With 2020 census data now in hand, states have begun the task of drawing legislative district maps. For some states — like Illinois — this marks the beginning of what’s sure to be difficult process that will no doubt result in maps highly skewed in favor of Democrats, who control the House, the Senate and the governor’s mansion.
In fact, maps already drawn by Democrats and passed by state legislators — along party lines, of course — were immediately dubbed “strongly gerrymandered” by nonpartisan analysts. And now Republicans and other groups have filed several lawsuits. Gerrymandering is the skill honed by politicians over time to manipulate district boundaries to greatly favor one party over another.
That’s how it works in Illinois.
In Iowa, the process is just beginning, and it couldn’t look more different. Since 1970, the Iowa State Legislature has conducted redistricting via a bipartisan commission that, with nonpartisan legislative staff, draws maps based on criteria enshrined in state law. Then, the map goes to the Legislature for approval. If it fails on the first try, the Legislative Service Agency will develop a second map. If the second map fails, the Legislature can begin amending. Usually, it never even gets that far.
Iowa has the gold standard for drawing legislative maps. Illinois has one of the worst examples. Last time, Wisconsin’s maps were highly gerrymandered. This time around, many lawmakers and citizens are calling for change and a process more like Iowa’s. Wisconsin state officials should heed that call and provide fair maps for the people.
Dubuque residents interested in having a say on community transportation needs have an opportunity to weigh in on those issues. Additionally, Dubuque officials will host a virtual public meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, and topics will include bike or scooter sharing programs, curb management to accommodate new roadway users, automated/connected vehicle technology, smart infrastructure to better manage parking and transit equity.
If you or someone you know faces transportation challenges, city officials would like to hear more about these difficulties. Take the survey at cityofdubuque.org/transportationsurvey or register for the meeting at https://bit.ly/3DREQwc.
Feedback will help officials draft an action plan for implementing transportation and mobility strategies in Dubuque.
Transportation needs can be a significant obstacle for workers. Addressing mobility issues could mean building the community’s workforce.
It’s impressive to hear Dubuque County Sheriff Joe Kennedy talk of his department’s success with the house-arrest program revived over the past year. Since last fall, 77 people have used it to serve their sentences, with only one whose privileges were rescinded.
That’s highly successful, and the ramifications are significant. Using a house arrest program can lower the jail population, saving money and creating a better rehabilitation system while lessening the spread of illness (such as COVID-19) in crowded, confined spaces.
Reviving the monitored house-arrest program was one of those ideas that emerged amid the pandemic and makes sense to carry forward. Those in the program are monitored via an ankle bracelet by county jail staff and can only leave home to go to work or to attend to medical needs. Another side benefit — it keeps people in the workforce at a time when they are desperately needed.
Kudos to Kennedy and his team for exploring a fresh approach to the house arrest program and making it work for Dubuque County.