News from the Keystone State: Pennsylvania Update
Two interesting stories from Pennsylvania…one from each side of the state:
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, a story about how now deceased Rep. John Murtha’s House of Reps. seat will likely disappear:
The candidate who succeeds the late Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.) in a special election this spring might not want to buy a home in Washington.
That’s because demographers estimate that Pennsylvania will lose at least one seat in the decennial reapportionment of House seats among the states after the 2010 Census – and some political analysts believe the 12th District would be an easy target for state lawmakers reshuffling boundaries before the 2012 elections.
Murtha’s district, which looks somewhat like a crustacean spread over parts of nine counties, was itself gerrymandered into existence to save his job a decade ago, after the Census determined that Pennsylvania would lose two representatives because of sluggish population growth relative to other states.
Even Republicans – who then controlled the state House, Senate, and governor’s office – did not want to lose Murtha or the billions of dollars he steered to Pennsylvania as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of defense spending.
Murtha, who died at 77 of complications from gallbladder surgery, was buried Tuesday in Johnstown.
IT HAS BEEN almost 10 years since the last redistricting battle was slugged out in City Council, but the wounds are still raw.
That fight, which centered on the Latino composition of upper North Philly’s 7th District and pitted the mayor against the Council president, dragged on so long that Council members went nearly five months without pay.
The final 10-district map featured three twisted, elongated districts that practically define gerrymandering. And during the period without pay, Councilman Rick Mariano took bribes to cover his bills – a decision that landed him in the clink.
“For my colleagues, every time you mention redistricting it’s like a bad toothache,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who represents the 7th District.
Unsurprisingly, much of Council isn’t exactly excited about revisiting the issue. But next spring, after the 2010 census, they’ll have to redraw the district lines again based on the new population numbers.
The current districts were drawn so each would have about 150,000 residents – or about 10 percent of the city’s population in 2000 – but population shifts inevitably change those numbers, forcing the decennial remap.
After the census numbers are released April 1, 2011, Council must pass a plan and get mayoral approval within six months. If it misses that deadline, Council members’ pay will be withheld – as stated in the Home Rule Charter – which has happened the last two times.
Former Councilman Angel Ortiz, who served as an at-large member during the 1991 and 2001 redistricting debates, said members should buckle their seat belts.
“Rick Mariano threatened to throw me out the window last time,” Ortiz said. “I think it’s going to be a struggle. I think a lot of friendships on City Council may be frayed at the end of this.”