Tuesday, December 07, 2004


The latest political weapon: Redistricting

In King County Washington, which contains Seattle, Initiative 18 (I-18) was passed by the voters in this past election. It required that the number of County Council districts be reduced from 13 to 9 and that redrawing the districts be accomplished by January 15.

The initiative was tantamount to a generic recall, or an election in which "None of the above" wins. (How often have we longed for such an option!). The problem is that I-18 was not specific as to who should lose.

Reminiscent of the Texas Congressional redistricting, the County Council is in quite a tizzy as to how the new lines are to be drawn, since four Councilmen must give up their seats. Two of the Council members are "moving on" anyway, so that leaves two to be eliminated.

I will not delve into the machinations and skulduggery that are undoubtedly rampant in the redistricting process, since I don't live in Washington and I really don't care. And for all I know King County may have more commissioners than it knows what to do with—but it was the impetus for the redistricting that caught my eye.

According to an earlier story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

The Corrections Guild started I-18 and gathered nearly 71,000 voters' signatures, more than enough to qualify it for the ballot, in apparent retaliation after the council last year reduced the number of jail guard positions in the 2003 budget. The council did so to deal with a $50 million projected deficit in the county general fund and also reduced the council's own budget.

In other words, the jail guards were sufficiently organized and powerful to take revenge, however non-specific. Of course they were aided and abetted by those guardians of good government and high incarceration rates—who else?—the right-wing Republicans.

Seattle is blessed by the presence of Tim Eyman, whom the Post-Intelligencer refers to as "the initiative king." Eyman had said he was sponsoring the redistricting initiative for free, but after it was approved for the ballot, the Corrections Guild slipped him an honorarium of $20,000 anyway. You will be relieved to know that Eyman said he will use the money to pay down his mortgage, "not Hawaii trips or something like that."

While the Left babbles on about the death of the union movement, there is one section of the workforce that is more unionized and more powerful than ever—prison guards and police. This fall in King County, Washington, they were able to reorganize the government.

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