Redistricting: a conspiracy theory

T.A. Barnhart

Redistricting: a conspiracy theory

comparing the Rs & Ds redistricting maps

The initial redistricting maps released by Ds & Rs in the Legislature week have led to charges and counter-charges of political hijinks on both sides. Who is being faithful to the law and who is trying to gerrymander depends on your side of the aisle, of course; this is politics, after all. Possibly the Leg will find a set of compromises that will let them complete the redistricting process and avoid the Secretary of State’s office having to finish the job. We’ll see. I’m not hopeful; both sides have political goals they are likely to fight to maintain. Here’s one.

(Please note. This is not a well-researched theory. It’s hunchy. Pull from my nether regions. That doesn’t mean it may not be correct.)

HD 42 (“The Fightin’ 42nd”) is my district, and my state Rep is Jules Bailey. Curiously, the maps drawn by his own party have him living in Rep Ben Cannon’s district. He’ll either need that redrawn or he’ll have to move — and I’m inclined to think the former is more likely. I don’t think his colleagues were trying to redistrict him out of the Legislature!

What’s more striking to me is the Republican map. Despite the state Constitution’s requirement that districts be drawn to include “communities of interest”, they’ve drawn a map that does nothing of the sort. As someone who lives in the heart of HD 42 (SE 29th between Division & Powell), I cannot fathom how anyone would think downtown Portland, Old Town & the eastern portion of the Pearl have anything in common with the People’s Republic of SE Portland. Because, of course, they do not. They are not “communities of interest”.

There’s also the little issue of the river which forms one of the “natural” boundaries that are also to be part of the districting process.

The Dems’ map keeps the district in one piece, adding a chunk of the Laurelhurst area. That neighborhood is a bit more-upscale than much of the rest of the district, but not enough to make it a foreign land. Given that HD 42 has to add more people (the population is short of the required number), that little chunk to the northeast makes as much sense as anything.

And a lot more sense than the Rs’ odd map.

Why would they do that? Why jump the river and toss in, almost randomly, a portion of downtown Portland that has little in common with the rest of the district?

It’s about the hatin’, kids, and in particular, the hating-on-Portland directed as us by those in the eastern part of the county and outside the Willamette Valley.

Earlier in the session, on the floor of the House, Rep Matt Wand (himself likely to see some significant redistricting as east county has two very different versions drawn up by the two parties) stated his great disappointment that the Mount Hood Freeway was not developed. Yes, that Mount Hood Freeway, the one that would have obliterated much of eastern Portland along Powell Blvd. The Mount Hood Freeway that brought Neil Goldschmidt to prominence, that jump-started citizen activism in Portland, and remains memorialized by an I5 off-ramp stub that points at what might have been. This is the Mount Hood Freeway Matt Wand laments not having been built.

A few days after his words on the floor, I asked him if I had heard him correctly, and he confirmed that I had. He believes the freeway would have helped Troutdale survive economic difficulties over the years. But as we talked about this, and I spoke of the terrible damage it would have done in Portland, he made it clear he did not give a damn. He spoke instead about the gentrification of Portland and how “we” were driving poor people out of the city, dumping them on east county. Granted, this is happening, but for Wand, not only is it a purposeful process — a massive plot to keep Portland rich and white — but no one, and I mean absolutely no one — in Portland gives a damn about east county. If you live in any part of Portland, you basically hate Troutdale and everything east of — name your dividing roadway. At some point, you hate them what lives east of you.

And the feeling, at least from those like Wand, is mutual.

So the point of adding a chunk of downtown to HD 42? So the Republicans can, as they attack “Portland”, point at “representatives like Jules Bailey, with his socialists on the east side of the river and rich Pearl District yuppies on the west”. You doubt they won’t? Rep Patrick Sheehan, also on the floor of the House, encouraged a No vote on the $5 Sellwood Bridge repair fee because it would help Portland. Pure and simple: if it helps Portland, it’s bad and wrong.

Obviously, we in Portland have a lot to answer for. We don’t care properly for those who need our help. We do too little for the homeless, the low income and for ethnic minorities. We are pushing many social problems to the east; I don’t think there’s a deliberate attempt to do so, but it’s happening nonetheless. And as Rep Jefferson Smith points out, of federal money that is meant to help the entire city, almost none makes it east of SE 82nd. We need to address these issues better. Portland needs to become a better and stronger partner with east county, sharing more of the burden, especially for those issues with roots in the city.

But those outside of Portland have to get over themselves and drop the victim act. Whining about big, bad Portland does them no good. Working on the basis of political anger and hate fixes nothing. Using the redistricting process to serve hard core political ends rather than the public good is shameful — and it won’t stand. If the Rs try to play this game, they’ll have the great pleasure of watching Secretary of State Kate Brown — who represented much the same area as Jules, the former HD 13 — draw up the final map.

Then they’ll really have something to whine about.

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    Interesting thoughts, even if they were pulled from your nether regions.

    I would like to hear what community of interest the Republicans were connecting when they chose to split the Pearl District.

    In the past, we've had districts that jumped the river because they were constructed along bus lines. Specifically, the 1990 redistricting map (proposed or final, I don't remember) had a district held by Rep. Vera Katz that meandered along the bus line from Southeast to downtown.

    That's a reasonable enough way to construct a community of interest. But somehow I doubt that the Rs actually have any reason for what they've proposed here in HD-42.

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    A couple comments: First, I don't think my Democratic colleagues did or didn't intend to draw me out of my district. By law, we are not allowed to consider any benefit or harm to incumbents - only communities of interest. I think the Democratic plan shows that they followed the law in that process. Even if the lines change in the future, it won't be because where I live.

    Which leads me to state that it is my intention to move. Not an ideal situation, but those are the breaks.

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    Lest anyone think I am only criticizing the Democrats here, my written testimony criticizes the Republican map along these same lines. There would appear to be no reasonable basis for jumping the river here. Similarly, their map picked up Val Hoyle's neighborhood in Eugene, and only that neighborhood, and drew it into Paul Holvey's district.

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    The map clearly doesn't have the best detail BUT I don't think the GOP proposal includes either Old Towne or the Pearl. It looks to me like the boundary line is Burnside.

    And while TA and Kari might disagree with me ... I actually think the downtown core has more in common with the other side of the river than the current west hills. I have no numbers to justify my conclusion but as someone that lives in that section of downtown ... it seems to me that the largest community of interest in my neighborhood are PSU students. Right? Which I would suggests mirrors the other side of the river better.

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      there are spots in downtown that have some similarity to close-in SE, but they're pretty scattered. if you move from south downtown (around PSU) and move up thru the Pearl to NW, it's enough of a continuum to group them as a CoI. splitting the district with the river makes no sense. that's a natural boundary & should be used as such.

      but you're right; i didn't zoom in enough! however, my main point, i believe, still holds: there's a lot of hatin' going on towards Pdx. even if they don't tar Jules with Rep Pearl, we see attacks each week in the Leg on good bills simply because they address the Metro region. too many legislators are playing to the haters in their districts with that sh*t, and it's not good government.

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        I think we all need to abandon the idea that district map drawing is going to follow all the standards/ideals all the time. Yes. Natural boundaries are important but sometimes other criteria are more important ... And those ultimate conclusions are above my pay grade.

        Having said that ... No ... I don't think this tangential disscussion on the downtown core or the pearl will change the regional bitterness that exists in Salem for the better or worse. Rural/urban divide... or Metro vs the rest of the state ... Whatever you want to call it. It's definately a problem and good bills on both sides die because of it.

        In my humble opinion ... We need to get back to the day when the Capitol encouraged more after hours socializing between the Representatives. I think those experiences break down walls. But maybe that just suits my expertise better. ;)

        Finally, last session, I worked for a Representative that had a floor seat right next to Rep. Bailey. I truly enjoyed my interactions with him. He is bright, dedicated, and extremely respectful (even to staff.)

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          having been at the Leg as much as i have this session, i don't think the problem is social. i see Ds & Rs of all kinds working together, chatting & having a good time on the floor, before committee hearings, etc. i'm told that certain people are friends - friendships that surprise me.

          when representatives like Mike McLane oppose bills that would help make urban neighborhoods safer and more livable, they don't do it on policy basis. and they don't do it because they don't get along with Portland or Eugene Dems. they do it because they are expected, and seem happy, to oppose anything that would make Pdx/MultCo/Metro happy. or better.

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            I am not disagreeing with you. The urban/rural divide is absolutely real!

            But how do we bridge that gap? How do we create empathy and understanding of the needs of the different communities? To me ... It's about seeing the other side as political adversaries and not enemies. That's all I am suggesting.

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      Aha, you're right. It doesn't split the Pearl. But the GOP map splits downtown - and along a rather odd ragged edge, too.

      If the largest community of interest downtown is the PSU community, then the GOP map is a failure. The ragged line runs basically right through the middle of PSU.

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        Maybe it's just neighborhood pride but i am glad that they split the district on burnside because I have a hard time believing that my section of Portland has that much in common with the Pearl either.

        And I wish the map had better detail but the west line to me looks like 405 which would basically include the downtown core and PSU.

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      Given that the vast majority of PSU students don't live on or near campus, which community on the other side of the river are we mirroring?

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        You're correct. The majority of students at PSU do not live on campus. But that really isn't the question either.

        The question is. Who lives in that downtown core? Very few people actually. And of those people ... I would expect high percentages of PSU students and some young professionals. Is it a majority of the PSU students? No. It is the largest grouping/concentration of that community in the city? Probably.

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    I'd be interested to know what bills specifically he has opposed on the basis that he doesn't want your neck-of-the-woods to be happy or better?

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    T.A. - It's hard for me to drop the victim "act" considering how neglected my part of town has been since Portland annexed it in the late 80's. How can one just be friendly and act neighborly when you've just been kicked in the teeth repeatedly over the last 25 years?

    I don't hate Troutdale or anything east of me. In fact, it's more convenient for me to go there than to head west. More people around here tend to hate those west of us.

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