Thursday, September 22, 2016

On Redistricting, Rauner, and Baseball...

On Redistricting, Rauner, and Baseball…

What or who’s the most important factor in a baseball team’s ultimate success?  The Coach?  The Star Players?  The Hitters?  The Pitching Staff?

You might be surprised and a bit underwhelmed to find the stadium’s designer as one of the arguably preeminent elements of a winning squad. 

You build a baseball park and your first questions of design are whether it should be a hitters’ park or a pitcher’s park.  Changes the whole dynamic of drafts and scouting and expenditures and minor league emphases. 

Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers play is a hitter’s park: batters produce 9.1% more runs than the overall average of other baseball parks.  Contrariwise, in San Francisco, California, the Giants play in a park designed for pitchers, and therefore a 420 foot power alley and extra foul ball territory, which provides a thrower 5.8% fewer runs than an average ball park.

Designing a political powerhouse?  The same influences apply for voting districts in a state.  In fact, when it comes to maintaining a base of power and control, he who holds the power to design (sometimes called Gerrymandering) the political borders in the state holds the political future – or so it is often thought.  More about that later.

In an attempt to lessen the strength of the Federalists in 1812, the Massachusetts’s legislature received the go-ahead from then Governor Elbridge Gerry to split the voting precinct in Essex County.  The newly formed district was designed to support the former-President Thomas Jefferson’s political proclivities and it meandered, swerved, and spiraled over the map so much so that it became – as one local newspaper suggested – similar to the rubbery amphibian found under dead wood in the wet spring.  Instead, however, of calling it a salamander, the local press dubbed it a “Gerrymander” after the governor.

According to Consultant David Winston, who drew White House Districts for the GOP after the 1990 U.S. Census, “As a mapmaker, I can have more impact on an election than a campaign…more of an impact than a candidate. When I, as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system is out of whack.”  Winston’s comments can be heard echoing behind the USC Annenberg Center’s website entitled The Redistricting Game.  In the Game’s table of contents, you’ll find an opportunity to try to build new districts on a fundamental level of learning, a partisan gerrymander, a bipartisan gerrymander, an inclusion of Voting Rights Act limitations, and a final “reformed” method.  I suggest you try it at www.redistricting  You’ll learn quite a bit. 

Recently this summer, the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Independent Maps Committee to allow a citizen petition for an amendment on redistricting to appear on the Novemeber 6th ballot in Illinois.

Later, another rejection by the Illinois Supreme Court to rehear the case earned not only the anger of Governor Bruce Rauner but also the assurance he will add that ultimatum to his growing list of other demands in his Turnaround Agenda.

The Independent Map petition was deemed unconstitutional in its design, straying outside of the constitutionally prescribed “structural and procedural” limitations of Article XIV, section 3.  In the 4-3 partisan finding of the Court, Justice Kilbride questioned an outline of added duties to the office of the Illinois Auditor General (previously Representative Frank Mautino), noted language within the petition which drifts into revenue seeking or enhancements, and criticized a narrowly prescriptive methodology for a plan to redistrict. 

Rauner was quick to react and seize upon his old saw of “corruption” and a “rigged system.” 

“’What drives people away from Illinois is the sense that our political system is broken and our government is unaccountable to the people,’ Rauner said in a statement denouncing the ruling.”
In fact, Illinois is one of another 36 states where the legislature is responsible for drawing the voting districts in the state.  In these legislatures, adoptions of such districts are accomplished by simple majority votes.  This is especially frustrating for a governor like Rauner, who has vowed to “change Springfield” and “set term limits” and “drive them all nuts.” 
The last promise has been evidenced in his refusal to settle on a state budget for over a year; and with new demands for pension ‘reform,’ term limits, and now an amendment on redistricting being included – well, the budget may be suspended until the next redistricting plan is presented to the office of the governor for signing in 2021.   
By the way, the Governor in Illinois does have the power to veto any planned map.  And, the state also allows for the establishment of a backup commission comprised of members appointed by the leaders in the General Assembly if there is inability to agree upon a plan.
 With a solid Democratic majority in place, that would never suffice.  Rauner also scolded the Court: “Today’s court decision to deny Illinoisans the right to vote on a redistricting referendum does nothing to stem the outflow or change people’s views of how the system is rigged and corrupt.”
The Tribune likewise published blistering opinions in its editorial pages regarding the partisan divide evidenced in the Court’s decision.  “Once again machine politics won. Voters lost.  Independent Maps, a group of civic leaders and volunteers…” 
This is not to say that the Independent Maps Organization does not have some back history itself in politics, the Chicago Tribune, or connections to Illinois as a better business model.  In fact, the leader and spokesperson of the Independent Maps movement is a former Tribune CEO, Dennis FitzSimons.  According to an article published by Dennis Rodkin, FitzSimons had “spent 25 years at Tribune Co. before stepping down after helping to engineer its sale to Sam Zell and an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.” As you know, Zell masterminded the bankruptcy of the newspaper and forced the building’s recent sale.  At least it wasn’t Donald Trump. (
And what was in the plan that Rauner argues would make Illinois free of the political corruption and rigging under which we have all suffered?  It will be accomplished by the Independent Redistricting Commission, comprised of 11 Commissioners. 
It sounds so, well, non-partisan doesn’t it? But if you thought the rubrics of the Hunger Games seemed a bit obtuse, the Independent Maps Plan appears as impervious to manipulation as a wealthy parent’s desire to get his child into a great school like Walter Payton High through some clever intrigue and an under-the-table donation. 
Here it is in synopsis and small font.
The Auditor General will begin a search for applicants for potential Reviewers who meet criteria for operating in an ethical and non-partisan manner and have met a four-year history of non-partisan voting while adhering to standards of ethical conduct. Hundreds will apply.
The Auditor General will select 30 from the many applications he will receive.
By the end of March of the Federal decennial census, the Auditor General shall publicly select by random draw three permanent Reviewers.  They will now become The Panel of Reviewers.
In addition, the Auditor General will entertain applications from those who would serve in the capacity of Commissioner in the Independent Redistricting process.  After assuring that each applicant is sufficient in analytical abilities, preferably non-partisan, a resident of specified time in Illinois, a registered voter, a suitable representative of the geographic or ethnic diversity, etc., the Panel of Reviewers shall select 100 potential Commissioners.  They will now become The Pool of Possible Commissioners.
The Speaker, the Senate President, the two Minority Leaders of the General Assembly may each remove up to five from The Pool of Possible Commissioners. After this, the Panel of Reviewers publicly select in a random draw the seven Permanent Commissioners.
 The seven Permanent Commissioners will reside in the judicial districts – two affiliated with one party, two affiliated with the other party, and three unaffiliated to either party. 
The Speaker, the Senate President, and the two Minority Leaders of the General Assembly shall now each appoint one additional Commissioner from the Pool on the basis of potential contributions to demographic and geographic diversity. 
The now eleven Permanent Commissioners shall meet publicly and begin an election of officers, identify a quorum of 6, provide an allowance for voting only when all political affiliations are equally balanced, develop a redistricting plan, present said plan to the public explaining its compliance with the Constitutional legal requirements, and vote on the plan.
When the Permanent Commission fails to agree or file a redistricting plan by June 30th of the year following the Federal decennial census, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the most senior Justice of the opposite party will jointly appoint a Special Commissioner of Redistricting, who shall hold at least one public hearing and file the finished plan with the Secretary of State.  The office of the Secretary of State will presume the plan valid and publish it.
That all clear, Katniss?  Welcome to Panem.
Oh, by the way, that 1812 “Gerrymandering” attempt by the Massachusetts’s Governor was a total failure.  The Federalists won despite the creative outlining of districts to prevent a victory.  One political scientist, Mark Rush, argues in his book Does Redistricting Make a Difference? we should all regard the popular rush to redistricting by commission or panel rather skeptically because the long-term demonstrates little change and smaller effect and an almost impossible ability to control the ever-changing outlines of populations and ethnicities or sudden burst of hot issues.  Moreover, he warns, those who argue such validity are often promoting the highly paid political consultants who thrive on such shifts in our original democratic method.  Koch Brothers anyone? (ISBN 9780739101926)
Feel conflicted?  I do.
After all, Madigan rose to power in 1980 when a redistricting panel of eight Republicans and Democrats decided upon a random draw to break the impasse.  Madigan was given the green light to draw up the political boundaries after the name was ironically selected from President Abraham Lincoln’s top hat. 
What we see today is the later generations of tweaking and alterations – some required by the Voting Rights Act, challenges, court reviews, etc. – of a skilled politician who has held his party’s confidence and probably forced fealty for another 36 years.  Even as early as 1981, the Tribune begrudgingly characterized him as a “political wizard.”
Other states provide for much simpler and transparent designs for Redistricting Commissions.  So many evolutions by former Tribune CEO Chairman FitzSimons’ product invites worry about influences in that dark world under the table or in back hallways.  Six states offer simple commissions of major players in the government – governor, auditor, leaders of the legislative branches.  Some are strictly small groups of non-partisan, less than ten.  Judicial leaders in some states select various affliations to begin with. Very few follow as complicated a scheme as the one proposed by FitzSimons and then dashed by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Speaking of the Cubs…sorry, I think that was some time ago.  Of course you’ve noticed how the asymmetrical outfield distracts and befuddles opposing players.  Add some crannies, a lot of vines, and a possible ghostly goat and the game takes on some real wrinkles.
Governor Rauner abhors wrinkles…or rules or the past…or anything that does not give him what he wants NOW.  Remind you of anyone?  
Just for a moment, imagine all baseball fields exactly alike, equal distances and parameters, and same winds and uniform lighting (please don’t think of Cellular Field, for your own sake).   And if you’ll indulge me my baseball metaphor, imagine term limits.  That great pitcher you have right now…well, he can only pitch for two innings and he must leave the game. 
“Sorry, Jake, you’ve got to go now according to the added rules of the new Turnaround Baseball Commissioner/player.  Oh, yeah, and he gets four strikes instead of three when he comes up to the plate against you. “
“But I’m not even warmed up…”
Because, believe me, Rauner is the rookie batter in this Illinois political league and he wants to even the fields and shorten the lives of those he faces.  Why?  Every facet of his Turnaround Agenda is designed to give him the opportunity to weaken a foe and provide him an extra chance to make him the winner.  And he’ll spend $20 million ($16M already) to do just that.
And he’ll strangle the state if you don’t let him.
Go, Cubbies!

No comments:

Post a Comment