Henrico County VA
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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.
For information, contact commission staff member Steven Jones at 804-201-5174 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); or the commission’s chairman, Bob Holsworth, at 804-839-8782 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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The Henrico County Community Author Showcase, a new program that connects writers and readers in the community, will begin at 7 p.m. and continue on Thursdays at various libraries. Lashawn… Full text

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