Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cynical 'It Won't Change Anything' Attitude Hurts Redistricting Transparency

The Republican-dominated Legislature is rushing to approve a plan to draw new political boundary lines that will help determine who represents Michigan residents for the next decade. The rush means few people have had a chance to look at the map in any detail much less comment on it.

For something as crucial as the integrity of democractic representation, the process needs to be slowed down. But in the face of Democratic complaints, the Livingston Press and Argus is basically saying, "Sit down and shut up."

Says the editorial, "But the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree when they argue that the maps should tour the state for the summer to get public input before a final vote this fall. It's a nice idea, but other than giving partisans a chance for a forum, it won't change anything. Republicans are going to adopt the maps because they favor Republicans."

For an entity that depends on government transparency in order to do its job, that's an amazing statement. In effect, it's saying, "Why should we care what any government does? We don't have a vote and can't change it so just forget about it."

The editorial assumes there is no public interest at stake here aside from whatever the Republicans or Democrats want. It doesn't have to be that way. Years ago, I knew a newspaper colunmnist in another state who closely examined the redistricting plan put forward by the Republican Party. He demonstrated that it under-represented urban voters and over-represented rural voters. He wrote column after column about the unfairness and then challenged the author of the plan to a series of debates around the state. In the end, the plan was defeated and one that was fairer to a majority of voters in the state -- who lived in cities -- was adopted.

He didn't just throw up his hands and say, "Politics is politics and all you whiners shut up." He actually examined the proposal for fairness to voters and then did something about it. But he's dead now. I hope good journalism as it relates to redistricting hasn't died, too.


Communications guru said...

I agree. I was amazed when they defended the utter secrecy surrounding this. Newspapers are supposed to be for sunshine and openness in government, so I was flabbergasted when they said this about Hune: “For that, he deserves credit for at least providing a semblance of transparency?” What transparency? They were released on a Friday afternoon, and they have only six session days before they break for the summer and they plan to have them approved. Friday was the first time anyone, other than the GOP caucus, saw them. How is that transparency? This will decide the balance of political power for the next decade. I watched them approve the House version in committee yesterday, and every single person who testified or submitted a card was against it, asking for more hearings and public input, and they ignored them. Watch what Hune does this morning in committee.

Chelsea Lee said...

What happened to journalists like Woodward and Bernstein? Where is this man's ethical standards to providing the public with the information they desperately need in a time where transparency is essentially missing? Especially when this information is SO important to the politics of Michigan... politics that are running the state into the ground.

I'm a journalism student at MSU and this makes me worry about my future profession and the integrity of the men and women who may someday interview me for a job.