Redistricting push is unnecessary

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In “The Guns of August,” Barbara Tuchman wrote, “War is the unfolding of miscalculations.”

That cautionary tale of World War I illustrates that only through dialogue can real understanding be achieved and war avoided. And so as we in Indianapolis enter next year into an experiment in balanced local government, we should take Tuchman’s words to heart.

Any successful political process is marked by alternatives and compromise. Competing ideas often must take the form of two separate proposals. The establishment of legislative districts is one example.

Districts need to have similar, if not identical, numbers of residents to ensure equal representation. They also need to be compact and respect communities of interest. Because of their inherent puzzle-piece nature, the simple moving of a few district lines in pursuit of the latter two goals can have significant cascading effects on the number of voters in each district.

As a result, the history of redistricting efforts is marked by proposing at least two competing maps, one by Democrats and the other by Republicans.

Redistricting can seem like inside baseball. But this important process is only done once every 10 years and determines the basis for representative government. It above all other issues demands full participation of each political party using the same data, equal financial resources and time.

Current efforts to redistrict City-County Council boundaries before the end of the year are not using this approach. Instead, there is only a single map of districts proposed by Republicans at a cost of $225,000. No money was allocated to Democrats. The Republican maps are based on precinct building blocks finalized by the Republican mayor with less than two hours before the deadline for action before year end, further limiting Democratic participation. With a Republican mayor, who will need to approve any new maps, the chances are slim for compromise to address Democratic concerns.

However, in less than a month Democrats will control the council. Regardless of the outcome of this year’s redistricting efforts, a Democratic-proposed map next year is a certainty due to the state law requirement that redistricting must occur during the year that is two years past the census. Next year, the Mayor’s Office will remain in Republican hands. This balanced government arrangement will provide a second map alternative and a clear mechanism for compromise.

If Ballard approves this 11th-hour push for the lame-duck Republican maps, an unnecessary open war will be declared on the possibility of bi-partisanship next year. With so many important issues facing our city, we simply cannot afford such an outcome.

Brian Mahern
councilor, District 16
City-County Council

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