Warning flare: An end run on redistricting
May 13, 2001
Word has it that U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., and state House Speaker Tim Ford, along with others, are attempting to make an end run around east Mississippi in the coming redistricting of congressional seats. Their move carries the potential for putting Lauderdale County in a congressional district dominated by the Gulf Coast. On its face, this is a terrible idea. In reality, it's even worse.
No process of government is more central to the concept of equal representation than redistricting congressional seats. Areas of this state with common economic, cultural and historical interests should logically be linked. In this way, the representative is more likely to represent all of a district's interests and the people are more likely to be served well.
Imagine the local angst if a Coast-based congressman had to choose between military reductions or, conversely, expansions at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi or NAS Meridian. Imagine if a Lauderdale County-based congressman had to make the same choice. Which area would be better served? And what new tensions might emerge?
Civic, political and business leaders in east Mississippi, joined by the general public, should argue aggressively against any redistricting plan that pits region against region, and people with common interests against each other. Such a plan would make no sense.
But bowing to an apparent eagerness to dilute the growing political muscle of east Mississippi and its strong tendency to support Republicans, Shows and Ford are ignoring time-tested principles for the sake of raw politics.
We cannot sit still for such a raw abuse of power.
Citizens of this area will have a chance to express their opinions on May 19 when a legislative committee on redistricting holds a public hearing at Meridian Community College. We should be there in force and vocal in our united opposition to any plan that could pit Meridian in a congressional district dominated by the fast-growing Gulf Coast.
The idea of pitting region against region in Mississippi flies in the face of logic and is counter productive to the long-term economic interests of this state. The last thing we need is some bizarre, gerrymandered congressional districts that serve politics over good government.
Under one plan, one congressional district would reportedly sweep from the Memphis suburbs into DeSoto County, Rankin, Madison and much of northeast Jackson. Much of Shows' current district would remain intact and then cut a swath from southwest Mississippi to the counties of Newton, Scott and Neshoba before sweeping up to the Golden Triangle in Columbus-Starkville.
Shows, Ford and their boosters ought to be working together to move Mississippi ahead, even in the unfortunate situation of losing a seat in Congress. Mississippi has two powerful Republican U.S. senators, Americans elected a Republican president with whom they can work and the state should take advantage of these connections.
In an era of a declining economy, global competition, pressures to downsize the U.S. military, the last thing Mississippi needs is to become mired in another decade of regional competition, infighting and political intrigue.