Writings and observations

RO remap: Point, counterpoint

albany
Redistricting at Albany/Randy Stapilus

Saturday’s last of the road trip public hearings on Oregon redistricting brought to mind an old newspaper story.

Some years ago the company that owned the two daily newspapers at Albany (the Democrat Herald) and Corvallis (the Gazette Times) decided that the two papers, located only 10 miles apart on opposing sides of the Willamette, should be merged. Not an unusual idea; the Northwest has plenty of such examples. But in this case when the idea was announced, both communities erupted into such uproar that the company actually backed off, settling for a merger only of the Sunday edition.

Corvallis – as witness after witness noted at the hearing at Linn-Benton Community College at Albany pointed out – is a university and high tech town, while Albany is blue-collar, a farm and manufacturing town. And never the twain should meet in a legislative district, apparently (notwithstanding the irony of meeting at an institution called “Linn-Benton”). Although both cities are located in one Senate district.

As everywhere else, no one wanted their own community divided between districts. But also as everywhere else, almost every value judgement was countered by another. The hearings demonstrate that, among other things, it’ll be possible to offer some kind of justification to almost any map that emerges.

One witness complained about Linn County being split into three districts; another pointed out that meant a larger legislative delegation. One liked the idea of including Oregon State University (Corvallis) and the University of Oregon (Eugene) in a single congressional idea, as a community of interest; another (on the OSU faculty) urged they be kept separate, on grounds that “two voices are better than one” and that a single member of Congress for both might be put in the position of advocating for one of them at the expense of the other. Is Philomath, a small town about five miles west of Corvallis, more aligned with Corvallis, or with the rural timber and farming communities to its north and west? Both sides were argued.

It was not a heavily attended meeting, and one of the shorter (about 90 minutes long). But as at the others, it did not lack for developing ideas to chew over.

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