Tag Archives: Redistricting

District 4 is Now the Jennie Dean District

March 24, 2011
Dear friends,
 
I am pleased to tell you that District 4 is now the Jennie Dean District.   The vote by the Board of Supervisors stimulated much discussion; but in the end, the supervisors decided to go along by a wide margin.  As a result, probably for the first time in the history of Virginia, and certainly in Loudoun, a district has been named after an African-American!   Loudoun leads the way, again! 
 
Just returned from the victory party.  It feels great being part of creating something not only all African-Americans can be proud of, but also all Virginians.  But the real praise rests with the Baptist Prosperity Church, its Pastor and the children and mothers who came tonight, one of whom was the oldest living descendant of Jennie Dean, a woman in her nineties who felt it important to lobby for an historical vote.  They set up their own rally, created home-made signs, sent emails, and called around the county and the region to build support.  They were the true victors, making this a grass-roots effort, and that’s the way it should have been.  I have no idea of what party any of them are and never asked.  This was about the people, about doing the right thing, not about party.
 
To get to this point of course required a lot of preparation by a lot of people, as well as discussions with the Library of Virginia in Richmond, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Black History Committee at the Balch Library, all coordinated and led by the members and friends of the Prosperity Baptist Church, especially Reverand Lawson, and true progressives around the county and region.  Kelly Burk of  Leesburg led off this evening on a very positive tone with a discussion of the historical facts and significance related to the vote.  One of the things I am particularly proud of was how bi-partisan the effort was.  In my case, I contacted all of the Supervisors, including Republicans and Independents.  Though the financial well-being of the church was a campaign project (which did very well), I worked as a private citizen, not as a candidate, to advance the name change for District 4.  Of course, anything a candidate does is considered “political” by someone, so it was also wonderful to hear Sally Kurtz in a loud, strong voice of reason, with beauty, intelligence and passion, remind all who might doubt, that this effort by so many people was the best kind of politics, something to be proud of.   She also rightly reminded us that it was the kind of politics one runs to, not from.  Only someone very shallow of character could think otherwise.  Jim Burton, Andrea McGimsey and Kelly Burk were also brilliant in their support.  Even Eugene Delgaudio rose to provide a wonderful, warm tribute.  
 
Success was indeed bi-partisan and in the best tradition of what politics is supposed to be about –  helping people and doing the right thing.   That’s our Loudoun, our Virginia, and now our Jennie Dean District, and this was a very important moment in my life, for sure.
 
Have a great evening.  
 
Larry Roeder

Sour Grapes?

The redistricting process has been a contentious mess, I will grant anyone that. I don’t think there was anyone in the county who was 100% satisfied (or would have been satisfied) by any of the plans. I was ambivalent - I saw positives and negatives in both “Miller 5″ and “HOA 4″. My only hope was to see the Lansdowne on the Potomac community united into one district. In the long run, though, it didn’t matter to me which plan passed; I would have been able to live with either. But apparently not Supervisor Lori Waters.

I just received Supervisor Waters’ March 2011 newsletter in my e-mail inbox, and was a little taken aback by what I read. Instead of the usual district newsletter, where she touts board items she championed, notifies us of board actions that affect the district, and gives us tidbits of other district-related news, Supervisor Waters took it upon herself to inject politics and editorial comment into this issue.

I voted against this plan as it was gerrymandering to favor certain incumbents and candidates and even claimed as “our plan” by the Loudoun County Democrat Committee (sic). Unfortunately, these district lines will remain in place for 10 years, and this process ended with candidates trumping communities.

I took a cursory glance at newsletters released by some of the other Supervisors (at least those that were posted on the Loudoun County website), and saw none of them playing politics with their newsletters (I can only assume that the Sterling District Supervisor does this, given his track record).

Supervisor Waters, I’m sorry you didn’t get your way. We both had the same goal, to unite Lansdowne, and I was just as turned off by the political machinations last week as anyone. I understand your frustrations. But an innocuous district newsletter is no place for playing political games.  Just tell us the news, free from spin and opinion, and leave the politics out of it.

This is why we should all work hard to elect Valdis Ronis as the next Supervisor from Broad Run (or whatever the district will be called). He’s above playing politics – he’s fiscally conservative, socially progressive, and environmentally responsible. And he will provide a sense of leadership of which this board will be in dire need.

Redistricting Approved

I just heard from my Supervisor, Kelly Burk, that the Board of Supervisors has approved a Redistricting plan for the County that includes most of Leesburg in one District. It was essentially the Miller 5 plan. Supervisors Burton (Blue Ridge), Kurtz (Catoctin), Burk (Leesburg), McGimsey (Potomac), and Buckley (Sugarland Run) were the majority that passed the plan.

Here is the Miller 5 plan they were starting from. Note this is not the plan that was passed, as edits to it were made during the process today. Once we have an accurate map (see the Leesburg Today article for details on that), we’ll make it available.

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[Update] Chairman Scott York has shared his version of the plan that was passed. Here it is:
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Leesburg Today has the story.

The adopted plan, which will be mapped later this week and may require additional changes to make each district comply with population thresholds, includes five suburban districts in eastern Loudoun and two hybrid districts that include rural areas in western and northern Loudoun as well as subdivisions in central Loudoun. The Leesburg District is expanded, but some town residents will be in the expanded Catoctin District that surrounds the town.

Among the changes made to the published Miller 5 plan was to move the area north of Hamilton into the Catoctin District; move Hillsboro into the Blue Ridge District; and move the Oak Grove area from the Sterling District to a Sterling/Ashburn District. -Leesburg Today

Splitting Leesburg Defined

Over on Without Supervision, Supervisor Stevens Miller’s blog, there has been great discussion of the various plans, requirements and interests behind the Redistricting issue currently before the Board of Supervisors. One of the flashpoints that has come up is the issue of “Splitting Leesburg.” In many of these discussions, parties are talking past each other because there is confusion over what it means to split Leesburg. For example:

I heard repeatedly yesterday at the hearing that Leesburg shouldn’t be split and frankly it was driving my crazy–Leesburg is ALREADY split into two districts. -Matt L.

Matt is correct, as currently configured there are residents of the Town who do not vote in the Leesburg Magisterial (Supervisor) District, but rather vote in Catoctin. This is an artifact of the lines drawn in the year 2000 that were not able to account for later growth and annexation, which changed the Town’s borders without a concurrent change in the Supervisor District. Continue reading

The Number Of Supervisors

Leesburg Today is reporting that the change in the population count for Loudoun County has thrown the debate about Magisterial (Supervisor) Redistricting into flux.

With Loudoun’s population set at 312,311, an increase of 84.1 percent of its population in the 2000 Census, the county has a population 22,036 higher than anticipated, which changes the sizes and potential boundaries for all eight districts and leaves supervisors with a lot more work to do.

When county staff members were anticipating a population slightly more than 290,000, each election district had a population threshold of just over 36,000. With the actual population topping 312,000, target population for new election districts has increased to 39,039, with wiggle room of plus or minus 5 percent of that number permitted.

The largest discrepancy between staff estimates and the actual population came, as might be expected, in the fast growing Dulles District. Estimated at 71,192, the actual population of the county’s highest growing area is 81,409. On the flip side, the Blue Ridge District’s actual population is 228 people less than the staff estimate. – Leesburg Today

An excellent, and extended, debate over Redistricting has been going on at Supervisor Miller’s blog, Without Supervision. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of potential District lines and census blocks, head over there and join the discussion.

I want to take a moment, however, to address a proposal which had previously been discarded, but is now perhaps back on the table thanks to the population results: Reducing the number of Supervisors.

It was Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) who tossed the biggest wrench into the conversation of redistricting Monday, however. Noting that four of the nine supervisors had announced they would not seek reelection to the board and the board’s interest in keeping “communities of interest” together, Burton asked supervisors to reconsider the number of districts. When the board first began considering the redistricting process supervisors rejected the idea of either reducing or increasing the number of election districts from eight and one at-large seat for the chairman.

“I propose we look seriously at establishing six districts instead of eight. That would put each district at about 52,000. That would create one western district west of Rt. 15. Leesburg would have to extend outside of the town significantly. And it would leave four districts for central and eastern Loudoun,” he said. “It would make it easier to keep communities of interest together. The problems we have agreeing on boundaries and that four [supervisors] who are not coming back, I think that opens up the discussion.” – Leesburg Today

Reducing the number of Supervisors is a terrible idea. Follow below the fold for four reasons why. Continue reading

Let’s Expand Congress

The New York Times has an opinion piece up today that our friend hbinkley pointed out. It calls for the expansion of the US House of Representatives.

What’s needed, then, is a significant increase in the size of the House by expanding the number, and shrinking the size, of districts. Doing so would make campaigns cheaper, the political value of donations lower and the importance of local mobilizing much greater.

Smaller districts would also end the two-party deadlock. Orange County, Calif., might elect a Libertarian, while Cambridge, Mass., might pick a candidate from the Green Party.

Moreover, with additional House members we’d likely see more citizen-legislators and fewer lifers. In places like New York or Chicago, we would cross at least one Congressional district just walking a few blocks to the grocery store. Our representatives would be our neighbors, people who better understood the lives and concerns of average Americans.

More districts would likewise mean more precision in distributing them equitably, especially in low-population states. Today the lone Wyoming representative covers about 500,000 people, while her lone counterpart in Delaware reports to 900,000.

The increase would also mean more elected officials working on the country’s business, reducing the reliance on unaccountable staffers. Most of the House’s work is through committees, overseeing and checking government agencies.

With more people in Congress, House committee members could see to this critical business themselves – and therefore be more influential, since a phone call from an actual member is a lot more effective than a request from the committee staff.  - Dalton Conley

Mr. Conley makes and excellent and correct argument. But I believe that expanding the House of Representatives does not go far enough. I believe we also need to expand the Senate.

My proposal would be to add 34 more Senators, one each for the the 34 most populous states. This would preserve the even number of Senators, allowing the Vice President to continue casting a tie-breaking vote. More significantly, since it requires two-thirds of states to ratify a constitutional amendment, giving thirty-four states one more Senator increases the likelihood of getting that two-thirds (since two-thirds of 50 is 33). Adding this many would also create a bipartisan mix of new Senators, since the mix of states in the top 34 include such diverse politics as Alabama (23) and Connecticut (22).

The additional Senators would be allocated after each census to the top 34 states. That Senator would be elected during the two year cycle when that state did not elect one of their other Senators. Those states would then not only elect Representatives every other year, but also a statewide Senator during every Congressional cycle. That is likely to increase turnout during otherwise low-participation elections, a goal all members of our political process share.  Interestingly, support for such a change may have bipartisan support among activists. My friend Ed, who I have been close with since we were both first-years at UVA, is a strong Republican. He was a long-time volunteer for Eric Cantor. When last we hung out on my deck drinking our friend Pete’s homebrew and arguing politics, reforming the Congress in such a manner was just about the only thing we could come to agreement upon. We both agreed that Congress was no longer representative in the manner which the Framers intended, and Congressional expansion was the way to fix it.

For Virginia, such a proposal would create a series of new Congressional districts as well as add a Senator to our delegation (We’re population rank 12). Every Federal election would have a Senator (or Senate candidate) on the ballot leading the ticket for each party, which serves as a unifying force and ensure a statewide focus for each election.

It is my humble suggestion that Virginia, as the source of the original plan for Congressional representation in the Constitution draft an Amendment and put it forward for debate among our sister states. The time has come to address the terrible inequality that our current allocation of Congressional representation forces upon the voters of America.