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Senate remap effort on road to disaster

April 2, 1992

One way to save Florida tons of money, and loads of embarrassment, would be to abolish the Senate.

No one would miss these bunglers, who are stinking up Tallahassee with their rotten, self-serving politics. While the state rapidly goes broke, senators remain pathologically obsessed with redistricting. Translation: saving their own sorry butts.

Republicans want more Republican districts, Democrats want to cling to what they've got. The logjam has paralyzed government. On Tuesday, the Senate froze 20-20 on a vote to adjourn. That's how bad things are.

Voters aren't the only ones to be nauseated. Last week, a panel of federal judges intervened to snatch redistricting powers from the Legislature. Barring a last-minute miracle at the Capitol, boundaries for new legislative and congressional districts will be drawn by a nonpartisan expert, and ratified by the judges in late May.

That's the best news Floridians could get. It's painfully clear that politicians can't be trusted with such important matters.

To appreciate the Senate's miserably irresponsible performance, look no farther than its president, Gwen Margolis, a Democrat from North Dade.

Margolis is full of ambition. She wants to run for Congress in one of two new districts that will be mostly Hispanic. At the same time, she doesn't want to give up her power base in North Dade and Miami Beach. So what does she do? She tailors a new congressional district to fit her desired demographics.

To an untrained eye, the proposed boundaries look like the etchings of a mapmaker on heavy pharmaceuticals. In reality, it's a masterpiece of diabolical gerrymandering.

The Margolis Magical Mystery Tour starts in South Beach and steam-rolls up the coast to Hallandale. There it shrinks weirdly to a one-block-wide corridor, sneaks up to Dania, darts back down to Pembroke Park, hopscotches west to Miramar, slithers south to Hialeah, then angles sharply toward Sweetwater. From there the boundary meanders east, grazing Little Havana and parts of Over town on its journey back to the Miami River.

Nobody said the road to Congress was easy, but this is ridiculous. Some of Margolis' colleagues don't like the map, and now it's a bargaining point: Republicans won't approve the new congressional boundaries unless she approves more GOP seats in the Legislature. The Senate has fought to an impasse.

Seeking compromise, seven Democrats recently endorsed a congressional map drawn by Common Cause, a citizens' lobby. Margolis rejected the plan because it put her in the same district with Dante Fascell, who's not about to surrender his seat.

Margolis isn't the only one playing games. Members of both parties are consumed by fear that redistricting will put them out of office, or stack them against a formidable opponent. They all want a clear, breezy path to re-election.

If only they'd spend half as much time, energy and imagination trying to fix the budget. Instead it's the raw, greedy politics of self-preservation.

While the Senate snivels and stalls, our schools run out of money. New prisons remain unopened. Hospitals cut back vital services to the poor. It's a disgrace, but neither Margolis nor the others seem the least bit ashamed.

With the feds drawing up the new districts, she probably won't be getting that free ride to Congress in November. That means her amazing psychedelic map will go to waste. Perhaps voters can think of a suitable place for her to put it.


Junkets show politics isn a thankless job May 1,1991 | Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen | State lobbyists may be pulled out of shadows February 18, 1993







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