JEFF LYTLE: Sept. 4, 2011 ... What did we see when redistricting panel stopped by?

JEFF LYTLE
Photo with no caption

We saw quite a spectacle when the Florida Legislature’s redistricting road show came through Naples.

We saw a slice of the real deal — such as it is, for better or for worse or for something else — on our own home field.

Now we’ll see what happened.

We’ll see if anything made a difference — for the lawmakers or anyone else.

We’ll see if anything or anyone was heard.

When the outlines of congressional and state legislative districts come out, reflecting U.S. Census updates, we will see if the lawmakers and citizen commentators were doing something important or merely enjoying an opportunity to see and be seen.

After all, Republicans are firmly in charge and the object is to keep it that way, right? It’s only complicated if you let it get that way.

To be sure, there was a lot going on when the Daily News opened the doors to its building at 1100 Immokalee Road on Wednesday morning to host this special event.

Let’s start with the redistricting delegation itself. Its 20 or so members present comprised a rainbow of diversity that we simply do not see around here, especially among our elected officials.

The tone set by the lead politicians, from northern Florida, impressed. They are in a league of their own — sharp, agile, polished, aggressive. They rule.

They define the roles of others.

They stake out the best time slots of the meeting — 20 minutes at the beginning and 20 minutes at the end — and tell public speakers in between they get extra points for brevity.

The local voice heard on Wednesday that could hold a candle to these guys was that of Dudley Goodlette, a former GOP state legislator from Naples. He stood from the audience to deliver a deliciously partisan shot at some of the redistricting initiatives that call for compact, common-sense boundaries. He called those ideas, which actually have risen to the level of constitutional amendments, vague and troublesome. He called on the sponsor, the League of Women Voters, to be more reasonable and helpful.

That requires a special finesse. Here are organizations that have gone to the work of a statewide ballot and prevailed by a supermajority — only to be called upon to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

The visiting politicos chimed in ever so delicately, with exquisite timing, to say that the really weirdly shaped legislative districts drawing everyone’s attention are the results of court decisions, which the constitutional amendments are bound to require if troublemakers such as the league keep it up.

Another partisan view from the crowd, that of Sheri Monetta of Golden Gate Estates, was more blunt. She told the legislators “don’t listen” to the ilk of the league, while a view from across the community room aisle urged lawmakers to “listen to your better angels” on gerrymandering and resist the power to maintain the status quo with more jigsaw puzzles. Then there was a call to “just be fair and give it your best shot.”

There were pleas to eliminate far-flung east-west districts, and yet another to squeeze in as many districts as possible to give us more representatives and more clout. There were calls to not dilute — i.e., protect the strength of — Hispanic voting blocs, which had a certain “whose ox is being gored” ring to it. There was other sentiment that with Hispanics being so diverse among themselves, the term is not as politically neat and tidy as it sounds.

There were calls to keep neighborhoods together, with Lely Resort offered as an example as an area split between two Senate districts. There was a call to keep Bonita Springs together rather than fracture it between two House and two Senate districts.

So here’s the thing: It’s great that we get to see at least part of the drama play out so close to home. But beyond that the real impact, if any, remains to be seen in an area such as ours where county commissions, school boards, Congress and the White House are the government.

Tallahassee is a different planet, which may be why it’s still the state capital — free of too much public concern.

Still, as put by one of the legislative leaders, Sen. Don Gaetz of Destin: “This is information we could never get from an echo chamber listening to ourselves in Tallahassee.”

We’ll see.

The event was a good workout for the still-new Daily News headquarters and its community room. It is a win-win for the newspaper and the community to share it. Add another “win” for us being able to escort guests upstairs for TV interviews afterward.

Funny thing: That room seats 150 people and there is a cosmic force that draws crowds of precisely that size.

Note to boss: Let’s do it more often and put more community in that community room.

Then again, I don’t want to push too hard. Monday being Labor Day, I want to keep my job.

Lytle is editorial page editor of the Daily News. His email address is jlytle@naplesnews.com. Call him at 263-4773. Check his blog at naplesnews.com/blogs/jefflytle.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features