‘Undistricting’ takes away local voices and representatives

In recent weeks, we’ve seen the impending changes to the House and Senate district maps in Kentucky. Establishment Republican Representatives and Senators are proud to have been able, for the first time in modern history, to shape the maps of the districts.

For many, the redistricting leads to the feeling of being cut off from their neighborhood. In large parts of Boone County, neighbors may or may not have had stable representation from people who have been in office for some time. We know our senator and our representatives well. We see them at restaurants and at county events. We know their families and sometimes they know ours.

Recently, Omaha Trace neighborhoods at Triple Crown, Heritage Trails, Steeplechase, The Downs, Walton and many more were “undistricted”. These neighborhoods have been moved away from the neighborhoods we have been a part of for decades. Instead of being represented by people from our neighborhood, these neighborhoods were placed in neighborhoods that span several counties to the south – with odd lines drawn around a street or two placing them in neighborhoods with elected officials who live an hour away.

The problem here is that this area and other areas that are not demarcated have worked to elect or sometimes de-elect their representatives. From now on, they will have no voice due to the geography and different demographics of the new neighborhood. When a ward is undistricted and placed in a district that historically covers most two-county voters, what vote will that ward have in electing its state representative? The issues are very different. Local concerns are very different and the voices of these communities will not be heard.

On Richwood Road, for example, the neighborhoods mentioned above had Sal Santoro (60) as their representative. Mr Santoro is widely, at least locally, credited for the construction project which widens the road and will eventually alleviate the huge traffic problems here. At a recent community event with a Boone County Commissioner and county staff, community members were asking questions about the slow progress of the project. The response from the county folks was that they will make sure Mr. Santoro is aware and since he sits on the transportation committee that oversees these projects, he will communicate your concerns and get things done. This is how things are supposed to work. Local affairs handled by local elected officials. After all, Mr. Santoro travels this road daily.

This is how the leadership of the Kentucky House of Representatives proposes to redraw the legislative districts of the Commonwealth from 2022.

Now, after these neighborhoods are undistricted, removed and placed in three separate neighborhoods, with the dividing lines being small cul-de-sacs and sometimes even along Richwood Road. The two new District Representatives (District 61 and 78) for this area live an hour away and will never use these roads and therefore are unlikely to pay attention to the concerns of these neighborhoods.

Take other important issues for example. These neighborhoods, with the exception of Walton, are within the Boone County School District. Mr. Santoro and Senator Schickel live and have neighbors whose children attend schools in Boone County. It gives them a reason to care and put pressure on issues that arise with our local school district. After those neighborhoods are removed from Mr. Santoro’s and Senator Schickel’s respective districts, the new representatives live at multiple school districts with very different and often opposing issues and problems. This begs the question: Will our new representatives push for what Boone County schools need or will they only push for what their own neighbors in their children’s school district need?

I can tell you that as a member of the Boone County School Board, this is a real concern. One-size-fits-all governance and politics, when it comes to state governance, don’t work with public education.

We will observe as one-district career politicians from neighborhoods from Walton-Verona to Triple Crown in southern Boone County and place in districts that extend to Falmouth and Dry Ridge in the counties of extreme south. Our current Representatives and new Representatives should know that drawing the districts to protect your elected positions in our state government for life by strategically dividing and diluting votes is wrong.

Being a Representative or State Senator was not meant to be a “forever” career. Boone County Families will be watching to make sure you listen to us and represent us, our families, our local businesses, our schools, our neighborhoods, and not just your own personal ambitions to retire with a state pension because that you could not be a chosen one after you demarcated our neighborhoods and silenced our collective voice by diluting and dividing our collective votes.

Jesse Parks is an elected member of the Boone County Board of Education, Division 3, which represents the areas he mentioned except Walton-Verona.

Jesse Parks

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