when the Republican Assembly and Democratic Senate couldn't agree on a new map, the task fell to a three-judge federal panel in Milwaukee.
Senate Chief Clerk Donald Schneider said Tuesday that the final bill for the Senate was $726,974, which includes a payment of $366,491 made Friday to the Boardman law firm in Madison.
Patrick Fuller, the Assembly assistant chief clerk, said the Assembly to date has paid $574,822, but all that was for legal work before April 11, when a two-day trial was held in Milwaukee.
"That's all I've paid," Fuller said. "I've seen no other bills. And when am I going to see these? Who knows? I've been getting bills in here for everything else, except for redistricting."
The federal court issued a decision on redistricting May 22, but Madison lawyer Jim Troupis, the GOP's lead attorney, has yet to send a final bill for his legal team and expert witnesses, including one who cut short a trip to Italy to attend the trial.
The $1.3 million-plus paid so far is more than double the $527,600 paid a decade ago to resolve the redistricting battle in court.
Troupis could not be reached for comment. Bernard Grofman, the University of California-Irvine professor and leading expert witness for Republicans, has refused to discuss his fees or expenses.
After the trial, Grofman said in an interview that he had planned to attend two conferences in Italy but skipped one and flew to Milwaukee for the trial. Asked if the cost of his trans-Atlantic flight would be billed to taxpayers, he deferred to Troupis.
"If you want details about my bill, then I suggest you consult the attorneys," Grofman said.
Every 10 years, the Legislature must draw new maps for legislative and congressional districts based on new census figures to ensure equal representation. While state lawmakers agreed on a congressional map, they could not come to terms on their own boundaries and deferred to the federal court for the fourth consecutive decade.
More than a year ago, before the redistricting battle took shape, Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) entered an agreement with the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm, establishing an escrow account.
Despite a developing financial crisis, a $1.1 billion deficit, Jensen agreed to terms requiring the Assembly to pay the law firm $120,000 a month over 17 months, setting aside $2.04 million for the anticipated fight in the courts.
As criticism of the escrow account mounted, Jensen and the law firm revised the agreement. Fuller said Tuesday that he believed the payments stopped at $980,000 but could not confirm the figure because his finance officer was off.
Fuller said that as the law firm incurs expenses, it sends him a bill, subject to his review, then draws on the escrow account.
Although Jensen, as Assembly speaker, retained Michael Best & Friedrich, spokesman Steve Baas said he had no explanation for the lag in billings and referred questions to Fuller.
Of the $574,822 paid to date by the Assembly, Fuller said $349,808 went to Michael Best & Friedrich, $100,069 went to the Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren firm in Milwaukee assisting in the case, and the remaining $124,945 was for consulting fees and other expenses.
On the Senate side, the final payment of $366,491 to the Boardman firm included nearly $137,224 in legal fees and $229,267 in consulting fees and expenses.
The fees included just under $48,429 paid to Michael May, the lead attorney for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala of Madison and Democrats in both houses. May billed at $215 an hour. Four other lawyers at the firm assisted him, including Sarah Zylstra, whose fees totaled $60,496 on an hourly rate of $155.
A Milwaukee law firm, O'Neil, Cannon & Hollman, assisted May's team and, according to the latest bill, received $145,466. Another $51,958 in consulting fees was paid to expert witnesses, chiefly David Canon and Kenneth Mayer, two University of Wisconsin-Madison professors.
The bills for outside attorneys in the redistricting matter come at the same time that state lawmakers have rung up nearly $700,000 in legal fees for legislators and their aides in connection with a secret investigation into allegations of illegal campaigning using state resources.
Like your local congressman?
These days, you haven't got much choice.
None of Wisconsin's eight U.S. House races is expected to be competitive this fall, based on the field of challengers that met last Tuesday's filing deadline. That hasn't happened since the '80s.
Nationally, handicappers put the number of "tossup" races at just a dozen or fewer - out of 435.
The sheer lopsidedness of House elections isn't new; across the country, incumbents won 98% of their races in 1998 and 2000.
But what's galling some observers is that this year was supposed to be different. It's the first campaign under the new congressional lines drawn after the 10-year 2000 census. Redistricting typically creates a surge in contested races as incumbents confront new boundaries and constituencies.
Experts say that this time, both major parties went to special lengths to create safer partisan seats for their own sitting House members.
"In state after state, there were incumbent sweetheart deals," says Michael Malbin, political scientist and executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan research group here.
The result: Despite an ultracompetitive electorate in 2000 that produced a presidential standoff and a split Senate, House elections are largely devoid of suspense and meaning.
Consider Wisconsin. The state's eight House members up for re-election all enjoy the traditional personal advantages of incumbency, from high visibility to campaign chests that averaged $540,000 at the end of March. None faces a major party challenger with significant money, name recognition or political experience.
Not even Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who was barely re-elected in 2000, attracted a top-tier opponent. The Republican who nearly beat her, University of Wisconsin historian John Sharpless, declined to run again.
His reasons capture why it's so hard to beat a member of Congress. In two elections, he says, he ran up $60,000 in personal debt. He would have to take unpaid leave from his public university job to be a candidate. He points to incumbents' perks such as the ability to send mail free to constituents touting their activities.
"It's all these little things that add up," he says.
Then there's redistricting. Baldwin's already Democratic-leaning 2nd District was made slightly more so under the new map, which was negotiated among Wisconsin House incumbents from both parties. The partisan shift was statistically small, but Sharpless thought it was significant given how close the 2000 race was and how difficult the district is for the GOP. He felt his party should have fought harder for a more balanced district.
"I love politics, and I'd love to run again," Sharpless says. But "boy, it was frustrating," he says of the new district lines. "It will reduce competition. If they say otherwise, they're lying to us."
Signs of balance
One sign of a competitive, balanced district is when it votes one way for president and the other way for Congress. That was true of two Wisconsin seats in 2000: Janesville Republican Paul Ryan's 1st District voted for Democrat Al Gore, and Milwaukee Democrat Jerry Kleczka's 4th District voted for Republican George W. Bush.
But under the new lines, there are no districts that meet that test. Ryan's district became more Republican, and Kleczka inherited a much more Democratic home base.
Does redistricting explain the lack of competition in Wisconsin's House races this fall? That is disputed by party leaders and incumbents.
"Wisconsin has more competitive districts than most states," argues Ryan. He and Baldwin both defend the new map, saying the changes were logical given the state's loss of a House seat and population shifts within Wisconsin.
Mild shift in Wisconsin
Two points should be made. One is that there are clearly other factors at work, including money, name recognition and the status-quo political climate. One-sided races in the state are an old story. While the '90s saw the defeat of three Wisconsin House incumbents (Democratic veteran Bob Kastenmeier and first-termers Jay Johnson and Peter Barca), there were no competitive races of any kind throughout much of the '80s.
"Incumbents are able to strengthen their districts for themselves - you get to know everybody," says Ryan, who dominated his old district even when it leaned slightly Democratic.
Recruiting challengers "is just not easy," says state GOP chairman Rick Graber, who differs with Sharpless over how significant the changes were to Baldwin's district.
The state's Democratic Party chair, Linda Honold, contends it is less the new map than the long wait (until March) for the new lines that made it hard for would-be challengers in both parties.
"It's very difficult to jump into a congressional race that late in the game," Honold says.
Point two: While the new lines in Wisconsin are undeniably helpful to some current incumbents, it would be a stretch to call them a dramatic shift toward unbalanced seats. The new and old maps both feature a mix of non-competitive and competitive districts, some of which plausibly could be won by either party in an open-seat race.
The effects of redistricting on competition are actually more stark in many other states.
The Cook Political Report ranks 46 House races nationally this year as "competitive" (a broader category than "tossup"). That's way down from the comparable election in 1992, which also followed a redistricting. Back then, handicapper Charles Cook rated 121 races as competitive.
This time, some of the nation's largest states are virtual contest-free zones. Cook rates only one of California's 53 House races as competitive, one of Texas' 32 and one of Illinois' 19. Iowa, which leaves its redistricting to a non-partisan commission, has a higher number of competitive races than those three much larger states combined.
One sign of the impact of redistricting on competition is that incumbent U.S. senators, who have to run statewide and aren't affected by changes in the political map, aren't nearly the lock for re-election that most House members are. This year, there are 34 U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, and anywhere from seven to 12 are in play. By historical standards, competition isn't suffering in Senate contests.
Risk of polarized parties
What's the consequence of having more House districts dominated by a single party? Aside from lack of voter choice, one legacy could be fewer centrists on Capitol Hill, analysts say. That's because in an open-seat district dominated by either Democrats or Republicans, the winner is going to be decided in a primary, not the general election. Primaries tend to be dominated by more ideological and motivated voters.
"The impact on our politics is disastrous because it forces a polarization of our politics," says Curtis Gans, head of the non-partisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.
The narrow playing field also reduces the chances for either party to gain a solid, functional majority in the House. And it tends to lock in the partisan status quo. It is going to make it very difficult for Democrats to regain the majority even though they are only six seats short. That's because they'd have to win a huge share of the small number of available races.
In the long run, the fallout will depend on whether the dearth of meaningful races turns out to be a passing blip or a more permanent feature of U.S. elections. There won't be another redistricting until 2012.
"I just think we're headed into a period where in a typical year, instead of three or four dozen competitive races, there may be one or two dozen, and that is a very important national fact," Malbin says.
Hope for future
"A lot of people want to rub their hands together and say, 'Woe is me, we'll never see competitive races again.' I don't think so," says Amy Walter, who handicaps House races for the Cook Political Report. She notes that other factors also have helped incumbents, including positive approval ratings for Congress and the fact that both redistricting and the Sept. 11 attacks kept would-be challengers on the sidelines.
Another question is whether the current competitive drought (only nine House members lost in 2000 and seven in 1998) creates public pressure for reform. Congress just concluded a long, fierce battle over campaign finance, but it centered on the issues of corruption and big money, not on competitiveness. In fact, scholars and lawmakers debate if the new McCain-Feingold law helps level the playing field, makes things worse, or is a wash.
"It's a great conversation for reformers to start having, that lack of competition is a problem," says Robert Richie, executive director of the Maryland-based Center for Voting and Democracy, a group that advocates "fairer elections." He notes growing attention to the issue in the media.
What are the remedies?
One step Richie and other reformers advocate is what Iowa and several other states do - transfer the redistricting process from state legislatures to less partisan commissions.
But the more personal advantages of incumbency may be harder politically to address. Asked what he would do, Ryan answered, "term limits," though the term limits movement has flagged politically in recent years and faces massive obstacles at the federal level. Baldwin says she favors public financing of elections to level the field, a step most Republicans oppose and one that campaign reformers have found to be a legislative non-starter.
But Baldwin also argues that "safe seats" that tilt sharply toward one party aren't necessarily bad. "Is it better to have the vast majority of a congressional district feeling well-represented and in sync with their member of Congress and vice versa, or is it better to have a competitive district where there's a very active dialogue on issues, however with a sizable number of constituents feeling unrepresented by whoever is successful in the election? I think that's a real question."
Sharpless takes a very different view. "Redistricting has been the quiet issue across the country that stifles competition," he says. "The rascals should not be drawing their own map."
A redistricting plan a federal court nearly adopted would have meant defeat for two black lawmakers from Milwaukee and perhaps the ouster of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison), according to previously sealed court documents obtained Wednesday.
On May 3, a three-judge federal panel in the Eastern District of Wisconsin gave legislative leaders and their lawyers, but no one else, a sneak peek at a provisional map setting new Assembly and Senate district boundaries, based on the latest census figures.
According to one expert witness in the case, the court's draft plan all but assured the defeat of Reps. Antonio Riley and Johnnie Morris-Tatum, both Milwaukee Democrats. That, among other changes, would have made the provisional map ripe for a successful challenge under the federal Voting Rights Act, said David Canon, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor.
Among other changes the court contemplated was a realignment of the 16th Senate District held by Chvala to create a district only 46.5% Democratic, making it difficult for him to win re-election in 2004, according to Sarah Zylstra, a Madison lawyer representing Chvala and other Democrats.
In their sealed submissions, lawyers for Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) and other Republicans raised few objections to the provisional map. They raised political concerns, noting that the provisional map paired 12 Republican incumbents, compared with six Democratic lawmakers. But GOP lawyers said the draft plan met the legal standards.
Based on those comments, the three-judge federal panel revised its plan and last week issued the map setting district boundaries for the election this fall and the rest of the decade.
The revised map avoids pairing Riley with a white incumbent, Milwaukee Democrat Peter Bock, and maintains much of Morris-Tatum's old district. Among other changes the court made, based on the sealed comments of the litigants, was removing Columbus in Republican Columbia County from Chvala's district and including Marshall and Medina in Dane County.
The Journal Sentinel filed suit Tuesday seeking release of the sealed documents; shortly thereafter, U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert issued an order lifting the seal.
In that order lifting the seal, Clevert noted that lawyers for Jensen and Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend) had asked at the end of the redistricting trial April 12 for an opportunity to review and comment on the court's plan before a final decision.
Clevert said the court agreed to do so and on May 3 provided litigants the draft map, allowing them five days to submit their comments under seal. He described it as "an unusual step" and gave two reasons for taking it.
First, Clevert said that it is a violation of the judicial ethics code for judges or their staffs to comment on cases before they are decided.
"In view of the extraordinary opportunity being provided the parties, the court felt it proper to require the parties to adhere to the same standards of conduct as other officers of the court privy to such deliberations," Clevert said.
"Second, releasing the draft map to non-parties would have fueled posturing and debate among the parties and unwarranted speculation concerning the court's final decision," Clevert said.
In a lengthy response, Canon predicted that if Riley and Bock were put in the 18th Assembly District, Bock would win the primary with 62% of the vote. Under the draft, that district had a black voting age population under 50%; Canon and others argued that 60% was needed to ensure blacks had an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
Canon said the provisional map also "dismantled" Morris-Tatum's district, leaving her with less than 44% of her old district. The black voting age population of her new 11th District would be less than 54%, compared with nearly 72% in the neighboring 17th District, where Democrats Spencer Coggs, who is black, and Shirley Krug, who is white, were paired. He predicted that the "packing" of minority votes in the Coggs district would prompt Krug to move into Morris-Tatum's new district, where Krug would win a primary race against Morris-Tatum.
Under the revised plan issued by the court, Coggs and Krug remain paired in the 17th District, but with changes made by the court, Krug was considering moving to another district and challenging another incumbent, Milwaukee Democrat John La Fave.
Riley also was spared a race against Bock. Instead of Riley, the court paired Bock with another incumbent, Milwaukee Democrat David Cullen. Both Cullen and La Fave are white.
Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report from Milwaukee.
The high-stakes Punch and Judy show being played out in the state Capitol over Wisconsin's $1.1 billion deficit comes against a complex backdrop of deep philosophical splits, election-year posturing and redistricting politics.
"This is the Grand Canyon of state budgets in how far apart we are," Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend) said.
Panzer sits on the eight-member panel that in the last two weeks has resolved just two of 320 differences between the budget repair bills passed by the GOP-run Assembly and the Democratic Senate. The committee has met six times over the last two weeks, and most of the sessions have featured the two sides either talking past one another or banging heads on some of the budget's hot-button items - things such as school choice and early retirement.
The two agreements have come on fringe issues, dumping an Assembly plan to allow libraries to charge fees for certain services, and correcting state law to allow state forestry taxes to continue funding the Division of Forestry.
It seems a futile exercise. Four Democrats and four Republicans come to the table three days a week to tattoo each other with rhetoric and philosophy, but have been unable to move the budgetary pile.
Yet there are also signs of movement, with Assembly Republicans lightening their University of Wisconsin cuts and preparing to offer a compromise on campaign finance reform.
Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar), another member of the panel, said the fact that proposals are being exchanged is a hopeful sign.
"Talks have been exhausting and relentless, but I don't see us at an impasse," Jauch said.
Sen. Russ Decker (D-Weston) noted that such talks have not focused on budget-cutting for many years. "It's something new for a lot of us, because we haven't faced this before," he said. "Cutting programs is both unpleasant and there's a disagreement in philosophy over what should be cut."
Some Republicans are privately suggesting that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) is dragging his feet on the budget talks in hopes of obtaining a compromise on legislative redistricting, hoping to short-circuit the work of a three-judge federal panel that heard the redistricting case last month. Such a compromise would remove the uncertainty inherent in a court-approved plan and allow legislative leadership to have the final say in how the maps will look.
But the same speculation surfaced during budget talks last summer, and it never came to fruition. Chvala aide Mike Browne said Chvala has always favored having the Legislature agree on a redistricting plan, but is not attempting to stall budget progress.
"There's no intention of putting redistricting in this budget. It's a red herring," Browne said. "We're at the conference committee table trying to resolve differences between the parties and the houses on the budget adjustment bill - period."
Chvala was in meetings Monday and not available for comment, Browne said.
Assembly Majority Leader Steven Foti (R-Oconomowoc) rejected the idea of including a redistricting plan as part of the budget.
"From the beginning, it was understood that Chuck Chvala wants to wheel and deal on redistricting," Foti said. "If Chuck wants to talk redistricting, we're willing to listen, but we will not make redistricting part of the budget. We will not trade provisions in the budget for the maps of the districts."
In most years, the typical pattern for budget talks involves a few days of rhetoric and minor agreements on the fringes of the budget in public, followed by closed sessions with small working groups made up of members of both parties. Those groups will fashion packages of items acceptable to both sides, and the committee meets publicly to approve them.
But so far, Foti said, there have been no behind-the-scenes talks, and no working groups have been formed.
Jauch said he expects to see about half of the differences between the two houses on the table by the end of this week. Rep. John Gard (R-Peshtigo), co-chairman of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and one of the negotiators, said talks hinge on several overarching but divisive issues. They include the future of the state's shared revenue program, funding for the University of Wisconsin and fiscal discipline. Add issues such as campaign finance reform and cuts in school choice, and negotiators have a volatile mix.
"These issues happen to be very costly and very emotional," Gard said. "Our meetings are a lot like the way Muhammad Ali used to fight, by dancing around the ring. We're still in the first couple of rounds."
But Foti added: "The first couple of rounds should be over by now. After that, you go to work."
Foti has been part of five budget conference committees, and he said this one has been the most sluggish, exhausting and unproductive. There have been no behind-the-scenes negotiations and no working groups appointed to deal with issues, he said.
Jauch said he has been unhappy with GOP efforts to put blame for the deficit on Democrats. Republicans have also complained loudly about a shortfall by mid-2005 of $890 million to $975 million, called a "structural deficit."
Lawmakers will begin to wrestle with that deficit beginning in February as part of the 2003-'05 budget. The gap results from future spending commitments approved by legislators and governors in recent years. In a sense, lawmakers are debating not one, but two deficits.
"It's like they've been AWOL for 14 years. They've had as much to do with it as we have," Jauch said of Republicans. "The faster we acknowledge the reality that there will be a structural deficit and that everyone in the Legislature and the governor has contributed to it . . . we'll get this thing done."
Jauch quickly added, "But it won't be pretty, because we've dug such a deep hole."
A federal judge in Milwaukee on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit asking the court to draw new boundaries for Wisconsin's congressional districts, noting that the governor just this week signed a law setting new boundaries for eight districts.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Scott McCallum signed the congressional redistricting bill, which will leave Milwaukee with one, instead of two, congressional districts for the first time in a little more than 100 years.
With no one objecting, U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert issued an order dismissing the lawsuit as of April 10, the day after the new law takes effect and the congressional map is set for the fall elections.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, following the census, to ensure equal representation. This time, Wisconsin lost a House seat, dropping from nine to eight, because the 2000 census showed that increases in the state's population failed to keep pace with those in other states.
Milwaukee lost population, and the new congressional map makes one district of the two now represented by Democrats. One incumbent, Tom Barrett, is running for governor this fall, and the 5th District he represents is being combined with the 4th District, represented by Jerry Kleczka.
While the Legislature agreed on a new congressional map, it failed to set new boundaries for its own districts. Clevert has scheduled a two-day trial for April 11 on competing plans to draw new Assembly and Senate district boundaries.
With that trial ahead, the legal fees in the legislative redistricting battle are approaching $1 million, fees that are charged to state taxpayers. A tally this week showed $856,676 thus far for lawyers representing Democrats and Republicans in the two houses.
The Assembly total was $574,882, while the Senate total was $281,794. Ten years ago, the legal redistricting expenses for both houses totaled just under $527,600.
For the first time since 1892, Milwaukee will have just one seat in the U.S. House, instead of two, under a bill Gov. Scott McCallum has signed into law.
McCallum's office announced Wednesday that the governor signed a bill setting new boundaries for congressional districts based on the 2000 census figures that required Wisconsin to forfeit one House seat.
Wisconsin dropped from nine to eight House seats because its population has not grown as much as other states. Milwaukee lost population, and it lost the seat, under the plan that the Legislature passed and McCallum signed late Tuesday.
The governor signed the bill as lawyers for Democratic and Republican incumbents, as well as others in the redistricting fray that occurs every 10 years, were preparing for trial in federal court next week.
A hearing in that case is set for today, but lawyers for the state's congressional delegation are expected to seek dismissal of a lawsuit that was filed more than a year ago that asked the court to set the new boundaries.
A group of citizens led by prominent Democrats such as former Gov. Tony Earl asked the court to step in because they believed that state lawmakers would be unable to reach an agreement on new districts.
The new congressional map is opposed by a group of black Democratic lawmakers from Milwaukee, led by Rep. Annette Polly Williams and Sen. Gwendolynne Moore. They say the plan violates the Voting Rights Act by packing African-Americans and Hispanics into one Milwaukee district, and they hope to block it through a legal challenge.
"The incumbents said, 'Hey, let's just do this and we don't have to worry about re-election anymore because this is going to last until one of us dies,' " Williams said. "We just feel that we need to fight to maintain as much representation in Washington as we possibly can."
But others declared the battle over, at least for congressional redistricting.
"It's all academic from here on out," said U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican from Janesville who represents the 1st District. He said he anticipated dismissal of the suit on congressional redistricting.
"It could be challenged, but it's very important to note that this bill perfectly complies with the Voting Rights Act," he said. The bipartisan plan was offered by all nine House incumbents, and Ryan said they were "very, very confident" that it complied with all federal laws.
State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), sponsor of the congressional remap bill and chairwoman of the Assembly Census and Redistricting Committee, said McCallum's signature on the bill should end this half of the redistricting battle.
"I would think the court would look at this and realize both houses passed it, a plan that the congressional delegation is supportive of," Ladwig said.
The bill McCallum signed into law merges two Milwaukee districts, now represented by Democrats. One incumbent, Tom Barrett, is running for governor this fall. His old 5th District on Milwaukee's north side is combined with the 4th District, represented by Democrat Jerry Kleczka.
Still before the federal court is legislative redistricting, and as lawmakers are unable to agree on new boundaries the legal tab paid by state taxpayers continues to grow.
The latest tally shows $856,676 paid to lawyers representing Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature who have been unable to set new boundaries for their own Assembly and Senate districts.
A two-day trial on legislative redistricting is set to begin April 11.
The legal fees paid by the Republican-controlled Assembly totals $574,882, including $349,808 paid to the law firm of Michael, Best and Friedrich. The amount paid thus far by the Senate is $281,794. Democrats controlling the Senate hired the Boardman Law Firm in Madison.
Ten years ago, the legal redistricting expenses for both houses totaled just under $527,600. Although the Senate gave final legislative approval to the congressional plan two weeks ago, McCallum did not receive the bill until Tuesday, said Tim Roby, his communications director.
The governor acted quickly to approve the plan because he was mindful of the trial set for next week. Roby and Chad Taylor, the governor's legal counsel, said McCallum acted quickly, signing the bill late Tuesday.
Over objections of its two black members, the state Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to a congressional redistricting plan that would leave Milwaukee with one seat in the U.S. House instead of two.
Sens. Gwendolynne Moore and Gary George, two Democrats from Milwaukee, sought to preserve the two seats, arguing that the plan already passed by the Assembly was unfair to blacks and Hispanics in Milwaukee.
Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Superior) tried, but failed, to make other changes, still leaving Milwaukee with one House seat. With the regular session at an end, the Senate voted 26-7 to pass the Assembly bill without amendments.
The plan, now ready for Gov. Scott McCallum's signature, was a bipartisan one offered unanimously by the congressional delegation, chiefly Democratic U.S. Rep. David Obey and Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the two senior members of the delegation.
McCallum spokesman Tim Roby said the governor will review the legislation carefully before making a decision on wether to sign it.
With Wisconsin losing a congressional seat, dropping from nine to eight in the House, doubts were raised early in the process that the Legislature could draw a new congressional map. Early last year, Democrats filed a lawsuit in federal court in Milwaukee in anticipation of an impasse.
Whether the three-judge panel will let stand the congressional plan remains to be seen. After the Senate vote, Moore said she still hoped the court would hear minorities' objections to the plan.
"I am hoping that the courts will hear us, despite the slam dunk in the Wisconsin Legislature," Moore said. "How do minorities get their voices heard if there's a majority vote that just slams the door on our urgent interests?"
The plan on its way to McCallum's desk merges two Milwaukee districts now represented by Democrats Tom Barrett and Gerald Kleczka. With Barrett running for governor, Kleczka is certain to remain in Congress, representing the one Milwaukee district, under what was described during the Senate debate as an "incumbent protection plan."
Wisconsin is losing a House seat because its population has not kept pace with growth in other states, and Milwaukee's population has been declining. But Moore and African-Americans in the Assembly have argued that their population has been increasing in Milwaukee and moving into the suburbs.
Moore argued that the plan violates the Voting Rights Act by packing minorities - including a growing African-American population in the central city and northern suburbs, and Hispanics on the city's south side - in one district. She said blacks, whom she described as the most loyal Democrats, had little in common with the more conservative Democrats on the city's south side.
"It cracks, it packs and it fractures, and it violates the Voting Rights Act," Moore said.
She said that with two districts, an African-American could win the Democratic primary this fall and perhaps the general election, presumably in a race against Sensenbrenner.
Moore said the plan also was unfair to Hispanics. "When you pack them in with us, that kind of denies them their Hispanic influence district," Moore said.
Jensen applauds vote
While Moore decried the plan, Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) applauded the Senate vote, approving the new map without amendment.
"Two months ago, Assembly Republicans took the lead in moving forward a congressional redistricting map that was fair and could receive broad bipartisan support," Jensen said in a statement issued by his office.
"I am grateful that the state Senate has finally taken action on this important issue and gotten the job done on this bill before ending their legislative work for the year," Jensen said.
The Senate vote was the last action taken in that house as the session ended.
"What we're going to be passing now is an incumbent protection plan," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala.
With Barrett leaving the House, Chvala said the eight remaining incumbents were sure to get re-elected. He said he and others tried to develop a plan providing for more competitive districts.
Chvala said, for example, that the 1st District, now represented by Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville, would cease to be a competitive district.
"Milwaukee is doubly hit in this bill because not only do they lose a congressional district, but they also don't give the opportunity, as they should here, to maximize minority representation and the potential down the road, in this decade, for an African-American congress person," Chvala said.
"No plan is perfect," said Sen. Bob Welch (R-Redgranite,) urging approval of the plan. "That is better than giving this to the court and having them decide."
The court battle over new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts has just begun, but legal fees charged to taxpayers already are $701,528 - 33% more than the total bill for redistricting a decade ago.
Redistricting is the Legislature's job, yet time and again, judges have had to do it - and that means taxpayers pick up the bills for outside attorneys.
The Legislature's failure to do its job has a former state Supreme Court justice, among others, saying it's time for change.
Janine Geske, a former justice and Milwaukee County circuit judge, said Wednesday that Wisconsin should do what other states have done: turn the job over to a commission free of special interests.
Geske said voters want competitive races and choices on the ballot, not the predictable results that come from so-called incumbent protection plans crafted by lawmakers.
Judges receive plans
Geske, now a Marquette University Law School professor, spoke as lawmakers from both parties and special-interest groups submitted maps for new Assembly and Senate districts to a three-judge federal panel, which is expected to ultimately set the new boundaries.
A group of citizens led by Democrats, including former Gov. Tony Earl, filed a lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee asking the panel to draw a new political map for Wisconsin, believing lawmakers would never reach an agreement. The panel has scheduled an April trial to consider the request.
Next week the Legislature's winter floor session will resume, but it is scheduled to end March 14. Given so little time and its penchant for gridlock, the divided Legislature is almost certain to again defer to the judges on redistricting.
Geske and others in a group, Citizens for Competitive Elections, have offered their own version of a legislative redistricting plan. She said she got involved simply to give the courts a view different than that of lawmakers bent on creating safe seats.
"You can see how unhappy people are with government, (with) what's going on in Milwaukee County right now, and even at the state Legislature level," said Geske, referring in Milwaukee to the recall attempt against County Executive F. Thomas Ament.
"People want to have some choices on the ballot, and people want to feel encouraged that they've got a chance to win, if they run and work hard and they've got a good platform," she said.
Attorney bills growing
As the court prepares to get involved in redistricting, the legal bills continue to mount.
So far, fees for outside attorneys hired for redistricting total $701,528 - $498,601 in the Assembly and $202,927 in the Senate. A decade ago, the total cost for both houses was just under $527,600, including legal fees and experts.
The legal fees for redistricting come on top of attorney fees charged to taxpayers in the caucus scandal. Legislative leaders approved private lawyers for aides in a secret John Doe investigation into alleged illegal campaign activity.
As of Wednesday, the caucus legal fees directly related to the secret John Doe investigation totaled $485,545. The state also spent $7,257 on lawyers in lawsuits to stop payment of the fees and identify those receiving legal aid.
Once a decade
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, after a federal census, to ensure equal representation in the Legislature and Congress. Working off the latest census figures, state lawmakers are supposed to draw new boundaries for state Assembly and Senate districts, as well as congressional districts.
The task of lawmakers drawing maps is having nearly the same number of people in each Assembly district, for example, without needlessly splitting cities, towns or villages; dividing communities of interest; or packing minorities in districts.
In the past, state lawmakers managed to set new boundaries for congressional districts, essentially rubber-stamping a map offered by members of the state's congressional delegation. This time, the courts most likely will do it because Wisconsin is losing a congressional seat, dropping from nine to eight, and the Legislature has yet to agree on a plan.
When it comes to their own districts, state lawmakers consistently have failed to do the job, leaving the matter to the courts. This is expected to be the third time the Legislature has failed to set new Assembly and Senate district boundaries.
Geske described the legal fees for redistricting as huge. Unable to agree among themselves, lawmakers seem willing to take their chances in court in hopes of mapping safe districts for themselves.
"Frankly, this is a national movement by legislators to try to figure out districts that will provide safer elections, probably because they're so expensive to run," she said.
Speaking as a former judge, Geske said judges don't want the job of redistricting.
"That's not what we're trained to do," she said. "We're trained to decide legal issues."
"It's often like having custody decided by a judge," Geske said. "The court is never going to be as sensitive to the issues, and the court is going to try to do the best it can. But they're not really equipped to be map drawers."
Gail Shea, another member in the group for competitive races, said 12 states have commissions that develop guidelines and, in some states, create new maps that lawmakers must accept or reject.
"They have failed in their duty," Shea said. "The reason they have failed is their partisan interests, their own personal interests are put above what is good for the voters."
Wisconsin needs new boundary lines for legislative districts drawn as soon as possible because most voters in November will head to the polls for the first time since the controversial presidential election of 2000, the state's top election officer warned Tuesday.
"We've got the cloud of Florida hanging over us," noted Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the state Elections Board, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that decided which presidential candidate won that state - a ruling that elected George W. Bush.
Because of controversies over election-day irregularities in Wisconsin and nationally in 2000, "people are second-guessing the fairness of the election process," Kennedy added.
Kennedy commented after Republican legislators asked state Supreme Court justices to take jurisdiction in the Capitol standoff between party leaders and draw new legislative boundary lines for the 99 Assembly and 33 Senate districts, using population figures from the 2000 census.
The Republicans went to the state court after a group of Democrats, including former Gov. Tony Earl, filed suit last year in federal court in Milwaukee asking a panel of three judges to draw boundaries for congressional and legislative districts. Republicans have not contested having the federal court in Milwaukee draw congressional districts but want the Wisconsin's high court to do so for state legislative boundaries.
By May 14, the Elections Board must notify local election officers of the boundary lines for legislative districts. In November, all Assembly seats and 17 Senate seats are up for election.
The Elections Board attorney, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Balistreri, said federal judges have set an April trial date for the fight between Capitol Democrats and Republicans over new congressional and legislative district lines, while the state Supreme Court has not even yet formally decided to enter the political brawl.
"There are some very serious questions whether you can do this in a timely fashion," he told justices.
The state Supreme Court must draw new legislative districts, or at least supervise the process, because Republicans who control the Assembly and Democrats who run the state Senate are "at impasse," said Jim Troupis, attorney for the Legislature's two Republican leaders.
But attorney Mike May, representing Democratic legislators, said the state Supreme Court should not pick a potential fight with federal judges by agreeing to draw legislative district lines.
Judges in federal court have "complete and original jurisdiction" over the process now, May added.
Justice William Bablitch said the state Supreme Court should not touch the controversy.
Recalling the presidential election of 2000, Bablitch said every state and federal court that got entangled in it "got burned" and the entire incident "greatly damaged the integrity of the court system."
At another point, Bablitch said of federal judges who appear willing to again draw district lines, "better them than us."
Wisconsin's Supreme Court last drew legislative boundary lines in 1964. Federal court judges had to draw lines used for elections in the 1980s and 1990s.
If the Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to take up legislative redistricting, three justices with Republican ties might have to withdraw from the case, a lawyer for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) suggested.
Michael May, representing Chvala and other Democrats, does not name the justices in a legal brief he filed recently, but he clearly was referring to Justices N. Patrick Crooks, David Prosser and Jon P. Wilcox.
Both Prosser and Wilcox are former Republican lawmakers. Prosser was Assembly minority leader. When Crooks won election to the court in 1996, Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) managed his campaign.
Jensen did not manage the Wilcox campaign in 1997 but was among the justice's advisers in that race. The race resulted in allegations of campaign violations, a suit Wilcox settled with the state Elections Board by paying a $10,000 forfeiture.
Earlier this month, Jensen and Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend) asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, even though a redistricting suit has been pending in federal court for nearly a year.
Following the census each decade, the state Legislature must set new boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts to ensure equal representation. If it fails to do the job, the courts typically set the new boundaries.
In a brief filed Friday with the high court, May raised the possibility that objections might be raised to the participation of three of the seven justices.
May said if litigants raised conflict of interest issues, that would slow the state Supreme Court's deliberations. If one or all three members were to withdraw from the case, an even number would be left to decide the matter and a deadlock could result, he said.
Throughout the brief, May argued the court should deny the request to take over the case for a variety of reasons. Chiefly, he said, the high court was an appellate court that decides matters of law, not a trial court that takes testimony on facts involved in a case. He also noted that a three-judge federal panel in Milwaukee already is addressing the need to set new boundaries.
The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 5 to hear further arguments.
Badgering Milwaukee. Milwaukee would lose one of the two House seats it has had for more than a century under a House map approved by a legislative committee last week.
Forced to eliminate one of the state's nine House seats, the full state Assembly plans to take up redistricting on Tuesday.
Two Milwaukee Democrats who opposed the plan approved in committee last week will propose an amendment that would preserve the city's two districts, but one of those legislators, state Assemblywoman Annette Polly Williams, acknowledged that the panel's map is likely to pass.
The House map, drawn primarily by veteran Reps. David Obey (D)and Jim Sensenbrenner (R), would eliminate the district of Rep. Tom Barrett (D), who's vacating the northern Milwaukee 5th district to run for governor.
Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D), who currently represents the city's southside and western suburbs, would run in the new Milwaukee-based seat, a Democratic stronghold.
The plan would be good news for Rep.Tammy Baldwin (D), who was viewed as a likely redistricting target of Wisconsin Republicans before Barrett announced his gubernatorial campaign.
A plan to set new congressional district boundaries and leave Milwaukee with one House seat, instead of the two it has had for more than a century, cleared a legislative committee Tuesday.
The new boundaries, submitted with the unanimous backing of the state's congressional delegation, was approved by the Assembly's Census and Redistricting Committee on a 6-2 vote. Two Milwaukee Democrats, Annette Polly Williams and Johnnie Morris-Tatum, voted against the plan.
Williams and Morris-Tatum have a plan to preserve Milwaukee's two House seats, but they said they would propose it as an amendment Tuesday, when the full Assembly is expected to take up congressional redistricting.
After the committee vote, Williams displayed her congressional remap plan in her office. With other members present, she and Morris-Tatum made their case for two seats, but Williams conceded their plan was doomed to defeat on the Assembly floor.
The new congressional district boundaries, approved by the committee, were drawn primarily by the two senior members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation: Democrat Dave Obey of Wausau and Republican F. James Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls.
Williams had no doubt the Obey-Sensenbrenner plan would clear the Assembly.
But Williams said she hoped to get the federal court's attention, should it ultimately get the job of drawing new district boundaries.
"I want them to know that there's some opposition," Williams said.
Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), committee chairman, and Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Steve Freese (R-Dodgeville) said the plan had enough votes to pass in the Senate too, if only Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) will let the Senate act on it.
Chvala's office has said that the measure will be treated like any other bill and that the Senate probably will hear from Milwaukee residents before taking action on it.
Assembly Minority Leader Spencer Black (D-Madison) predicted Tuesday that the proposal will face tough scrutiny in the Senate.
"It'll pass in the Assembly quickly, but not in the Senate," Black said. "It will be debated like any other bill, which I think is appropriate."
Federal court set to act
If the Legislature fails to set new boundaries, not only for congressional but also legislative districts, a three-judge federal panel is poised to act. Last week, Republicans in the Legislature said that if they can't come up with the new boundaries for the legislative districts, they want thestate Supreme Court and not the federal court to redraw the districts.
Democrat Tom Barrett now represents the 5th District on Milwaukee's north side, but he is running for governor. Under the Williams-Tatum plan, Sensenbrenner would represent much of Barrett's old district and suburbs as far north as Cedarburg and Grafton, as well as Germantown to the northwest.
"I'm sure Congressman Sensenbrenner is not going to be writing home to mama about how happy he is about this," Williams said. But Williams said her plan preserved two seats and allowed for an open Democratic primary to elect a challenger to Sensenbrenner.
Under the congressional plan, Barrett's old district would be merged with the south side district now represented by Democrat Jerry Kleczka. Williams and Morris-Tatum said north side residents have little in common with the people Kleczka represents and no chance of mounting a successful primary challenge against Kleczka.
"We might be all black and brown in the city of Milwaukee," said Williams, an African-American, but she said her community has little else in common with Hispanics and Catholics on the south side as well as the area's blue-collar whites.
Before the committee vote, Rep. Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa) said the alternative Williams offered ignored substantial economic differences between Milwaukee's north side and suburbs in Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties.
Williams said her plan did not force incumbents to run against each other, buta statewide map she displayed showed Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville and Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison in the same district. She said the map would be revised to put Janesville back in the 1st District that Ryan now represents.
Teachers union seeks role
In another development Tuesday, the state's largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, filed a motion with the state Supreme Court asking to take part in the redistricting case that Republican lawmakers want the state's high court to take.
The petition filed by Madison lawyer Brady Williamson said that WEAC was involved in the last legal battle over redistricting, one decided by a federal court. Given that experience, he said WEAC should be allowed to intervene and explain why the matter is best left to the three-judge federal panel. However, if the state Supreme Court does take original jurisdiction, Williamson said, WEAC should be allowed a role in the proceedings.
Williamson said WEAC, representing 92,000 teachers statewide, has taken an active role in elections. He said legislative leaders, who were urging the state Supreme Court to get involved, have only their partisan self-interests in mind.
Last week, Michael May, an attorney for Chvala and Black, asked the state Supreme Court to let the Democratic leaders explain why they think the matter should be handled by the federal court. Like Williamson, May noted that after the 1980 and 1990 population counts, the federal courts ultimately drew new Assembly and Senate district boundaries.
"The state Supreme Court has not considered redistricting in nearly 40 years," May said. If the Legislature can't do the job, he said that Chvala and Black believe "that judicial efficiency requires that one court (the federal court) consider the factual and legal claims for all redistricting in Wisconsin."
Thanks to redistricting, taxpayers in this small Washington County town will end up paying $1,000 so two or three voters can cast ballots in February's primary election for county supervisor, a town official said.
But the Town of West Bend could have avoided the cost by checking election laws with the state Elections Board, Kevin J. Kennedy, the board's executive director, said Tuesday.
Kennedy's office would have advised the town to pass a resolution allowing voters in the newly formed district, which has just six residents, to vote in an adjacent municipality with a greater number of voters, he said.
"It sounds like something they should have figured out the first week of January," Kennedy said.
Dewayne Grauden, clerk of the Town of West Bend, said he was moving forward with plans to hold the primary Feb. 19 in the Town Hall because he didn't know he had another option.
Because he wants to obey the law, Grauden will keep the building open 13 hours - from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. - even if the voters arrive first thing in the morning.
Grauden doesn't know the names of the voters and was unable learn whether they plan to vote. He said he suspected they were all members of a single family with two adults and with four children too young too vote.
When contacted by a reporter, Donna Maki said she lived in the newly formed district but would "definitely not" vote. Her husband, Thomas, also plans to take a pass on the primary, she said.
"We don't vote often," Maki said.
Nonetheless, Grauden said he wants to do everything so the town's primary conforms to state law. As required, he will hire three poll watchers at $10 an hour per person. Their total wages will amount to $390, he said.
"That's the law, and I'm just trying to do everything legal," Grauden said. "I wish there was some way around it."
Grauden said he also needed to pay to print official ballots but didn't know how much these would cost. Part of the primary's estimated $1,000 tab includes about $250 the town spent on a new computer modem to transmit election results to the Washington County Courthouse, he said.
Grauden said he will be at Town Hall for the primary because he is required to collect the final election results and relay the information to the courthouse.
"It's my day off," Grauden said. "If we didn't have the primary, I wouldn't even be there."
The primary is for a seat representing District 5 on the Washington County Board of Supervisors. Incumbent David J. Martin is in a primary with James J. Miller and Larry Hoffman. The two largest vote-getters will be on the ballot in the spring election.
The Washington County Board approved reapportioning the district Sept. 18. It was created to conform to 2000 census data, said Eric Damkot, manager of geographic information systems for the county.
Damkot's office assisted the County Board in drawing 30 districts, each with a target of 3,916 people. District 5, which has 3,920 residents, is mostly in the City of West Bend, except for a tiny portion just south of Highway 33, in the Town of West Bend.
It made sense to include the tract in District 5 because the land is isolated from the rest of the town, said county election coordinator Brenda Jaszewski. "It is surrounded by the city on three sides and by the Town of Trenton on the east side," she said.
County Clerk Marilyn Merten called the tiny voting district "Just an unusual situation."
Objecting to the loss of a congressional seat in the city of Milwaukee, a group of African-American political leaders has drafted an alternative map, featuring a south side district that extends into Racine County, and a north side district that stretches into Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties.
"It's in our best interests to maintain two congressional seats in Milwaukee," said state Rep. Annette Polly Williams, author of the plan.
The Milwaukee Democrat said she will offer her proposal during a coming legislative floor debate on a new congressional map. The plan that is before the state Assembly, negotiated by incumbent U.S. House members in both parties, envisions a single congressional seat that includes the entire city and a few suburbs to the south.
Wisconsin is losing one of its nine House seats because its population hasn't kept up with growth nationwide. At the same time, Milwaukee's population has fallen below the size of a single congressional district.
The state's federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that makes it untenable to keep two seats in the city. They also say the law requires mapmakers to maximize minority voting power - black, Hispanic, Asian and other - in one city seat.
The decision of one of the city's congressmen, Democrat Tom Barrett, to leave the House to run for governor also made it easier politically for the congressional delegation to agree on a map with one Milwaukee seat.
"We're saying, why should we be silent in Milwaukee and take the hit?" Williams said Monday. "All we're doing is fighting for our life here."
Expanding into suburbs
Her plan would continue to divide the city in two along the same east-west line that separates Barrett's existing north side district (the 5th) from Democrat Jerry Kleczka's south side district (the 4th). But both districts would have to expand with the state divided eight ways instead of nine.
Williams calls for the south side seat to include part of Waukesha County - Big Bend, Muskego, New Berlin and the towns of Vernon and Waukesha - and most of Racine County. That county has historically been part of the 1st Congressional District now represented by Janesville Republican Paul Ryan.
The plan calls for the north side seat to grow for the first time beyond Milwaukee County, into such Republican-dominated suburbs as Mequon, Grafton, Cedarburg, Germantown, Brookfield, Elm Grove and Menomonee Falls.
Williams said her calculations show that despite those changes, both districts would remain majority Democratic, with the 5th averaging a 55% Democratic vote in recent statewide elections and the 4th averaging just under 52%.
Williams acknowledged her plan faces large political obstacles. It would put GOP veteran lawmaker F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. into a Milwaukee-dominated district that skews Democratic. It would also have a ripple effect on the seats of other incumbents, including Ryan and Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
But Williams said the plan shows it is possible to preserve two Democratic Milwaukee seats. She also argued that the African-American community on the city's north side has a stronger "community of interest" with the suburbs to the north of the city than with the Hispanic and many Catholic and blue-collar white voters on the city's south side.
Minority leaders back plan
Williams said her plan has the backing of several African-American elected officials who met Sunday and affirmed their support for having two congressional seats with a foothold in the city. They included state Reps. Johnnie Morris-Tatum, Spencer Coggs and Leon Young; Common Council members Marlene Johnson-Odom and Rosa Cameron; county supervisors Michael Mayo and Willie Johnson; and Milwaukee School Board member Ken Johnson.
However, support is far from unanimous - even among the minority community.
The African-American Coalition for Empowerment has said that Williams and other black state legislators are harming their constituents by pushing for a plan that would retain two congressional districts. The group says having two Milwaukee districts would ultimately dilute African-American voting power and make it difficult to elect a minority to Congress within the next 10 years.
A legislative committee is taking up congressional redistricting today, but Williams said her plan will be offered later in the month for floor debate on the issue.
Williams said a community meeting will be held on her plan at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Department of Natural Resources Building on King Drive.
The African-American Coalition for Empowerment says that some of the city's black state legislators are harming their constituents by pushing for a plan that would retain two congressional districts for Milwaukee.
Coalition spokeswoman Barbara White charged that a plan that would continue to split Milwaukee between two seats would ultimately dilute African-American voting power and make it difficult to elect a minority to Congress within the next 10 years.
The coalition is calling for public hearings with the city's legislative delegation as well as the state's congressional delegation on the redistricting plan pending in Madison.
That plan - endorsed by all nine of the state's incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives - would put all of Milwaukee in one district.
The coalition's now public squabble with some of the city's black legislators is the first time the group has found itself at odds with some of the very representatives it once supported and got elected as a result of a lawsuit it successfully filed on reapportionment in the 1980s.
Thursday, during a legislative hearing in Madison, state Reps. Annette Polly Williams and Johnnie Morris-Tatum, both Milwaukee Democrats, blasted their congressman, Democrat Tom Barrett, for supporting the redistricting plan that eliminates one Milwaukee seat.
Williams, Morris-Tatum and state Rep. Spencer Coggs, also a Democrat, are pushing to retain two congressional districts for the city of Milwaukee, with the dividing line along I-94. Also backing that plan: state Sen. Gary George, who, like Barrett, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor.
But White said her coalition's one-district plan actually puts minorities in the city in a better position by combining Milwaukee with suburban areas on the North Shore - including Brown Deer and Glendale - that have seen increases in their African-American population. The coalition's proposed Milwaukee district also includes small parts of Greenfield.
The coalition's plan is different from the congressional delegation's plan for the district, which includes all of Milwaukee, plus St. Francis, Cudahy, South Milwaukee and part of West Allis - but none of the North Shore.
But the coalition map differs more from the two-district plan of the Legislature's black delegation. And White charged that some black legislators in Milwaukee have ignored the coalition proposal and dodged various calls for a public hearing on the issue.
"We're not trying to harm or hurt anyone," White said during an interview Friday.
"All we're saying is that our elected officials need to re-examine themselves, because the Constitution clearly states, 'We the People.'
"They can continue not to meet with us. But guess what? It's not going to make us go away."
Coggs denied that the delegation was dodging the coalition. But he said the delegation would probably pursue its own public hearing in Milwaukee. And he added that the redistricting proposal pending before the Assembly's Census and Redistricting Committee does little more than "protect incumbency."
Coggs said the coalition, known as ACE, has been echoing what the state black delegation has been saying all along on the issue of redistricting.
"I appreciate ACE. They've got good ideas. We all understand what the problem is. Our roads to the solution tend to be on different paths. I plan to go to the ACE hearing. But we're very adamant about holding our own."
In the early 1980s, African-American Coalition for Empowerment filed a federal lawsuit that successfully overturned a County Board redistricting plan.
White said the redistricting plan now before the Assembly's committee might face a similar court challenge if it is approved by the Legislature.
Is the loss of a Milwaukee congressional seat unavoidable?
Is it reasonable?
Is there any way for the city to "keep" two members of Congress?
And if it did, what would that mean for the suburbs, the rest of the state and minority representation?
Since there's no plan on the table that keeps two seats in Milwaukee, these questions haven't been fully aired in public. The only proposal before the Legislature calls for one Milwaukee seat.
But an analysis of population data and the political map provides some clues.
Any plan that attempts to retain two "Milwaukee seats" in the U.S. House of Representatives raises a host of issues - political, practical and legal.
One way to bring those issues alive is to imagine a map that preserves the current formula of one seat on the north side (now held by Democrat Tom Barrett) and one on the south side (now held by Democrat Jerry Kleczka).
The dilemma, if a Milwaukee Democrat is drawing the lines, is that both those districts must get bigger, diluting their Milwaukee identity. Why? Because slow-growing Wisconsin is losing a congressional seat in this fall's elections, going from nine to eight.
As a result, each new House district must expand - from 544,000 people when the current lines were drawn 10 years ago to about 670,000 people now.
At the same time, the city of Milwaukee has shrunk to 596,974 people; for the first time, it's smaller than one congressional district. That means city residents can only be a majority - and the dominant constituency - in one seat.
On the north side
That seat almost certainly would have to be on the north side. Barrett's district now contains 396,079 city residents, according to the city's legislative reference bureau, which calculated that number at a reporter's request.
Therefore Milwaukeeans would make up 59% of a north side district if the city were split in two on a congressional map in the same fashion that it is today. The county of Milwaukee, including the North Shore suburbs, would account for 76% of such a district.
But that seat, now home to about 507,000 people, would still need to grow by more than 160,000.
The only places where it could grow are three of the most Republican counties in the state: Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington. That surely would raise howls from Wisconsin Republicans.
It would also raise one of the same objections that critics make to having one Milwaukee seat - that it combines different communities of interest. Some African-American legislators say the north and south sides of the city are too different politically, culturally and ethnically to be lumped together on a congressional map.
But having separate north and south side seats would still lead to a north side district that combines disparate constituencies: the African-American communities of Milwaukee; liberal white areas of the east side, Shorewood and near suburbs; and a sizable chunk of outlying, highly Republican suburbs.
On the south side
The implications for the south side seat under this scenario are also huge.
The same city data shows that there are currently about 201,000 city residents in Kleczka's district, which stretches into the southwestern suburbs.
That means under a plan that keeps two Milwaukee seats, city residents would make up only 30% of a southern district. Milwaukee County would account for 65% of that seat.
Because Kleczka's district is now home to 578,000 people, it would need to find an additional 92,000 constituents. Here the dilemma for Democrats would be plain.
Kleczka's seat already has lost its dominant Democratic tilt; George W. Bush carried it by four percentage points in 2000.
"We understand that if Jerry stays out in Waukesha or is extended out in that area, it's going to be tougher and tougher for him to win," says Democratic state Sen. Gary George, who opposes the loss of a U.S. House seat for his city.
George says an alternative plan he and others plan to offer will instead call for a south side district that dips down into Racine and Kenosha instead of into the southwestern suburbs. He says the urban parts of Racine and Kenosha have more "commonality of interest" with the south side of Milwaukee than with the rural parts of their current House district, the First.
That may be the only way on paper to keep two Democratic Milwaukee seats, but it also would have a huge ripple effect on the way the rest of the state is drawn.
Interest in minorities
George's interest is not only in the city's political clout but also in minority clout, the ability of African-Americans to elect a member of Congress from within that community.
Would a plan with two Milwaukee seats help that goal?
That's in the eye of the beholder. The map drawn up by the state's congressional delegation and introduced in the state Assembly creates a single Milwaukee seat that is virtually one-half minority: 11.2% Hispanic (mostly south side), and 38.4% "non-white, non-Hispanic" - a category that is overwhelmingly north side and African-American. The data show there are 216,525 African-Americans in the city portion of Barrett's district.
But the relative size of the African-American vote doesn't change much whether you combine Milwaukee's north side with the city's south side (the plan with one Milwaukee seat) or combine the city's north side with the North Shore suburbs (in a plan with two Milwaukee seats). In fact, population data show there are more African-Americans (7,575) in the city portion of Kleczka's south side district than in the northern Milwaukee County suburbs.
Enhancing black clout
But some Milwaukee politicians argue that two city seats would enhance black clout for other reasons. Assembly Democrat Shirley Krug says that under any plan, minority voters probably don't have the critical mass to elect a minority member of Congress, especially against an incumbent.
"If you can't get there yet, what is actually better for the minority community - to have two districts of influence or to have one?" asks Krug.
The other argument turns on historic north side, south side divisions. Kleczka argues that the two halves of the city have a common urban Milwaukee interest and that "the courts are going to view cutting up the city as diluting minority voting strength."
But George asserts that combining the two halves of the city would make it harder to elect an African-American.
Democrat Antonio Riley, another African-American legislator, argues that even if there is one Milwaukee seat, it should be combined with the northern suburbs instead of with the southern suburbs included in the proposed map.
"Those areas could potentially be more receptive to the interests of people of color," said Riley.
But the loss of a Wisconsin seat and the need for bigger districts means that diverse "communities of interest" will be merged no matter what the plan. Redistricting not only pits different politicians and constituencies against one another, but forces them all to go through a similar calculus about how they can best maintain their influence:
Does drawing one congressional district in the city of Milwaukee maximize minority clout, as its advocates say, or "pack" minorities into one seat with little payoff, as critics say?
Does the city enjoy more clout through the undivided attention of one member of Congress?
The same can be asked in the case of Milwaukee County. The proposed map that places the city in one congressional seat (down from two) splits the county among three seats (up from two).
Is the county better off with two congressional seats that it dominates, which would happen with separate north side and south side districts? Or is it better off with a foothold in three districts, even though two of them (Ryan's and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr.'s) would be dominated by constituents who live well outside its borders?
All those questions will be resolved by the Legislature - and quite possibly the courts - in the next few months.