Residents of the Iron Range, Duluth and
surrounding townships gave passionate testimony at a hearing of the
Minnesota Supreme Court's special redistricting panel in Duluth on
Tuesday. They know how much is at stake for Northeastern Minnesota in
how congressional and legislative districts get redrawn after the 2000
The chief issue in redrawing Minnesota's eight congressional
districts is whether we need to do "radical surgery'' to reflect
the shift of population to Twin Cities suburbs, as House Republicans
suggest, or make relatively minor changes to traditional boundaries,
as the Governor's Citizen Advisory Commission and Senate DFLers
The traditional "four corners in and metro areas out'' concept
has served Minnesota well for more than 100 years. As the Governor's
Citizen Advisory Commission and DFL plans show, that concept is still
workable -- and reflects 21st century needs to build coalitions among
core city, suburban and rural constituencies.
The court should work within that traditional concept, updating it
to reflect population changes.
The "radical surgery'' option preferred by House Republicans
creates self-contained suburban districts that essentially abandon
their central cities (and the rural areas of the state) politically
and economically. We don't want to entrench fragmentation and
interjurisdictional competition. Rather, our districts should reflect
a shared sense of community and common destiny.
The Republican plan creates homogeneous congressional districts --
one core city (Minneapolis-St. Paul), six suburban, one northern. The
Governor's Citizen Advisory Commission and DFL plans better reflect
the diversity of the state.
It's important that Twin Cities suburban residents have some
understanding of unique northwestern and Northeastern Minnesota
economic interests -- and vice versa. In the northeast, we have
shipping, timber, mining, environmental issues relating to the Great
Lakes ecosystem and forest ecology. Residents in the northwest face
agriculture and flood plain issues.
Isolate the entire northern part of the state in one district, and
the state loses the benefit of having several members of Congress
working on these issues.
The Republican plan literally creates districts that are worlds
Northern Minnesota would suffer the most. Representatives and
candidates for political office in the proposed northern district
would have to travel from Grand Marais near the Canadian border in the
east to Moorhead near the South Dakota border in the west -- an
eight-hour, 50-minute trip of 400 miles on two-lane roads -- to meet
with constituents. At present, the greatest distance in the 8th
Congressional District is from International Falls on the Canadian
border to Anoka in the Twin Cities suburbs, a 290-mile trip that takes
4 hours. That's already difficult enough.
As St. Louis County Commissioner Joanne Fay told the judges, make
it possible for representatives and candidates to get from point A to
point B. Others reiterated the point: The natural flow of people and
things in northern Minnesota is north-south, not east-west.
The court will order new district lines on March 19 -- unless the
unlikely happens and legislators and Gov. Jesse Ventura agree on a
plan. Reject the House Republican congressional redistricting plan and
work with the Governor's Citizen Advisory Commission and Senate DFL