Saturday, August 29, 2009

Amos Is Right

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with radio talk show host Amos Brown, but he has a point concerning recent discussions about money being spent in the 2010 and 2011 budgets of the City-County Council for redistricting. Brown took issue this past week with comments a competing radio talk show host, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, made about the intention of Republican councilors to redistrict prior to the 2011 municipal election. Amos Brown correctly pointed out that what Shabazz suggested Republicans plan to do is a clear violation of state law in his column in the Indianapolis Recorder this week:

Is the City-County Council’s Republican majority attempting to redraw Council districts before 2010 Census data is released?

If not, why have Council Republicans increased their 2010 budget by $290,000 to cover “professional services” to redistrict? An August 11 budget hearing revealed that and an additional $290,000 would be spent in 2011 for redistricting.

Then WRTV/Channel 6 commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz posted on the station’s Capitol Watch Blog that 2010 Census data would be available in December 2010 and that the Council would redistrict by February 2011.

Shabazz’s pronouncements were flat false.

I called out Shabazz on his falsehoods, but neither he nor Channel 6 has corrected the errors of fact.

And the facts, from Marion County Clerk Beth White and Leslie Barnes at the Indiana Election Division are these.

State law requires the City-County Council to redistrict two years after a decennial Census is taken. That would be in 2012.

State law also prohibits the City-County Council from doing any redistricting between November 2, 2010 and November 8, 2011. The only time next year the Council could redistrict is before November, and the only data available would be from 2000.

So, since the Council cannot redistrict next year why is this money being spent? With city/county finances tight, spending $290,000 in 2010 and spending most of that amount in 2011 is wasted money and effort. The Council can wait until mid-2011 to start spending on redistricting; allocating the funds in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.

The current Council shouldn’t even think of redistricting with 10-year-old data. That would be the height of stupidity and arrogance.
I checked the state statute governing how the 25 City-County Council districts are to be redistricted each decennial. I.C. 36-3-4-3(a) provides:

Sec. 3. (a) The city-county legislative body shall, by ordinance, divide the whole county into twenty-five (25) districts that:
(1) are compact, subject only to natural boundary lines (such as railroads, major highways, rivers, creeks, parks, and major industrial complexes);
(2) contain, as nearly as is possible, equal population; and
(3) do not cross precinct boundary lines.
This division shall be made during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted and may also be made at any other time, subject to IC 3-11-1.5-32.

The other statute mentioned in this law, I.C. 3-11-1.5.32, says that a "legislative body of a municipality may not change the boundary of a district established . . . after November 8 of the year preceding the year in which a municipal election is to be held and before the day following the date on which the municipal election is held except to assign territory to a municipal legislative body district in an annexation ordinance." This statute closes any window between the time census data is obtained and the time period for filing for municipal office for purposes of adopting a new redistricting plan.

Under federal law, the Census Bureau is supposed to deliver the final census report to the President by December 31, 2010. Shabazz suggested that Republicans would get the census information and redraw the district boundaries in approximately a 30-day window before candidates filed in February, 2011 to run for the City-County Council. The state law clearly provides that the redistricting could not take place until 2012, the second year after the federal decennial census is conducted.

It bothers me that the Republican-controlled council is budgeting $290,000 for redistricting in the 2010 budget when it won't even have any census data with which to work. It plans to spend another $290,000 in 2011; however, the state law would not allow the redistricting plan to be adopted until 2012 at the soonest, a year following the Indianapolis municipal election. The next municipal election does not take place until 2015. It looks to me like the Republicans will be wasting money on redistricting work in the 2010 and 2011 budgets, particularly if the Democrats win back control of the council in 2011. You can bet that they will throw out whatever work the Republicans had done and hire new consultants and lawyers to draw their own districts. In these tight budgetary times, it simply does not make sense to spend money that absolutely doesn't need to be spent.


Vox Populi said...

Does your gut tell you the Democrats stay in the minority, or was the Ballard win more a Peterson loss and will the Dems take back the Mayor's office and council?

Paul K. Ogden said...


Im not Gary, but I don't think there is any doubt that the Ballard win was more of a Peterson loss than a Ballard victory. But it did present Ballard and the Republicans on the council with an opportunity that they thoroughly fumbled.

Wilson46201 said...

An unmentioned factor in the redistricting timeline is the time to be taken by the inevitable lawsuits. Whatever plan the GOP majority passes will undoubtedly be contested in the courts by the Democrats. Whatever that court decision, it is damn important and will be appealed with maximum legal firepower by the losing party. All this will take time and screw up any tight timetables.

It would be foolhardy to even contemplate sliding a hastily drawn redistricting scheme into immediate implementation and operation.

It should be remembered that the current districts were drawn by a non-partisan judicial panel precisely because of the contentious lawsuits and egregious gerrymandering. These "old" districts most likely are reasonably current and still usable.

swan said...

Yes, why in the world does the Council, the Republicans, want to double the $290,000, on redistricting. They just throw around tax money. Thanks, Advance.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, I reviewed the relevant statutes you cited. It seems open and shut that they can't redistrict for the 2011 election. I assume they got bad legal advice from City Legal. Nothing surprising there.

artfuggins said...

This is really great news but why have we heard from the professionals for a year that the GOP will redistrict the council before the 2011 election?? Are they that ignorant of the law?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Art, I don't know what "professionals" you are talking about. Up until Abdul's assertion I hadn't heard people claiming they could redistrict before 2011. A friend of mine high up in the Marion County Republican Party told me they would have to run the election of 2011 using the old districts. Turns out he knew what he was talking about.

jabberdoodle said...

Thanks - that's $290,000 that can go back into the Parks budget.

Sorry I didn't realize it during the initial Council budget hearing.