LETTERS

A war on children

Jane McKnight

Pine Township

Almost weekly, there is another school shooting. Students today, are constantly reminded that they are totally vulnerable every minute they are in school. When the students at Parkland protested about the shootings, the alt-right attacked the students and their right of free speech and assembly in the most vicious, demeaning and hateful way. Currently, we have a president, attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security, coldly, cruelly and rigidly imposing inhumane, unprincipled rules on people trying to escape from unbelievable upheaval and danger in their homeland. The actions taken by the current administration to separate children from their parents really smacks of hostage taking.

Now, not only are our own children, but all children are under attack by the United States. The families are separated and confined in concentration type camps very much like the Japanese were during World War II. Even though requesting refugee status, the parents are being prosecuted as illegal aliens and returned to their country of origin, to who knows what fate, and they may never see their children again.

The State Department has been thoroughly dismantled and there are few, if any, trained and experienced diplomats left to work with countries in turmoil to resolve issues and press for the protection of human rights in those countries, keeping their people from becoming refugees. In fact, our administration has nothing but contempt for the whole idea of human rights.

Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department are handling these immigrants/refugees, but there appears to be no communication, planning or coordination among these agencies to care for these people, or their children. The government will not answer questions concerning what is going on, the whereabouts of the babies, small children and young women being held, and the conditions of their confinement are deflected/ignored.

Some of the people who have been or are being sent back to their countries of origin without their children, have no idea where their children are or whether they will ever see their children again. This is not a scripted episode of reality TV. This is reality!

Is there nothing this administration won’t do to promote hatred and hostility in the U.S. and in the entire world? Matthew 25:45; . . . whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.

Mercer County finally got some redistricting news in the June 27 edition of The Herald. John Finnerty synopsized the legislative redistricting initiative in a total of four brief paragraphs, and included with it brief discussions of two other bills that the Assembly didn't finish before taking summer recess.

It didn't include the decades of research on gerrymandering accomplished by League of Women Voters; the several years of planning for the bi-partisan coalition of Fair Districts PA and its spin-off; the many legislator co-sponsors of the two proposed bills; the 39,000 citizen petition signatures acquired by that coalition since January of 2016; the sacrifices made by volunteer leaders who worked tirelessly to negotiate the Senate bill from June 4 through June 24.

Redistricting by legislators is an inherent conflict of interest existing in PA's Constitution. It's a "wonky" subject, and often discussed in such "legaleze" that ordinary citizens' eyes glaze over when it's brought up. It makes it easy for legislators like Rep. Kelly to dismiss the issue by saying "It's political". Well, yes, that's an aspect. But the larger issue is that extreme map- drawing goes against the principle of "One Person, One vote".

With available technology, legislators had the power to draw district lines in such ways as to ensure their seats are safe. And for the last three election cycles, thirteen out of eighteen seats were consistently awarded to the Majority Party by the maps of 2010, for a ratio of 70/30. But the math didn't add up in a state that almost always splits a presidential election vote at near 50/50. Shouldn't the seat ratio be closer to 9/9?

It's clear that legislators were choosing their voters, and that action flies in the face of democracy. In a nutshell, the 2010 maps would have given PA an artificial One-Party Rule, if it weren't for PA's Supreme Court stepping in. But the new maps end after the 2020 election, and the old process will be used in 2021 if the constitution isn't changed.

Using California's successful commission as a model, FDPA proposed an independent, non-partisan, transparent citizens commission to draw voter district maps in 2021. FDPA worked in good faith with Senator Mike Folmer to negotiate a reasonable amendment that more closely aligned the bill with the needs of the PA Assembly. But in a shameless display of disrespect for Pennsylvania voters, last minute "poison" amendments stalled the bills in both houses of the Assembly.

There is still time, however, to get these bills passed. It would call for a special session of the General Assembly to convene very soon, and that may happen. Contact your legislators to express your thoughts, and follow the events as they emerge on Fair Districts PA of Mercer County FB page. Sign the petition online at Fair Districts PA.com. FDPA isn't done yet, but time is preciously short.

 

Luanne Salaga

Sharpsville

Mercer County finally got some redistricting news in the June 27 edition of The Herald. John Finnerty synopsized the legislative redistricting initiative in a total of four brief paragraphs, and included with it brief discussions of two other bills that the Assembly didn't finish before taking summer recess.

It didn't include the decades of research on gerrymandering accomplished by League of Women Voters; the several years of planning for the bi-partisan coalition of Fair Districts PA and its spin-off; the many legislator co-sponsors of the two proposed bills; the 39,000 citizen petition signatures acquired by that coalition since January of 2016; the sacrifices made by volunteer leaders who worked tirelessly to negotiate the Senate bill from June 4 through June 24.

Redistricting by legislators is an inherent conflict of interest existing in Pa.'s Constitution. It's a "wonky" subject, and often discussed in such "legaleze" that ordinary citizens' eyes glaze over when it's brought up. It makes it easy for legislators like Rep. Kelly to dismiss the issue by saying "It's political." Well, yes, that's an aspect. But the larger issue is that extreme map drawing goes against the principle of "one person, one vote."

With available technology, legislators had the power to draw district lines in such ways as to ensure their seats are safe. And for the last three election cycles, 13 out of 18 seats were consistently awarded to the majority party by the maps of 2010, for a ratio of 70/30. But the math didn't add up in a state that almost always splits a presidential election vote at near 50/50. Shouldn't the seat ratio be closer to 9/9?

It's clear that legislators were choosing their voters, and that action flies in the face of democracy. In a nutshell, the 2010 maps would have given Pennsylvania an artificial one-party rule, if it weren't for Pennsylvania's Supreme Court stepping in. But the new maps end after the 2020 election, and the old process will be used in 2021 if the Constitution isn't changed.

Using California's successful commission as a model, FDPA proposed an independent, non-partisan, transparent citizens commission to draw voter district maps in 2021. FDPA worked in good faith with Sen. Mike Folmer to negotiate a reasonable amendment that more closely aligned the bill with the needs of the Pennsylvania Assembly. But in a shameless display of disrespect for Pennsylvania voters, last minute "poison" amendments stalled the bills in both houses of the Assembly.

There is still time, however, to get these bills passed. It would call for a special session of the General Assembly to convene very soon, and that may happen.

Contact your legislators to express your thoughts, and follow the events as they emerge on Fair Districts PA of Mercer County FB page. Sign the petition online at Fair Districts PA.com. FDPA isn't done yet, but time is preciously short.

Luanne Salaga is Mercer County coordinator of FDPA