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Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

In case you missed it over the weekend, Charlotte Observer editorial page editor had a scathing and excellent essay taking Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to task for his downright embarrassing hypocrisy on the issue of redistricting reform.

As Batten points out, Berger was sponsored at least five reform bills over a period of eight years that would have done almost exactly what the proposal he is now standing in the way of in 2015 would do:

“Has there ever been a more glaring example of how where you stand depends on where you sit?

Berger, R-Rockingham, sat toward the back when he was in the minority throughout the last decade. Today he sits up front as the Senate President Pro Tem. Surrounded by fellow Republicans everywhere he looks, he has a grip on power like Vladimir Putin – and a similar fondness for true democracy.

Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe the proposals announced last week to take much of the politics out of drawing congressional and legislative districts differ dramatically from the ones Berger co-sponsored. Let’s check.

Oh, no, actually they are nearly identical. In fact, entire passages from the bill filed last week are taken verbatim from bills Berger co-sponsored.”

As Batten also rightfully notes, Democratic leaders like Marc Basnight and Jim Black were at fault in those days for blocking reform — even though other Democrats were pushing for it. But that doesn’t absolve Berger now. At least Basnight and Black never pretended to be for it or led voters to believe they would implement it once in office as Berger clearly did.

As with so many other conservative switcheroos in recent years — on transparency in government, on a commitment to open debate in the General Assembly, on the need for “revenue neutral” tax reform — Berger’s flip flop smacks of raw opportunism and power hunger at their worst.

About all one can say going forward is that at least North Carolinians will have no illusions about where things really stand.

Commentary

redistricting_mapIn case you missed it yesterday, take a couple of minutes this morning to read Ned Barnett’s fine essay in the Sunday edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which he: a) skewers the lame claims of state redistricting bosses Robert Rucho and David Lewis that the N&O is motivated by partisan goals in editorializing (for the umpteenth time) in favor of redistricting reform and, more importantly, b) explains exactly what’s really going on right now in the redistricting battles (and why Rucho, Lewis and their pals would be smart to abandon their heavy handed manipulations). As Barnett writes:

“The Republican approach to redistricting has been embarrassingly successful. The GOP overwhelmingly controls the state legislature and holds 10 of 13 congressional seats in a state where Democrats are the predominant party. But in this success may lie the seeds of the party’s eventual loss of power. Read More

Commentary

ICYMI, the editorial page of the Charlotte Observer features another great op-ed this morning that was co-authored by former Raleigh mayor, Charles Meeker (a Democrat) and former Charlotte mayor, Richard Vinroot (a Republican). The subject: the urgent need for redistricting reform.

As their honors note:

As former mayors of North Carolina’s two largest cities, we know how important it is to have a government that fairly represents the people, and in which voters have confidence. And we believe that the way we have drawn maps in North Carolina for the past five decades or longer has undermined citizens’ confidence in our government, created highly partisan legislative districts and caused gridlock.

We also believe that North Carolinians have had enough. For that reason, we, and other North Carolinians who care about the value of our vote and the future of our state, are supporting a transparent, impartial and fair process for redistricting. We urge you to join us.

The model we support is based on the way Iowa has drawn its maps since 1980. Their maps are required to have districts that are compact, contiguous and follow state and federal law. They cannot be drawn based on the political makeup of districts, past voter turnout or other partisan factors. Instead, the maps are drawn by professionals, reviewed by citizens and then approved or disapproved by the legislature in a timely fashion.

We respectfully urge the newly elected members of the N.C. General assembly – many of whom have expressed support for our proposal in their public statements – to work with us by passing impartial, fair, nonpartisan redistricting reform in 2015. In our view, there is no better way to show respect for our voters and improve our democracy!

To which all a caring and thinking person can say is “hear, hear!” and “if only a majority of our current General Assembly was comprised of caring and thinking politicians.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed.

Uncategorized

Gerrymandering

No surprise to people who live here, but North Carolina (in a tie with Maryland) was named the nation’s “most gerrymandered state” by the Washington Post’s Wonkblog today.

As writer Christopher Ingraham puts it:

North Carolina Republicans really outdid themselves in 2012. In addition to the 12th district, there’s the 4th, which covers Raleigh and Burlington and snakes a narrow tentacle all the way south to pick up parts of Fayetteville. And then there’s the 1st District, which covers a sprawling arbitrarily shaped region in the northeastern part of the state.

Overall, the North Carolina GOP’s efforts paid off handsomely. Based on their statewide vote share you’d expect North Carolina Democrats to hold about seven seats. But they won only four. This is because an outsized share of the state’s Democratic voters were shunted off into the three highly-gerrymandered districts above.

North Carolina’s 12th district, which “snakes from north of Greensboro, to Winston-Salem, and then all the way down to Charlotte, spanning most of the state in the process,” won the honor of the nation’s most-gerrymandered district.

Uncategorized

The good people at Common Cause NC will be holding a news conference in Charlotte today. This is from the announcement:

“Former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican and former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker, a Democrat will be announcing today their partnership in seeking to end gerrymandering in North Carolina.

Both mayors want politics taken out of the redistricting process and will be creating a new coalition called
North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now

When: News conference- noon (Thursday, May 8, 2014)
Where: Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson law office board room, suite 1900 101 N. Tryon Street, downtown Charlotte”

Let’s hope the event (and notably the presence of longtime conservative Republican Richard Vinroot) has the desired impact — especially on the conservative state senate which has blocked redistricting reform previously.