The Friday night line | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Friday night line

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Over to you. Some final notes:

* EVIL: How low will the Republicans in Congress go? There is no bottom. They will use the IRS to audit women to obtain information about their abortions. Unbelievable.

* REDISTRICTING: I still think that, outside of the political junkies and the city limits of Fayetteville, interest is fairly low on new congressional district lines. The Republicans have gone on a full social media court press against the plan, sensing political opportunism, if nothing else. It's known as preaching to the choir. They offer no legal objections, only the vague "community of interest" argument that could be used by any of the 250,000 or so people who MUST shift congressional districts in this redistricting, like it or not. Rep. Clark Hall, sponsor of the Democratic plan, has sent along a statement on this thinking, which you can find on the jump.

* PODCAST: An outpouring of at least three fans have inquired about the weekly podcast and asked for an earlier posting time. We fully intended to put it on-line by 2:30 today. Technology has foiled us again. I swear it's going to be weekly and I swear it will resume next week.

FROM REP. CLARK HALL

The Arkansas Legislature was faced with difficult choices as they approached the redistricting process. Rapid growth in the Northwest corner of the state combined with slower growth and even population-losing counties in the South and East forced us to redraw the congressional districts to ensure equal representation of all our people. We were faced with accommodating regional interests, keeping communities of interest together, meeting the representation needs of the growing Northwest corner of the state and achieving the mathematical population mandates required by law.

Unlike some proposals submitted by others, the proposal I submitted and Rep. Eddie Cheatham presented this week accomplishes all of those goals.

The Arkansas Delta is a vital part of our state. As one of the most bountiful and successful agricultural regions in the country, there are many similarities and common interests in this region. Just drawing lines West in either the 1st or the 4th Congressional District would dilute the voice of this unique region. While there are counties considered part of the Delta in both the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts, the largest core has historically been in the 1st District. The proposal we submitted meets the population mandates and ensures the voice of Delta farmers and the agricultural community will not be diluted.

In drawing this proposal, a fundamental concern was the best way to address the growing population needs of what is now considered the 3rd Congressional District. Every proposal submitted by both Democratic and Republican members of the legislature included putting all of or parts of both Franklin and Johnson Counties into the 4th District so the remaining question was how to proceed further. There were strong voices in areas of the state such as Fort Smith, Russellville and Harrison that wanted to remain in their historic home in the 3rd Congressional District and there were passionate voices on both sides of the issue in Washington County. The 4th Congressional District is home of great institutions of higher learning such as the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, Southern Arkansas University, and now, the College of the Ozarks. A community of common interest exists between these communities Fayetteville, home of the flagship campus in our state.

Equally important is the need to address proportional representation in the fastest growing region of our state. By continuing the northward shift of the 4th Congressional District this fast growing area will now have the opportunity for two representatives in the halls of Congress in 2013. It would be interesting to ask other fast growing metro regions around the country such as Atlanta or Dallas if they believe their interests would be best served by only one member of Congress or if they feel that having multiple voices advocating for them on the national stage helps to fuel their fast growing success.

It was interesting to note in a recent legislative committee meeting that Fayetteville Chamber President Steve Clark argued against this proposal and its advantages for Northwest Arkansas in seemingly contradictory terms. He was concerned new congressional district boundaries would create counterproductive divisions in Northwest Arkansas. He also referred to the example of the success of the metro area of Northwest Arkansas, Southwest Missouri, and Northeast Oklahoma working together to accomplish common goals as a region. One has to wonder if Razorbacks, Sooners and Tigers work together effectively despite state boundaries between them, how would the invisible Congressional lines within Washington county be able to deter the process. If this is of genuine concern, why isn’t Mr. Clark also at the Missouri State Capitol to talk about how the new Congressional boundaries in Southwest Missouri will hurt the same regional metro area including Northwest Arkansas to which he referred?

Change is difficult. But this process is mandated every ten years to account for population shifts and to continually ensure every person has a virtually equal vote. Change will always be met with opposition by some people. What we have accomplished is a fair proposal that addresses the needs of our state and the legal mandate set before us. We have approached this in a fair and bipartisan manner seeking input from individuals around the state of Arkansas. From a legal perspective we have met the mandate of one voice, one vote. Those who would argue against this change from an aversion to change must understand that change is mandated. Those who would argue against this change because it is not tailored to their own political ambitions or partisan whims must understand that the people of our state have to come first.

Clark Hall

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