MARCUS: Let's help keep legislators in check

Morton Marcus
September 26, 2009
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Morton Marcus

 The good news is that I will not become Spider-Man and then need to conquer my fear of heights. The bad news is that I will not become Spider-Man and be able to compel the foolish, thoughtless and greedy to behave differently.

But I get ahead of the story.

All last week, I felt good that Todd Rokita, Indiana’s secretary of state, is pushing for less partisan redistricting of political offices after the 2010 census. The fact that some in his own Republican party told him to keep his nose out of their affairs only reinforced my good feelings. This is a clear split between an appropriately ambitious politician (Rokita) and the indolent, selfish, anti-republican forces in the GOP. That’s the makings of a great political pudding.

Of the Democrats, incumbents with districts to defend are silent. David Orentlicher, former holder of a House of Representatives seat, now a candidate for Marion County prosecutor, has endorsed liberating redistricting from the grasp of the parties’ machinery. But what does that endorsement mean in the other 91 counties where David O is unknown? Does his voice carry weight even in Marion County, where political savagery normally dominates redistricting?

Who else will step forward to endorse the righteous cause of redistricting seats in Congress, in the General Assembly, and in local elections according to population only? State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, has been effective in getting the Census Data Adversary Committee to consider the issue. In the past, Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, introduced constitutional amendments to create a redistricting commission that would reduce the highly partisan nature of the present system, where each house draws its own lines by its own rules.

When the CDAC meets Sept. 29 (its agenda has not been announced as of this writing), it may choose to examine Indiana’s voting history and how other states draw their district lines. My own research shows that, in 2008, the last time we elected representatives to the House, only 11 of 100 seats were competitively contested (the winner getting less than 55 percent of the vote). Conversely, 26 of the 100 seats were uncontested: The winners got 100 percent of the vote. Does that mean voters in more than one-quarter of Hoosier districts were so satisfied with their representatives that no challenger could be found? Or does it mean the game is so rigged to favor one party or the other that it doesn’t encourage competition?

Without genuine support from BB&D (Speaker of the House Pat Bauer, Senate Majority Leader Brian Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels), little will happen. Little, that is, unless citizens fed up with legislative inertia and ineptitude rise up to demand that candidates in the May 2010 primaries and November 2010 general elections endorse changes in how we draw the lines in 2011.

However, all this was forgotten when I was bitten six times by one or more spiders. The results were startling. I began to feel more weird than usual. I became especially irritated by inconsistencies initiated by the Indiana Department of Transportation (For example: Why does southbound traffic on Meridian Street have unencumbered access to eastbound Interstate 465 while northbound traffic is halted by a stoplight before entering westbound I-465?). Also, I wanted to leap across the state using the network of mobile phone towers and weave complex patterns among the newly installed windmills in White County.

Fortunately, I have comprehensive health insurance and could use the urgent-care facilities of the Hammond Clinic where an ointment was prescribed and my sanity saved. Otherwise, I would be confined now to downtown Indianapolis, because there are not enough tall structures elsewhere in the state to satisfy a novice Spider-Man.•


Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.


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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.