Sounding off: Gerrymandering and democracy |
Letters to the Editor

Sounding off: Gerrymandering and democracy


Thank you for the editorial ”Gerrymandering doesn’t represent us.” Gerrymandering can be a complicated subject, but you focused on the essence of the problem with the sentence, “Representative democracy doesn’t work if it’s not representative.”

This assessment sums up the reason our state and federal governments are dysfunctional. If we can’t select the best people to address our concerns and can’t vote them out if they don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when we get gridlock rather than effective problem solving.

Many states have proven that independent citizens commissions do a better job in drawing districts because citizens are motivated to provide true representation. Also, they are eager for transparency and input from their fellow citizens.

I advocate support of Senate Bill 22 with amendments, which has been passed out of committee and would establish a citizens commission. However, in its current form, the legislators would pick the commission members. This is not an independent commission. House Bills 22 and 23 are languishing in the House, and they would create an independent citizens commission.

I was a plaintiff in the 2017 lawsuit in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. That decision resulted in a fair map, but with the 2020 census, new districts will again be drawn by officeholders unless the process is changed.

To restore true representation to our democracy, citizens have to demand this change. The legislators have had centuries to improve redistricting fairness, and they have failed. It’s time to give citizens a chance!

Kitsy McNulty, Shadyside

The writer is Pittsburgh coordinator for Fair Districts PA (

Look to Depression for real struggles

Joe Mistick’s column “Life’s struggles hit single moms hard” lists among those struggles finding clothes at Goodwill, looking for family hand-me-downs and taking the kids to public parks. Really? I don’t doubt that single moms face all kinds of struggles, but what kind of society believes shopping at Goodwill or looking for hand-me-downs is a struggle?

During the Depression woman made dresses out of fabric flour and other food and animal feed sacks. Companies began printing patterns on the sacks so the dresses wouldn’t be plain. Having to make a dress out of a flour sack is a struggle; picking a dress off the rack at Goodwill is not.

The little girls who wore those flour sack dresses went on to become part of what we now call the greatest generation. In 50 years what will we call the generation that thought playing in a public park was a struggle?

Ed Pencoske, Trafford

Food and health care as ‘rights’

Those who claim food and health care are human rights are dangerous tyrants. The right of one individual does not place an obligation upon another.

For example, I have a right to express myself, but I cannot demand that the government force you to listen or build me a stage. Food and medicine require the expenditure of time and labor — theirproduction is not “free.” Rights are free.

If food and health care are rights, and I decide to quit my job because I’m lazy, I would have every reason to expect other people will feed me and provide for my health care. Similarly, those who frameabortion as a “reproductive right” establish a rationale that would require those morally opposed to that practice to pay for another’s “procedure.” This is tyranny writ large.

The Democratic Party has helped to establish a social “safety net” for those unable to provide for their basic needs. However, the Democrats have morphed into a body whose ideas cannot withstandintellectual scrutiny and could work only with a sprinkling of magic fairy dust. The current array of Democrats running for president are just telling people what they want to hear — don’t fall for it!

Don Liddick, Bullskin

We can repair our political divide

The political climate is indeed divisive, as evidenced in our conversations, the media and our letters to the editor. Perhaps one way to temper this divide is to first seek commonalities in terms of our visions of how caring and respect should be evident in our interactions with each other.

Anne Frank wrote that “how wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Although questions such as the proper role of the government will always spawn a diversity of opinions, this quote could have the potential to shift our dialogue from confrontation to cooperation. By first actively seeking areas of agreement based on our core values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rather than hot-button issues where battle lines have already been rigidly formed, maybe we can begin to heal our self-inflicted wounds.

Maybe, too, our elected officials might get the message that we are ready to focus on working together to build a better society rather than always looking for points of ideological conflict.

James A. Bernauer, Crafton

Situation at border is not a humanitarian crisis

The situation at our southern border is not a humanitarian or human rights crisis. It is a law enforcement matter. Those people have been detained for violating our borders and laws. They are owed nothing but criminal prosecution.

No matter their political motivations, congressional Democrats visiting border patrol stations for photo opportunities and to feign outrage about criminal alien treatment is both confusing and audacious. I don’t believe these visits are done for purposes of oversight, the only legitimate reason I can fathom, but rather to stir discontent and spread falsehoods. Have these Democrats not been elected to represent Americans? If my elected representative put an alien’s concerns before my own, I would do everything possible to ensure he or she doesn’t have another term in which to make the same mistake.

The humanitarian crisis, to the extent that one might exist, is a crisis of and in Honduras or Guatemala, or the region. We The People have provided and continue to provide more than our share of aid to Central America. This aid does not appear to be benefiting us. Maybe that money is better spent elsewhere. I suggest another course of brick on the border wall.

Prosecution of every illegal entry into our country is an important part of slowing the invasion we are suffering. Construction of physical barriers and eliminating all financial benefits are others. It is a mistake to conflate the “wretched refuse” and “huddled masses” of the Ellis Island era with what we see today on the southern border.

Matt Pergar, Unity

How to prevail over Trump

If I were advising Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, I would tell him that he is on the wrong track if he wishes to prevail over Donald Trump and the United States.

Although a case can be made in his accusing the American administration of mental retardation, it would be much more productive to follow the tested North Korean dictator and murderer model: Lavish this president with praise, swallow your pride and tell Trump what a wonderful and strong leader he is, speak of how impressed you were with his great victory in the 2016 election, and tell him you know his inauguration crowd was larger than that of Barack Obama.

Tell him that his polling numbers indicate that he is extremely popular and beloved, and that he is a shoo-in to win reelection next year. Tell him how handsome, young and virile he is. Send him “beautiful letters” which will cause him to “fall in love” with you. Ruthless dictators who flatter him are handed the keys to the kingdom.

It has been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to Trump’s heart, assuming he has one, is through appealing to his extreme narcissism and pomposity. Play into that, Ayatollah, and Trump will adore you, taking your word over that of our intelligence services, and you will have a much clearer path to develop nuclear weapons without interference from your bosom buddy, the American president.

Oren Spiegler, South Strabane

Good calls by Supreme Court

Win-loss scoreboard: Trump administration 1/1; John Q. Public 2/0.

The Supreme Court made two good decisions before its summer break.

In gerrymandering, the Supreme Court feels that the states must oversee. I agree gerrymandering is a part of our political system. Redistricting won’t happen again until after the 2020 census results arereported (in 2021). As a good government efficiency and accountability advocate, I favor districts drawn by county lines and by population — so many people per seat in geographic areas. I look to the stateto get this done.

The court also rejected adding a citizenship question to the census. That is fair. Just get the census done with the best total results. It doesn’t matter your citizenship status at that point. But we need goodnumbers of how many people there really are in our area. “Citizenship” matters when it comes to receiving government benefits and voting. My philosophy is: Follow the law “rules,” you win, ignore the law“rules,” you lose.

John Q. Public wins on both. Supreme Court, you’ve done your job.

John A. Waite, South Greensburg

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