Steve Hartgen’s op-ed piece about re-districting was, as always, well written. I can understand why he is concerned because Twin Falls could suddenly elect a Democrat in the next election. There is ample evidence to suggest that, if not for the overwhelming turnout to vote for Republican Donald Trump in the last election, he would have been beaten by Catherine Talkington, and Deborah Silver would have beaten Lee Heider.
Steve’s reference to a doughnut hole used is not only an apt geographical description of Legislative District 24, but alsoa reference to the widely unpopular feature of all Medicare Part D plans implemented in the Bush administration. I disagree with him, however, that the boundaries of District 24, most of the city of Twin Falls, fit the classic definition of a gerrymandered district. A case can be made, I think, that District 24 is also of benefit to the residents of the city of Twin Falls and the county of Twin Falls.
Although it has only recently become designated as a metropolitan district statistically, the city of Twin Falls has been urban for a couple of decades at least. I am not alone in thinking of a drive to Buhl or Burley as going on a drive through the country. Having legislators whose primary emphasis is representing rural interests or urban interests is a plus. Partisanship matters little in Idaho districts. The number of registered party line voters throughout Idaho is smaller than those who have no party affiliation registered or who do not automatically vote a straight ticket. Most people vote with a thought to their particular issues.
Two examples of urban interests which seem less significant in agricultural areas are local-option taxing and state-mandated rejection of plastic bag bans. Large groups of closely lodged people often see the growth of plastic bags as an avoidable nuisance or an environmental malady. Less populated areas, not so much. The Legislature, with Hartgen’s vote, has prohibited any local jurisdiction from banning plastic bags as a gift to the Jerome bag manufacturer. I doubt that any ban would have impacted them at all.
Twin Falls spends considerable tax revenue in providing city services to individuals who do not reside in the city but spend most of their day here. Many city officials, business people and beleaguered tax payers would like the option of adding a (small) percentage onto sales tax collected in the city to offset these expenses. Hartgen has always joined his House Republican colleagues in opposing allowing city voters to vote on a local-option tax.
While the city and county do coordinate on public policy, they have diverse scopes of concern. It is a good thing to have the legislators who represent the county be more obligated to agricultural and land-use issues. Fewer urban dwellers are involved in the land-use debates which are vital to agricultural interests. They can vote for each other’s bills, but they don’t have to become experts on the issues that don’t impact their voters.
Our bipartisan system of setting representational boundaries is the envy of the states whose gerrymandering has drawn ridiculous boundaries. Why should we adopt the partisan model which Hartgen suggests when what we have is working so well? One theme I hope I am stressing in my columns is that good public policy should be as nonpartisan as possible. Political parties serve a useful purpose when they support candidates and positions popular within their membership, but to think of our two-party system as an all or nothing, winner take all, or king of the hill system breeds chaos and disunity. We are the United States, after all.