Category: Redistricting

Public Comment on Federal Monument Designations (Privatizing National Parks)

You may remember an executive order signed in April, about getting the feds off land that’s currently protected, and selling it cheap to private owners. This is that process getting started. They’re about to open the public comment period. I don’t live near any of the parks they’re talking about (listed at the link), which are mostly in New Mexico, California, Colorado, Arizona, and other parts of the American West and Northwest. (There’s one in Maine, though.) Maybe check the list and see if you’re familiar with any of them and have a story about why they should stay (or go).

From Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s facebook page:

The Department of the Interior is the steward of America’s greatest treasures and the manager of one-fifth of our land. Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent. Today’s action, initiating a formal public comment process, finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations. There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument that is being reviewed. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.

DETAILS

Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

DATES: The Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date.

Proposed Designs for Trump’s Border Wall

Border wall bids include tourist attraction, solar panels” — the Associated Press

Some of the long-shot bids are pretty fun, including forming an autonomous shared state in between the US and Mexico – sort of a Vatican of culture, full of libraries, art galleries, makerspaces, and a hyperloop. Otra Nation, I love your hustle.


Listen to this charming jargon: “Otra Nation is a regenerative territory open to citizens of both Mexico and the United States… the world’s first continental bi-national socio-ecotone.” I have no idea what socio-ecotone means! But this would be the first!

We Don’t Need No Education

(Not satire) “Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s bill is only a page long, after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018. […] Seven other Republicans signed on to Massie’s bill: House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Raúl Labrador (Idaho).”

Dream bigger, y’all. Let’s amend this bill to abolish the congressional seats of Thomas Massie (Ky), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Justin Amash (Mich.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Walter Jones (N.C.), and Raúl Labrador (Idaho). A small government’s better, right? Let’s agree we don’t need any of you.

GOP lawmaker proposes abolishing Department of Education,” at The Hill

Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap

You probably know about the Hillary Clinton popular vote lead. Less well known is the degree to which gerrymandering is affecting downballot races. For instance, in 2012, when Republicans won a 33-seat majority in the house? Democrats got 1.7 million more votes. It’s not our messaging that’s a problem, or even our turnout. It’s maps. (Anybody who is about to jump in with “but the party in power has always” – NO. This is very different in degree. Plus wrong is wrong no matter who did it.)

The Supreme Court has ruled this unconstitutional, repeatedly, because duh. It violates all kinds of equal protection promises in the law. The problem has been finding a standard, a test, that can be applied by different people with different ideologies and come to the same conclusion about whether or not a given map is too gerrymandered. It’s essentially the obscenity problem, or the art problem. At what point does something shift from pushing-the-envelope to illegal? “I know it when I see it” is insufficient for the courts.

We might finally have a test, and we might be able to get it in play in time for the redistrictings that will happen after the 2020 census (and be able to use it in legal challenges before then). This is IMPORTANT MATH Y’ALL. Big ups to math. If you have a fear of word problems, OVERCOME. Here’s the explanation of the formula, courtesy of Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern:

Smith and the CLC believe they have found the right standard in the work of two scholars, Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos and Eric M. McGhee. This formula—called the “efficiency gap”—cites two types of “wasted votes” in the redistricting process: “lost votes” cast in favor of a defeated candidate, and “surplus votes” cast in favor of a winning candidate that weren’t actually necessary for the candidate’s victory. The efficiency gap is, in Stephanopoulos’ words, “the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast.”

This formula may sound like an oddly technical method for ensuring basic representational equality. When both Democrats and Republicans waste roughly the same number of votes, the efficiency gap is near zero. That means voters on both sides had a fair shot at securing their desired representation. When a party gerrymanders its opponents into the minority, however, it will “waste” fewer votes than its opponents, causing the efficiency gap to rise. A historical analysis of elections across from the country since 1972 suggests that an efficiency gap of 7 percent will entrench the majority party’s power until new maps are drawn. Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn gerrymander has an efficiency gap of 13 percent, meaning a huge number of Wisconsinites are currently deprived of their representational rights solely because they are Democrats.

Needless to say, this is also a pretty firm rebuttal to the idea that Republican control of state legislatures is a “mandate” that indicates the American people love their platform. Maps. It’s maps. It’s REDMAP.

Move Boston to Atlantic Time

“A newly established commission is expected to meet at the State House for the first time on Jan. 11 to study whether to move Massachusetts into Atlantic Standard Time all year. Moving the clock one hour ahead permanently would give us more afternoon sunlight in winter, and end the collective jet lag felt by the hour loss in March.”

DO IT

Talking Points: Time zones in Legislature’s hands, Mass. economic forecast, and more,” by George Brennan, The Boston Globe