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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chelmsford Gerrymandered

In today's edition of The Lowell Sun is a letter to the editor by Karen McCabe, of Chelmsford
What has happened to my town?  I remember when we had our own state representation and our town was not separated into fragmented districts.  I remember when we got our fair share of state reimbursements and grant money.  Not what is left.  Where is the pride in having our own people elected to go fight for us at the State House, not someone from another town or city? Let's try to get our state representative position for our town back.
I agree with her.  I said so when I ran against Rep David Nangle for the 17th Middlesex House seat.  However, I didn't strike a resonant chord with Chelmsford voters, or even Chelmsford Republican voters.

The Commonwealth has a population of 6,497,967 (2008).  That is one seat for every 40,612 people.  Chelmsford has a population of 34,128 (2007).  While Chelmsford can't fill up one whole seat, it looks like it is 3/4 of a seat.  Breaking it up like a big soda cracker into small parts of four other seats is gratuitous, at best.

In what should be another indictment of State Government (attention Ms Vennochi), the last State Rep, Republican Carol C Cleven, still has her State House Web Site up and running. At some point it will come down.  But, since the Gerrymandering of 2002--the one that got Speaker Tom Finneran into hot water and led to his accepting a plea offer, she has not been representing her fair city.  It has been David Nangle (Incidentally, the link "Legislative Districts by city and town" is broken), Tom Golden, James Arciero and Corey Atkins.

But, back to Ms Karen McCabe.  If she really wants to fix what both she and I see as a problem--four part time State Reps for a town that needs one who is full time, she needs to take some action.  This isn't going to fix itself by her shouting into the wind.  Didn't work for me and won't work for her.

There is a new census coming up in 2010 and if is not too badly skewed by politics (like why does President Obama want to manage the Census Bureau out of the White House, rather than Department of Commerce?), there should be another shot for Chelmsford.

Boundaries matter and changing them is unhelpful.  Wikipedia says that US Senate races are more competitive than US Representative races and claims the reason is that the boundaries never change.  Think what that means.  The Lower house is supposed to be the more volatile, but it is actually the more static.

Computers help to make Gerrymandering even more bizarre and more effective.

The best shot for all of us would be a redistricting plan that had some mathematical teeth in it.  Set down some rules, like Kansas did last time, and then let the mathematicians at it.

But, that isn't going to happen by the goodness of the hearts of the 200 people on Beacon Hill who make up the Great and General Court.  No, thy are going to need to be scared and scared hard, but scared legally.  You, Ms Karen McCabe, are going to have to get Chelmsford organized to fight for what is your right.&nbp; Remember, "Let the Children guard what the Sires have won."

There needs to be political mobilization.  I suspect that non-partisan won't work.&nbp; You have to pick a party and work with it. If you pick the Democratic Party you have to figure out who will work with you.  Not likely any of the four current Reps.  That leaves Republicans and Libertarians.  Pick candidates for the 2010 election and back them all the way.  That means contributing money and knocking on doors and getting blog sites and radio and TV shows to recognize your concerns.  This will not be easy.  I am betting that it will cost at least $35,000 US, for all four.  That is about one dollar per person in Chelmsford.

Alternatively, you can go with a ballot initiative, although Mr Finneran, amongst others, showed that sometimes the Great and General Court will ignore them.  I think that the ballot initiative is the better bet.  If it passes you have the law the way you want it.  Compact districts that respect local political boundaries.

I say, good luck, Ms McCabe and contact me if you think I can be of help.

Regards  --  Cliff

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