ErbCane

Redistricting Craze hits Spokane

The Chief was looking for a patsy, somebody to cover the redistricting committee's meeting with Spokane's New Improved City Council. I happened to be the only person still sober on Monday January 4, 2000, at 5:30 P.M. I figured this little thing would be perfect to put me to sleep tonight. Boy was I wrong!

David Bray wrote the charter change to create the new system. I placed myself strategically within earshot as the meeting got under way.

Right off the bat, the committee asked for ten grand for legal advice, a hired facilitator, and expense money. It landed on the city council and Bray like a right cross. Bray was clearly hobbled. The council, used to such blows was only slightly stunned.

Bray tried a weak counter. "The whole thing was written in the simplest of terms," he said. "Anyone with a calculator and a map should be able to do it in an evening." What a sap! It was obvious Bray was a rookie. This guy had no idea how the game is played in the big leagues.

I think it was Mel Brooks who once wrote, if you want to screw something up give it to a committee. If you really want to bury it give it to a committee with academicians on it. I glanced quickly at the committee roster. Bingo! One of the committee members was John Kohls, an associate professor at one of Spokane's urban catholic universities. Bray was in real trouble.

Professor Kohl, with great philosophical insight, pointed out that each district is to be roughly equal in population. Then he hammered the unsuspecting Bray with the question, what does roughly equal mean?

"If it's 10 percent off, is that too much? Or 5 percent? How close does it have to be?" Bray dropped to his knees, blood running from his nose.

Kohl continued to hammer away. What about the shape of the districts, professor? "There could be a lot of gray areas there," he replied. That did it, Bray was out cold. It was a distressing sight. His right eye was swollen shut, blood dripped from one ear. His corner men hoped there wasn't permanent brain damage.

I thought the shape question was legitimate. Are trapezoids allowed? Do the shapes have to be roughly equal in size? Will Hillyard be allowed in?

I couldn't resist. Excuse me professor, let's say you get the districts set up and approved. Two days before the election a meteorite wipes out half of one district. Obviously, the population ratios are thrown off. Does this mean another redistricting must take place before the election can be held?

Professor Kohl's eyebrows furrowed low over his eyes. He frowned a great frown. That's just another reason we need sound legal advice, he said.

I love Spokane.