Another Chris Satullo Article in the Inquirer on Gerrymandering

This is the fourth article in his series asking for reform however Rep. Josephs and the Pa legislative gang are stalling in hopes to keep their powers of control on the Representatives and Senators. Please continue to email Josephs and leave voice messages using contact info at the end of his article or that located on my various links and pages. Spread the word to friends and family. Time is running out on us.

Ride with me as I defy death by merging onto northbound Route 309 at Fort Washington. How ’bout we let that Hummer barrel past? (Nice mileage, pal!) Now, we spot an opening and zoom it.There, we’re on. In the seconds that took, we moved from the 153d State House Legislative District into the 151st. And in the time it took to say that, presto, we’re in the 148th!

Yet we’ve never left Upper Dublin Township, Montgomery County. Three districts in 20 seconds, and we still haven’t fully sampled the gerrymandered cornucopia that is Upper Dublin. Its 26,000 souls are divvied up among four legislative districts and two congressional districts.

But, hey, my hurtling Altima has nothing on a cow sitting in a field near the Montgomery County village of Sanatoga. If that cow plumps itself down just right, chewing its cud, gazing at the Limerick cooling towers, its brisket can be in one congressional district (the 6th), its tenderloin in a second (the 15th), and its tail in a third (the 13th).

These are the silly, arbitrary results of the way Harrisburg draws political maps. Gerrymandering is a corrupt system of incumbent-coddling, which the Capitol’s old guard is deploying its tricks to preserve. A public clamor supports several reform measures now in play that call for sane, nonpartisan rules for shaping election districts. But the bills have been stranded in committee.

Like Desmond and Said bolting from the island on Lost, a middling reform did sneak out of a Senate committee this week. But that scheming Benjamin Linus has nothing on the Senate’s leaders. They let the bill win a show vote to vent public pressure, but even so, the bill has no more chance of survival than poor ol’ Claire.

In the House, a similar bill remains locked in The Hatch, a.k.a. Babette Josephs’ committee. Get this: The Philadelphia Democrat is a co-sponsor of the very bill she’s deep-sixing! Dems leader William DeWeese wants no part of it, so Josephs is doing her “duty.”

The pols desperately want to retain power to draw the lines after the 2010 census so they can protect their jobs. Their model is former Speaker John Perzel, who, after a re-election scare, reshaped his district into a bizarre, Perzel-friendly pterodactyl.

The pols want you to think this is so much inside baseball. But giving them the power to draw these maps really amounts to giving them the power to ignore you, to thwart reform, to cater to moneyed interests, to live the good life of unchallenged power and free-flowing perks.

It’s a game both parties play. Republicans got to embarrass the commonwealth last time, making it the second-worst-gerrymandered state in the union. But in a divided General Assembly, no one’s sure which party will hold the mapmaking pen (computer mouse, really) after the 2010 election and census.

So power brokers of both parties share the goal of running out the clock on reform. To take effect in time, the fullest reforms need to pass before the summer recess.

The bill Josephs has blocked boasts 93 sponsors besides her. That’s only nine short of passage. No doubt, a floor vote would expose some fake reformers who’d bail. All the more reason to insist on a full vote to spotlight the hypocrites.

In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County gets to make the call on whether to allow a floor vote on the bill the committee OKd. Don’t hold your breath.

To watch Harrisburg at work is to be trained in cynicism. But you know what? Cynicism is the refuge of the scared and self-defeating.

Remember, public outrage got that pay raise repealed and other useful reforms passed. The old hands are betting that you’ll grow bored with holding them to account.

So don’t.

One more time, to your phones and keyboards. Keep the pressure on; insist on full votes on gerrymandering reform. At the very least, smoke out the fakers.

Tell Pileggi (717-787-4712), DeWeese (717-783-3797) and Josephs (215-893-1515) you demand a vote on these reforms. Tell your representatives how you want them to vote (find e-mail addresses at

Don’t let these people get their way, smiling smugly. Tell them you can smell betrayal from a hundred miles away. Tell them the stench will still be in your nostrils come next Election Day.


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