Friday, December 2, 2011

First Thoughts on Council Redistricting

Though I've commented on other forums, I've been hesitant to comment on my own blog because I really wanted to fully educate myself on the issue of council redistricting and the adjustment of precincts. I mean yeah, they released these half-assed in the early afternoon two days before Thanksgiving, and four public meetings have been called sporadically and pretty much only posted about on a handful of websites.

But I digress.

Say what you will about Mayor Greg Ballard and his major initiative pushes such as the water company sale and the parking meter deal, but I think he had some pretty good marketing people. Even though I was harshly critical of both deals, I always had councilors and contacts on the 25th floor who would answer my questions and engage me in civil discussion. Both of those big pushes were stretched out over several months. Yes, it was mostly a dog-and-pony show in public forums, but at least they existed and it appeared at least some people appeared to be think they were genuinely working for the people.

In this case, this is a completely political move from this "non-political" mayor, Greg Ballard, and Council President Ryan Vaughn.

Let's first establish this. David Brooks, the attorney that Vaughn unilaterally hired to do the reprecincting and redistricting, is a blatant political figure. Brooks, a longtime figure of Marion County GOP politics, is the chairman for Center Township. Ironic, considering he lives in Hamilton County.

He also doesn't come off as very friendly, or someone who has spent a lot of time in public life. I don't know what area of law Brooks practices in, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's an area of law where he spends a lot of time pouring over thick legal books in some office. He got a bit testy tonight to some Democrats in the audience, as well as representatives of Common Cause Indiana and the League of Women Voters. Say what you will about the Ballard folks, but most of them have been able to keep their cool even when being questioned. They might DODGE the question, but they don't resort to sighing loudly or try to completely ignore the person asking the question.

Oh, did you want to see specific maps of the districts? With like, streets and stuff? Then come on up to this HUGE table with a bunch of folders...that's kind of confusing and intimidating. It might be a bit confusing, because it's based on the old precincts. Or it's based on the new precincts, but those aren't approved yet. Or something. I kind of got lost. Brooks also doesn't really know how to project his voice, so it was hard to make out what he was saying at times.

I asked a question both about the legality and the timing of this.

I quoted Indiana Code, which states (emphasis by me in bold):

So I asked him if it's legal. Brooks simply responded "Yes, it's legal" and then was silent for a few seconds and was looking for a sign that I was satisfied with that answer. I wasn't, and I don't think anyone else in the room was either. So he expanded on it saying that it can be done this year, but it also must be done next year. He theorized that it could be as simple as re-affirming what happened this year.

I also asked about the timing. Yes, I wanted to ask about the $225,000 payment he got, and how much work he actually did, and all that jazz, but I'd be hitting a stonewall. So I went for the quick argument. They introduce this thing at 1pm two days before Thanksgiving, schedule four meetings in various parts of town at the last minute, are introducing this Dec 5, and are expecting a vote Dec 19th from the full council. And at some point, a committee hearing is going to be held as well. Maybe that's a bit too close for the Holidays? Maybe some councilors will be out of town? Maybe some citizens who'd like to pay closer attention would be out of town?

Brooks suggests that the council could review this and take it under advisement, but that's simply not true. Dec 31, 2011, at 11:59pm, all legislation pending in the council dies as the clock hits midnight, including this redistricting if it doesn't pass.

One of the first questions Brooks was asked was why Irvington was broken up into three different council districts. After this was mentioned. Brooks had this stunned look on his face, as if he was just now learning about this information.

Oh, and this was preceded by a bunch of banter about keeping "communities of interest" together. Apparently, "communities of interest" is code for packing a bunch of Democratic leaning voters together in a handful of districts, but splitting up neighborhoods that, if done right, can lean Republican.

Also, why am I talking about Brooks so much? He isn't an elected official. He can't really address the legislative aspect of redistricting. But not a single elected Republican was there. Only one councilor, Brian Mahern, bothered to show up. Though honestly, a lot of the bickering between Mahern and Brooks lacked substance. One extended debate was about access to the redistricting software, and Brooks mentioned he only had a one-use license. Software licensing is really expensive, and purchasing a multi-use license for something you only use once every four years might not be the wisest fiscal move.

But Mahern does get credit for getting Brooks to admit that he met with absolutely no one while redoing the precincts and redistricting the districts.

Overall, this was a complete waste of time to attend. I'd encourage anyone who was planning on attending next Tuesday's event to just go to your favorite bar and have a few drinks. You won't have learned anything about how redistricting works, but hey, at least you'll be a bit drunk.


  1. Brooks is an election law attorney,he also chases ambulances in his spare time. What you saw last night was typical unless your sitting in a tree stand with him.

  2. Here is an example of some more of Brooks' current shenanigans:


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