Tag Archives: Town Crier

Another rough draft op-ed.

Please let me know what you think of this.
Who knew that a political practice invented 207 years ago in Massachusetts would have so much effect on current politics in Florida? That’s right kids, it’s time to talk about gerrymandering again, that practice first used by Gov. Elbridge Gerry in 1812 as a way to have better control over sparring political parties in his state and effectively control his bid for reelection. Florida is now one of the worst offenders in this practice, especially through the southeast part of the state. And an upcoming election is a prime example of how gerrymandering has been used to control Florida’s elections and partisan representation in the state Legislature.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Pete Burkert, a Democrat from Ft. Myers, is running for the Florida Senate seat of District 27. Currently occupied by Democrat Dave Aronberg, who announced his resignation to pursue the title of Florida Attorney General, District 27 spans five counties — Palm Beach, Hendry, Glades, Charlotte and Lee counties — and includes parts of Wellington and Loxahatchee. The people of Lee County have been lobbying for years to have representation from their county; however, the gerrymandering process has sliced and diced the county into three districts, none of which have a State Senator from Lee County.

The newest move of the Democratic Party to select a representative from Ft. Myers to run for the currently-Democratic seat in District 27 seems like an attempt to placate a group of people who are tired of being disenfranchised. However, why should the people of the western communities in Palm Beach County have to sacrifice representation so that people on the opposite side of the state will feel that they now have full representation for themselves? Here lies the primary flaw of gerrymandering, perfectly summed up by now-President Barack Obama in a quote from 2006: “Our representatives are selecting their voters, as opposed to the voters selecting the representatives.”

Essentially, most politicians don’t want districts that are non-partisan and contiguous. This makes their job more difficult. They have to pay more attention to census statistics, and send out surveys asking what the voters want in a representative. Why go through all of that when they can just appeal to the state legislature when the time comes for redistricting, and beg for a district shaped like a caterpillar that encompasses primarily lower-income Caucasians who vote along the Republican Party line? In a 2007 opinion piece written in support of redistricting following the 2004 elections, Aronberg stated, “The political process benefits when candidates must reach out to voters from other political parties. But when districts are drawn so that only a Republican or only a Democrat can be elected, the other part of the electorate can be ignored. The result is more hard-line conservatives and liberals and fewer moderates.”

There is a way to fix the nest of snakes that tries to pass itself off as a district map: following the census in 2010, the process of redistricting will again take place. A non-partisan group that claims no affiliation to the state Legislature must be allowed to take charge and work to draw the district lines along existing geographical landmarks that are more reasonable than those already in place. If this is done, the state will be one step closer to a fair vote, instead of the calculated manipulation of voters that has taken place for the past three decades under the rule of both Republicans and Democrats.

We would like to encourage everyone to contact your voting precinct to obtain a constitutional amendment petition form (request the form for the non-partisan redistricting petition). You must be registered to vote to fill out the form, and you may not fill it out more than once. For more information on what is being done to ensure a non-partisan redistricting, visit http://www.fairdistrictsflorida.org.

A lesson in patience and persistence.

The past two weeks have been chock-full of lessons.

The first was a lesson in time management. Last week, I ended up with eight assignments for the Town-Crier, six with bylines. The first was a photography assignment at Whole Foods in Wellington on Saturday, June 13. The event was an arts and crafts project where children made Father’s Day cards by marbling paper with shaving cream. I ran around writing down every child’s name and age, then realized later that I didn’t need their ages. My editor actually scolded me for including ages in cutlines. That was my lesson on knowing how much I need to do before I go into an assignment so that I don’t kill myself for nothing.

The second was another photography assignment later that same Saturday at Palm Beach International Raceway. I stood in the hot sun for two hours with nary a race to be seen. The cars were late getting on to the track, and it was pushing 110 degrees. I, being the brain surgeon I am, was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt in an attempt to look semi-professional. I sweltered, and that was my lesson in properly thinking through my attire.

The third assignment was on Monday morning at Wycliffe Golf and Country Club. The USGA was holding a junior girls’ qualifier that I was assigned to photograph. I got to the location and was offered a driver and golf cart to take me out to the sixteenth and seventeenth holes. I took three shots and realized that there was something wrong with my camera. Luckily I live 10 minutes from Wycliffe. The driver of the golf cart was gracious enough to drive me to my car. I sped home, diagnosed the issue and hurried back. That was my lesson in testing my equipment before heading out on assignment.

Three of the other assignment were basic enough to the point where I was not very involved with them. One was a meeting of the Acreage Landowners Association, where I was instructed to write a wrap-up of the event. That was my lesson in plundering articles from the past that relate to mine.

Two of the assignments were opinion pieces. One was about fireworks. I busted my hump putting together safety tips and information about Fourth of July events in the western communities. Apparently it sucked. The Executive Editor went through and changed everything. I was disappointed, but that was my lesson in writing down instructions and paying more attention. That was also a lesson in keeping my mouth shut. The second opinion piece was a topic that I suggested: Father’s Day. I think I wrote a pretty good one there. The article was pointed, and I wasn’t just spewing out facts the way I tried to with the fireworks bit. The difference, I believe, was that the fireworks opinion wasn’t mine, but the Father’s Day one was. That was my lesson in putting my heart into everything I write and finding an angle I’m happy with.

Right now, I’m trying to write an article about the school grades that were released last week. Three high schools in the western communities dropped a grade level, although one maintained the same number of points from last year. I’ve been trying to contact the principals of these three schools for two days, but they will not call me back. I finally decided to ambush them this afternoon. One scheduled a meeting for me early tomorrow morning, and I left messages with the other two. This has been my lesson in patience and persistence. I’m not going to stop until I speak to all three of the principals tomorrow morning.