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May 20, 2013

SOUTHERN: District boundaries show lack of respect

— Cass County is home to many of us. It is a place where we feel comfortable and safe in raising our children. It isn’t the richest county in the state, but the people in it have a rich sense of community. It isn’t the poorest of the counties, but it does have a lot of low-income people residing within it. When donations are needed, someone, usually several someones, will come through and provide what is needed.

The people here, for the most part, are hard-working, down-to-earth people who make up the salt of the earth. They get a job, buy a house, raise their kids and plan for the future just like people in every other community in our great state. People here may be slightly more conservative than people in other areas, but not in a mean way. Their hearts are always open to those down and out or who need assistance. Most are much more liberal than even they realize when dealing with their fellow man. They do feel everyone should have an opportunity for an education. They do feel that everyone should be able to get a job they can live on. They do believe everyone should have adequate housing. They do believe all men should be equal before the law.

Most of us don’t like it that the state Republicans assume we will elect any Republican they select in our area. Nor, do we like it that those selected not only live elsewhere but have their hearts and minds centered elsewhere, but that is exactly what is happening. The citizens of Cass County are left to feel unimportant, unwanted and certainly unappreciated. Yet, in the next election we will come through and vote for those selected by the one Republican Party. Surely, there are qualified people living in Cass County of both parties to represent us. Why do we have to act like the state Republican Party is really helping us out because we are too dumb to help ourselves?

Let me ask you a few very pertinent questions. Who is our state representative? Who is our state senator? You probably know that Randy Head is our state senator, because he lives in Cass County and is very active in the community. However, I doubt you know our state representative. We actually have three state representatives, each serving a small portion of our county. What does that mean? It means in fact that we have no representation. These three representatives do not live in our county and we certainly are not top priority for them. Could you name them? Rep. Bill Friend represents the part of District 23 that is in Cass County. Heath VanNatter represents the part of Cass County in District 38. Don J. Lehe represents the part of Cass County in District 25. If you didn’t know your representative, I can see why. As important as it is to know who represents you, I can imagine no real reason why a county like Cass would be split up into three districts except to show it a lack of respect.

Senate and representative districts are set by the General Assembly after each census. The census takes places once each decade. How the districts are set is mostly determined not by keeping communities together, but how a party can maintain perpetual control of the General Assembly. The Districts were set by Republicans this time. So, it is going to be difficult for anyone but Republicans to get elected to the General Assembly. An aside, but Indiana badly needs an Election Commission who would set districts without regards to politics.

This division is what makes me think that Cass County gets no respect. They get no respect from state government and they get no respect from the Republican office-holders they elect most years. What could be done to us, politically, to make it look like we had less respect, I don’t know. We don’t really have any means of even complaining. I doubt that any of our representatives know our situation well enough to be interested or to make it a priority. So, we certainly cannot complain to them with effectiveness. I guess for the rest of this decade, there will be no real representation for Cass County. Equally scary is that the current districts are set up to be Republican so the same people will set the districts again next time. Can we expect better of them? I doubt it.

Our only hope may be to prevail on our state senator in 2020 for help in making all of Cass County a single district again. It seems like a long time for us to be humiliated and not shown respect, but that is the way the game is played. When you are out and about and run into state Sen. Randy Head, mention your concerns. Randy, if you are still our state senator in 2020, please do something to raise the level of respect given to Cass County by the legislators.

That is what I think. What do you think?

Gordon Southern is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at ptnews@pharostribune.com.

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