Thursday, July 19, 2012


UPDATE:  08:00 AM

The Associated Press is reporting that the Ohio secretary of state's office says that Voters First is 130,000 short of reaching the require 385,000 signatures.

The SCPR understands that the petitioners have 10 days to obtain the required additional signatures.


Right up there at the top of the list in Rober Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is "Play Fair!"

We are all familiar with the idiom "all is fair in love and war," which is a root expression for the extended version bandied about by politicians:  "all is fair in love, war and politics."

So from the innocence of childhood to the supposed sophistication of adulthood "fair" gets warped from "play fair" to "all is fair in ... politics."

Says a lot about adult political pros and their allies, no?

But that is exactly how the professional politicians like Bob Bennett (Ohio Republican Party chairman), Christopher Redfern (Ohio Democratic chairman) and the local likes of Jeff Matthews (Stark County Republican Party chairman) and Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) have progressed from Kindergarten to their grand glory of cynical adulthood.  In the view of the SCPR they are personifications of "all is fair in ... politics" people who are looking out for themselves and their political parties over the interests of everyday citizens.

When it comes to obtaining political advantage, "playing fair" is laughable and naive to these jaded political pros.

Given the opportunity, the likes of all of the above seize the opportunity to support the legislative political warping and contortion process known as gerrymandering:  that is constructing legislative districts so that it is next to impossible (absent a political castastrophe like Coingate-2005 during the Republican Taft administration) to change control of the legislature.

However, they are not alone.  Scores of our elected officials (especially legislators; hence the description of above of "the political pros and their allies") by their deeds ridicule the kindergarten lesson on "playing fair."

About 17% of Americans think well of congress persons currently.  But it has been as low as 9%.  No wonder.   Most of them are from "safe, non-competitive" districts which makes them likely to be arrogant and unaccountable to the American public.  Obviously, many of them support district gerrymandering as a way to perpetuate themselves in office.

And the same thing happens at the state legislative level.  Stark County might have one competitive legislative district.  That would be the 29th Ohio Senate district.

Countywide (which the 29th pretty much is, excluding only the western fringe), either a Democrat or Republican can win.  Statistically and as proven in actual political races either Republicans (e.g. Creighton as commissioner, Zumbar as treasurer and Harold as auditor) or Democrats (e.g. Swanson as treasurer, Ferrero as prosecutor, Campbell as recorder, Bennett as engineer, Reinbold as clerk of common pleas court, and Murthy as county coroner) can and do win.

Only the ineptness of the Stark County organized Democratic Party's leadership (over the chairmanships of Gonzalez, Maier and Ferrero) in terms of grooming quality, attractive candidates for the Ohio Senate keeps Republicans Scott Oelslager and Kirk Schuring trading the 29th back and forth in a version of musical chairs in which each gets a seat in the Ohio General Assembly, just a different seat and keeping the seat from switching over to the Democrats.  For their clearly is a path for Democrats to make this seat competitive and win it.

Democrat for many years now have had to sit and watch as Oelslager and Schuring have developed this musical game of the 29th in tandem with what used to be 51st House District (now pretty much the 48th - indexed Republican - likely to be held by Schuring this November) so that they can overcome term limits, a measure they both supported when it came up for a vote in the 1990s.

Democrat Stephen Slesnick has sat in a heavily Democrat indexed 52nd House District which is to be, in the upcoming election, the 49th House District.

If Republican leaders in Columbus cared about small letter "d" democracy, they easily could take Slesnick's district and reconfigure it in relation to the 48th and 50th to make it anybody's guess as who would political party would win in any one of the three Stark County districts.

But, of course, their number one priority is the the vigor and quality of America's democracy, it is the interests of the Republican Party and their candidates.

And yes, before anyone objects "but the Democrats do it too," such would undoubtedly be the case.

That rejoiner is always posited as some sort of justification of the unfair and undemocratic gerrymandering.

But it doesn't fly.
What the rejoiner "really" says is that both political parties are about their own interests more than those of everyday citizens.

Republican Christina Hagan (a lady who cheered the carving up of Stark County into three congressional districts [and, of course, she voted for it]) as she smugly sits ensconced in the 56% indexed 50th House District.

Hagan is a person who lost when she had to compete for office within the Republican Party.  Now she has wheeled and dealed with her father's help to gain a legislative appointment and is following his footsteps in having a rigged political district to run in.

 But help may be on the way.

The Ohio League of Women Voters is leading the way with a coalition of organizations that has turned in on July 3rd 430,000 or so signatures to the Ohio secretary of state for validation as to proper voter registration on the effort of a non-partisan group called Voters First.

Some 385,000 valid signatures are needed.

If they are obtained, then on the November ballot there will appear an initiative called the:  Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission Amendment.

Here is a summary of the proposed amendment:

Voters First’s proposal will create an Independent Citizens Commission.  Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders are prohibited from serving on the commission. The Commission’s work will be open and it will be accountable to the public.  The Commission will empower voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.
  • Citizens, Not Politicians. Instead of the current procedures (in which politicians draw district boundaries that unfairly favor their own party and/or protect incumbents), a 12-member Citizens Commission will create the districts. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration.
  • Openness and Transparency. All meetings, records, communications and draft plans of the Commission must be open to the public. No more backroom deals.
  • Balance and Impartiality. The Citizens Commission will include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and the approval of at least seven of the twelve members of the commission will be required for the adoption of any plan. This will ensure that the final plan fairly represents all Ohioans, not just those currently in power.
  • Community Representation. Districts will be created that are geographically compact, and which minimize the division of counties, townships, municipalities and wards between different districts.
  • Accountability & Competitive Districts. Politically balanced districts will be created, rather than “safe districts” which make it difficult or impossible for voters to hold elected officials accountable.
  • Fairness. To the greatest extent possible, the share of districts leaning toward a party will reflect the political preferences of the voters of Ohio. 
Recently, the SCPR ran into Dan Scuiry, president of the Hall of Fame AFL-CIO who is a leading Stark County figure in collecting signatures for the Voters First effort.

Scuiry is an interesting public figure.

Yours truly has known him since the mid-1970s.  No doubt he is the consummate Democrat and moreover he is Mister Organized Labor in Stark County.

While there is no doubt that Scuiry carries heavy biases for Democrats and union workers, The Report finds that beneath all his prejudices, he is committed to fair play.

And in his quest to get fairness for those he advocates for he will take on any and everybody no matter who they are.

He has taken on Stark County Educational Services Center Board Superintendent Larry Morgan (what used to be the county board of education - of which yours truly's spouse is president).

He has fought with former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr and until very recently had a more or less "blood feud" going on with current chairman Randy Gonzalez.

And the list goes on and on. 

While the secretary of state in busy validating the signatures turned in, Voters First workers are still collecting signatures and will be for the next two to three weeks in case the initial submission falls short of the 385,000 valid signatures needed.

Dennis Willard (former Repository and Akron Beacon Journal reporter), who now is the publicist for  Voters First puts the effort this way:
You may read or see news over the next few days about Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's letter to Voters First regarding the status of petition collection efforts, so I want to keep you up to date on the Fair Districts movement.

Voters First is on track and very confident that we are going to have the signatures to let voters make history this November by putting citizens in charge of drawing Fair Districts. Husted's letter is a normal part of the petition process, and it's not unexpected.

We never stopped collecting signatures even after filing our first round of petitions on July 3rd. And we’re going to continue to collect even more signatures for the next 10 days because we will leave no stone unturned in fixing this broken political system that currently rewards self-serving politicians and their lobbyist buddies.
The SCPR applauds the effort of the League of Women Voters/Voters First and Dan Scuiry.

Here is very interesting video of the SCPR's interview with Scuiry in which he speaks to the local effort to collect signatures.

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