The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 6, 2011

David Knepper | Legislative redistricting a positive for region

David Knepper
collinsradio@comcast.net

— Redistricting, or reapportionment, is the process of redrawing congressional and legislative electoral district boundaries in response to population changes determined by the results of the 2010 decennial census.

Redistricting is the process by which the boundaries of elective districts are periodically redrawn to maintain equal representation on the basis of population.  

Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning the United States House of Representatives.  

Census data also is employed to redraw state legislative districts.

On Oct. 31, a five member legislative reapportionment commission made up of two Democratics, two Republicans and a nonpartisan chair, by a majority vote, approved a preliminary reapportionment plan.

After a 30-day public comment period, the final plan will be adopted, which does not require a House or Senate vote or the governor’s signature.

However, while the commission sets the boundaries for the state’s representatives and senators, the General Assembly must vote on a bill to redraw the boundaries for members of Pennsylvania’s delegation in Congress

When the story appeared in The Tribune-Democrat of Nov. 1, many readers in the Forest Hills School District learned that they would be represented in Harrisburg by all three Cambria County state legislators: Brian Barbin, 71st, Frank Burns, 72nd and Gary Haluska, 73rd district.

On the surface, having three state legislators of one party representing residents in the Forest Hills School District may appear inconsequential or insignificant. However, when I spoke to Ed Bowser, Forest Hills superintendent, he indicated that “this is a great opportunity to gather viewpoints from three different legislators regarding issues that impact not only education but the Forest Hills School District.”

When the new political boundaries are finally redrawn, they will remain rather invisible in our region.

Our residents will continue to expect that their elected officials will continue to provide the leadership that will move our region forward and not be swept up by the political contentiousness and divisiveness that one finds in other regions of the commonwealth.   

“It’s all about being able to work together to bring unity in making our region a better place to live and to work,” Burns reiterated.

All of us should embrace this change to our political landscape and “hold the door open” to those new legislators who have been “reassigned.” Greet them with in the same enthusiasm and warmth that we do when someone moves into our community.  

Our township and borough officials, too, should be making plans to roll out the red carpet and to place another chair not in the audience, but at their conference tables for their new state representatives.  

Yes, redistricting to some may be a hard pill to swallow, particularly if you’re the politician being “evicted.”  

But, just think of what this might mean to have the benefit of a new legislator who may actually have some solutions to those vexing problems that our local municipal officials face.

Hopefully, redistricting will bring an element of positive change that our region needs. So let us embrace it and move on.

Our best days lie ahead!

     

 David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills  Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.

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