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. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.