Thereís a saying that a society can be judged on how it treats the people with the least - the least money, the least power, the least influence.
If that adage were applied to the Texas Legislature and how it treated Somervell County in last summerís redistricting process, we all need to move to a foreign country. Like New Jersey. Heck, its governor might even run for president and he has a funny accent, too.
First the Leg, called into special session by Gov. Rick Perry, proposed appending the county to a district that stretched west and included Midland. Now donít we have a lot in common with that community? Werenít our interests well represented in that map?
I weighed in on that convoluted proposal this past summer. But protests from commentators, other legislators and even constituents fell on deaf ears. I traveled to Austin and sat in one of the redistricting hearings to watch the proceedings.
Some members of the committee conducting the hearings didnít even bother to show up. Some of those who did didnít seem that interested as party after party - including representatives of Travis County - stood up and gave their spiel. It smacked of going through the motions of listening after the decision already had been made.
I covered a redistricting special session way back in 1981 when, fresh out of college and still idealistic, I expected more. I expected legislators to view the process of redrawing maps to redistribute voting power after a new Census was taken to be almost sacred and taken seriously.
Instead, what ensued were weeks of political back-stabbing, cronyism and protection of self interests. But where were the peopleís interests?
Itís 30 years later and Iím asking that question again.
Somervell County has now been lumped into congressional District 25 that starts at the Johnson-Tarrant county lines and heads south all to the way to part of Travis County - as in Austin - and even part of Hays County.
When I told that to my best friend, who lives in Wimberley in Hays County, she didnít believe me at first. It was simply unbelievable.
The district was drawn that way for political reasons, of course - to make it more conservative and politically damage Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who will be forced to run in another district. Heís called the newly redrawn District 25 ďillegal.Ē
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department has filed its opposition, saying the District 25 map and others donít meet the basic requirement of the Voting Rights Act, which is supposed to protect minoritiesí votes from getting diluted and making it harder for a minority to be elected. Minority groups and other parties have filed their own lawsuit contesting the maps in San Antonio.
Whatís most disturbing is that a small county like Somervell could be batted around like a football, plunked in one district going all the way into deep West Texas and then chunked in another district going all the way to Austin and south. Ah, guys, itís tinyÖjust stick it somewhere.
Now guess whose interests are going to take precedence if these district lines stand? Or even just get a fair hearing? Iím going out on a limb and just guessing itís where the population is greatest - Austin and its bedroom communities - and not a two-and-a-half hoursí drive north up the interstate.
The process has gotten so ridiculous that a couple of the candidates running for office - and a bunch are already lining up - are waiting to see where the district lines end up so they can move! Thatís right, some of them donít even live in the district as itís currently drawn. And they sure arenít planning to move to Somervell County.
The situation now is out of our hands as constituents. Itís highly likely that judges in Washington, D.C., are going to decide whether our new congressional district and others in Texas are fair and equitable.
Iíve said this before and Iím going to say it again - thereís got to be a better way to carve up congressional districts after each Census reveals population shifts. Putting it in the hands of political cronies is a recipe for gerrymandering. If lots of others said it, maybe some of our elected officials might listen. Throw some money behind it with a big fundraiser and they really might.
This political football game of redistricting has gone into overtime long enough. Flags are on the field. The players are tearing at each othersí facemasks and engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct. Many of us watching on the sidelines are no longer fans of the process. Instead, weíre booing both teams.