Redistricting panel warns against gerrymandering
Three people huddled around a painted map of Virginia that hung on a wall in a meeting room in the Capitol. A young man gestured animatedly toward certain counties and legislative districts while his audience nodded in approval.
“And what did you do with Roanoke?” Judy Ford Wason, an adviser to the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting, asked the young man.
He suddenly stopped at the question, betraying his uncertainty.
“I … I can’t remember,” confessed Brian Cannon, a third-year law student from the College of William and Mary.
Cannon and first-year law student Brian Rothenburg were at the General Assembly to present to the commission their law school’s redistricting map for the Virginia Redistricting Competition, a contest among colleges and universities to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
Friday’s presentation was part of a series of public forums that the redistricting commission is hosting to encourage citizen involvement in the redistricting process. The panel will hold three more forums over the next week.
The advisory commission was created by Gov. Bob McDonnell to propose how to redraw Virginia’s legislative and congressional districts in light of population changes over the past decade. The governor asked the panel to do its job without regard to political allegiance or concern for protecting parties or incumbents.
However, the real power over redistricting rests with the General Assembly. Legislators will meet in a special session on the matter next month.
Members of the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting said lawmakers should be cautious when attempting to draw their new districts.
“There is no excuse for less than mathematical precision,” said William Hurd, a legal consultant to the commission. He emphasized the importance of ensuring the “one man, one vote” principle when carving out districts.
Legislators should not divide minority communities with the intent to take away their “ability to elect the candidate of their choice,” Hurd said.
To show how to redraw political districts in nonpartisan ways, the commission invited colleges and universities to participate in the Virginia Redistricting Competition.
Thirteen schools – including George Mason, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth universities – took up the challenge.
Each had at least one team of students prepare a set of maps. The students presented their maps to the commission at Friday’s forum.
As the website for the Virginia Redistricting Competition explains, redistricting usually is done by the political party in power. “This process has led to increased gerrymandering and has allowed political parties to increase their majorities, effectively limiting competition — the foundation of a healthy functioning democracy — and causing partisan gridlock.”
The students’ entries in the competition will be judged by two national experts on redistricting: Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. The winners will receive up to $2,000.
Besides the students, a handful of state delegates attended Friday’s forum of the redistricting commission. They included Democrats Joe Morrissey of Highland Springs and Bob Brink of Arlington and John O’Bannon of Henrico County.
Morrissey condemned both parties for gerrymandering districts to protect incumbents.
“It’s disgraceful that politicians are selecting who they want to represent,” Morrissey said. “We’ve got this wonderful panel and these students with their wonderful plans, and the politicians aren’t going to pay any attention to it at all.”
Future Redistricting Forums
The Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting will hold one more forum at 7 p.m. on March 21 at Norfolk State University. The forum will be in Ballroom 149 of the New Student Center.
The 11-member commission plans to present its report on April 1, a week before the General Assembly holds a special session on redistricting.
With a nod to Arbor Day, Citizen seeks photos, descriptions of significant Henrico trees
Citizen Staff Reports 04/28/2015
Do you have a favorite tree in Henrico?
Do you know of a tree with an interesting story?
Do you live near an especially large, old, or otherwise unusual tree – or do you pass by one that has always intrigued you?
Arbor Day 2015 (April 24) was last week, and though the Citizen has published stories about a few special trees over the years (see sidebar) we know that our readers can lead us to more. > Read more.
Henrico's most famous tree, known as the Surrender Tree, still stood for more than a century near the intersection of Osborne Turnpike and New Market Road -- until June 2012.
It was in the shade of that tree on April 3, 1865, that Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo met Major Atherton Stevens and troops from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and handed over a note surrendering the city to Federal troops. Evacuation had already begun. > Read more.
The Greater Richmond ARC's annual Ladybug Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on April 11 netted $75,165 to benefit its Infant and Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
About 350 guests sampled fine West Coast wines and craft beer from Midnight Brewery at Richmond Raceway Complex's Torque Club, along with food from local eateries. Carytown Cupcakes provided dessert. > Read more.
In the mood for some spring shopping? Eastern Henrico FISH will hold their semi-annual yard sale this weekend – funds raised assist at-risk families in Eastern Henrico County. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will hold a spring plant sale which is among the largest in the region with more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics. Put on your detective hat and find out “whodunnit” at the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “The Case of the Dead Flamingo Dancer,” presented by the Henrico Theatre Company May 1-17. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
It’s that time of year – charity races are popping up everywhere! On Saturday, St. Joseph’s Villa will be the site of the sixth annual CASA Superhero Run and the fifth annual Richmond Free to Breathe Run/Walk will be held in Innsbrook. Also in Innsbrook, the 2015 Richmond Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis will take place on Sunday. If you’re more into relaxation than exercise, check out Wine for Cure’s Dogwood Wine Festival or the Troubadours Community Theatre Group’s production of “West Side Story” at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
There are several fun events this weekend taking place outside including the third annual Virginia Firefighter Games at Short Pump Town Center; Twin Hickory Park’s “April Showers: A Celebration of Spring” event; the Young Life Richmond West 5k in Innsbrook; and the Gold Festival on Broad which benefits Prevent Child Abuse Virginia. Fingers crossed for no rain! For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarThe Shops at Willow Lawn’s community event Mommy & Me and Daddies Too continues with Mister G from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Enjoy a morning out with live entertainment,… Full text