Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2002

New reapportionment proposal in the works

Congressional redistricting plan splits city down Mass. Street

March 13, 2002


— The best-known street in Lawrence would be split down the middle in a new plan to redraw Kansas congressional districts.

Despite protests from Lawrence officials, the chairman of the House redistricting committee predicted the panel today would approve the map that would leave the area east of Massachusetts Street in the 3rd Congressional District but move most of the city west of Massachusetts Street into the 2nd District.

A plan before the House Redistricting committee would split
Lawrence between the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts.
Massachusetts Street would be the dividing line.

A plan before the House Redistricting committee would split Lawrence between the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts. Massachusetts Street would be the dividing line.

"This is exactly what we wanted not to happen," Rep. Troy Findley, a Lawrence Democrat, said after the map was presented Tuesday.

If approved by the committee, the plan would go to the full House for a scheduled Friday debate.

"We realize there has to be a bunch of political give-and-take in this," Lawrence Mayor Mike Rundle said. "But if (legislators) can't do anything else, perhaps they could follow the Golden Rule. There's nobody else in the state who thinks it's a good idea (for their cities) to be split ... so I wish they would try to be rational in that sense, and be fair, and keep us whole."

Before the legislative session, Republican members of the committee approved new boundaries that split Lawrence along Iowa Street, so the Kansas University campus stayed in the 3rd District while the rest of the city's western areas were placed in the 2nd District.

'Least damage'

But a new map released Tuesday and supported by Rep. Mike O'Neal, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, would split Lawrence along Massachusetts Street.

O'Neal said the new map may be the one with the most Republican support.

"This does the least amount of damage" to the cores of the four congressional districts, O'Neal said. The Legislature redraws congressional boundaries every 10 years to accommodate population changes recorded in the national census.

All of Lawrence currently is in the 3rd District, which includes the Kansas City metropolitan area, and is represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, the only Democrat in the Kansas congressional delegation.

The 2nd District is represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Republican, and one of the most conservative members of Congress.

When legislators started the process of redrawing congressional boundaries, Lawrence officials asked that the city remain in the 3rd District, citing links to the Kansas City metro area.

Among those links: Thousands of Lawrence residents commute to the city every day on Kansas Highway 10, and KU has a campus in Overland Park and medical school in Kansas City.

As a second choice, Lawrence officials asked that the city be placed wholly in the 2nd District, rather than being split.

Political gain

Findley said Republicans were trying to gain political advantage through new political boundaries.

"The Republicans are in a quandary. They want to hurt Dennis Moore and not hurt Jim Ryun in the process. Keeping Lawrence in the 3rd helps Dennis, but putting it in the 2nd probably hurts Ryun. So they are going to split the difference and split the city.

"We should stay whole in the 3rd or in the 2nd," Findley said.

He pointed out that the new plan is such a dramatic change it would place Moore's Lawrence office, on the west side of Massachusetts Street, in Ryun's district.

But O'Neal said Lawrence has to be split. Dramatic population growth in the 3rd District means the district must give up population to even out the size of the remaining three districts.

Placing all of Lawrence in the 2nd would have a domino effect of drastically altering the remaining three districts to make room for Lawrence, he said.

'Just absurd'

Findley, however, said there is a way to keep Lawrence in the 3rd District, and that involves placing southern Johnson County in the 2nd. But Republicans have opposed splitting heavily Republican Johnson County.

Tim Holverson, vice president of public policy for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said officials there oppose any split, but one along Massachusetts Street "is just absurd."

"No one has ever been able to explain to us why a split is a good thing for Lawrence and is not a good thing for any place else in the state," he said.

The Senate redistricting committee has endorsed a map that would place Lawrence in the 2nd District, but the full Senate has been unable to vote on the measure because of opposition from Senate leaders.

Rita Haley, legislative reference librarian at the Kansas State Library, said there was no record that Lawrence had ever been split between congressional districts.

Staff writer Joel Mathis contributed to this report.

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