September 2017

Gerrymandering

The Salt Lake Tribune published the following letter to the editor on June 20, 2011. I wrote the letter in response to how our legislature dealt with their redistricting duty following the 2010 Census. Utah would have a fourth district for the first time! As I recall there were several publicly discussed options on the table. The most popular, at least in my circle of friends, had a “donut hole” of Salt Lake County for one district with the rest of the state pretty much divided into thirds. Just when it looked like reason might prevail, the legislature stepped in and created our districts the way they are today; protecting and amplifying Republican majorities across the board:

Re “Incumbent favoritism alters map”

Give our legislative leaders credit—they warned us. One of the first “message” bills of the 2011 Utah Legislature let everyone know that our form of government is not a democracy. The current redistricting process is prima facie evidence of that fact.

Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups says his first attempt at redistricting did a good job of keeping communities together, but it did not protect the entrenched Republican leadership, forcing a third of all incumbent senators to run against another one. So, he drew another set of boundaries to please the politicians instead of the people.

Apparently, defending the franchise of communities smacks too much of democracy. Yes, they told us Utah isn’t a democracy, and they are following through by disenfranchising both urban and rural populations.

—Wayne Wilson


President’s Message

This month my part of my message is personal; my life has changed significantly recently with my mother’s recent death. Many of you are aware that I have been a fulltime caregiver for my mother, but the caregiving goes back further in that Amy and I have been doing it for several years, first with her father and then, with some overlap, my mother. So, for the first time in a while there is no caregiving for someone in need. I’ve been telling people, that while there is plenty to do, it kind of feels like I’ve been leaning into an 80-mph wind and then suddenly, the wind is gone and you feel like your falling into a void of sorts. I could leave when I want and didn’t have to sleep with waking every time I heard something at night.

My Mom lived a long life, she was 96, with the resources to do what she loved to do and that is to travel. AT 85 she went to China and then to Mexico for the umpteenth time just a few months later. And she still traveled to U of U football game out of state until just a couple years age. The last month or so was very difficult, but she is through suffering.

When I moved back home with my mother to give full time care I had access to cable television for the first time in decades. Seeing too much of this disgraceful joke of a president is sickening and discouraging to say the least. So, you just have to stop watching at some point.

On the other hand, I’ve been watching The Weather Channel almost constantly since the beginning of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. That event became the biggest flood disaster in history. Now we have Category. 5 Hurricane Irma. And remember, a category 5 hurricane is not just 5 times bigger than a category 1 hurricane but rather 500 times stronger. Now as I write this message Hurricane Irma has been a category 5 for days and is breaking records as it goes. It is very potent and likely to impact Florida in a big way statewide. If that’s not bad enough, there is another hurricane named Jose that is a category 3 heading across the Atlantic. This will be a Hurricane season for the books, in a bad way.

Watching these storms also got me thinking about climate change. I have often cautioned people when they point to specific weather events as proof of climate change or global warming. But it is hard, as a geographer not to notice that this global warming makes for warmer waters, and warmer water is where almost all the energy for these Hurricanes comes from. It is not just a warmer climate with rising sea levels that global warming brings but also changing weather patterns.

Watching all this destruction found me admitting to myself that I’m not all that ready to evacuate if necessary for an earthquake or whatever. Preparedness is something we need to pay attention to. Perhaps we can discuss it as part of a meeting or at our book club.

Now that I will have more free time, I look forward to getting more involved in our chapter. I hope to see you at our next meeting. I might even find time to bake a cookie or two by then.

—Bob Lane
President, HoU