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Del. Ken Plum: Time for Further Evolution in Virginia

by Del. Ken Plum January 9, 2019 at 11:30 am 16 Comments

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The Virginia General Assembly will convene for its annual session at noon today. The opening session will no doubt note that a form of representative government first met at the church at Jamestown 400 years ago. I am honored to have served nearly 10 percent of the span of existence of the Assembly.

The events of 400 years ago are being observed through a coordinating body, American Evolution, that in its publicity states that “1619 was a pivotal year in the establishment of the first permanent English colony in North America. It was the year of the first representative legislative assembly in the New World, the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America, the recruitment of English women in significant numbers, the first official English Thanksgiving in North America, and the development of the Virginia colony’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.”

I encourage constituents to participate in the events of the year for I believe they form an excellent starting point for an understanding of where Virginia is today and most importantly where Virginia is headed.

Some historians and public relations experts would proclaim what happened in Virginia in 1619 as the birth of democracy in America. Certainly, it was a small step, but that was 400 years ago. It is time to take another step in our evolution to a more democratic phase in our government. Namely, it is time for the people of Virginia to pick their legislative representatives rather than their representatives picking them. I am referring to the process of redistricting legislative boundaries after the federal census that is often referred to as “gerrymandering.”

In 1982 I introduced what I believe to be the first bill in Virginia to create a nonpartisan and independent legislative redistricting commission. The Democrats who overwhelmingly controlled the General Assembly at the time dismissed the idea for they were firmly in control. When the Republicans took the majority in the General Assembly years later, they also rejected my proposal because they were now in control.

I am pleased with the growth of awareness on the part of the public that the current partisan-controlled system of dividing up the population into legislative districts serves the legislators’ interests instead of their constituents and the issues important to them.

The General Assembly must act in this session to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in time for a commission to be organized to do redistricting after the 2020 census. Thanks to all associated with OneVirginia 2021 for the advocacy they are doing to bring about this evolution of democracy in the Commonwealth.

Plan to visit the General Assembly during this session that runs five days a week through Feb. 22. All committee meetings are open to the public. Legislator offices are just across Bank Street from the Capitol, and I am always pleased to see constituents. Let’s make sure that when the history of the 2019 session is written that a major step in representative government will have taken place.

File photo

  • Mike M

    So, Ken introduced a bill in 1982 and his own party rejected it. That is the usefulness of Ken Plum in a nutshell.

    • You got it backwards

      That is the usefulness of overtly partisan politics in a nutshell.
      FTFY

      • 100yearsinReston

        Seriously, you think Mike would praise Ken for wanting his party to be more fair, even when they were in control. Instead, Mike doubles down on partisan attacks, showing all of us who the better man is.

  • 30yearsinreston

    A major beneficiary of gerrymandering complaining about gerrymandering?
    Turkeys voting for Thanksgiving comes to mind
    Thanks for the invitation to visit Richmond
    Is the VDOT office close by ?
    I’m just wondering why you havent visited them to advocate on our behalf

    • You got it backwards

      Setting aside the fact that the current map has been gerrymandered by Republicans, it would be virtually impossible to redraw our district’s lines such that the majority of voters do not lean left. So no, Ken is not benefitting from gerrymandering. The truth of the matter is, you live in an overwhelmingly liberal area and no amount of hand-wringing or gerrymandering is going to change that. Get over it.

    • 100yearsinReston

      You do realize that NOVA is super democratic, right?

  • Scott

    Ken rightfully notes that the Dems current pants on fire position on gerrymandering is naked politics given that they didn’t mind when they were in control. I can say that this is the first time I have ever agreed with Ken.

    Now, if Ken really cared about fair representation, he would promote the idea of an electoral college for state govt which ensures that state-wide office holders must appeal to and win a large number of votes over a geographically diverse area. The high population of NOVA should not be able to fully dictate what happens in rural, southwest, VA

    • Tammi Petrine

      In theory, you might have a point, Scott. But how about VA history to date in which majority downstate votes have denied desperately needed changes to No. Va areas such as ability to tax things, more equitable road funding, etc.

      With Dillon State rules, we are confronted with huge Catch 22 situations such as the one in Reston where despite huge density increases necessitating more road funding, we can’t get a dime for new transportation infrastructure except that attached to Silver Line bonds (which are paid for by DTR tolls which are extracted from local citizenry; not downstate folks.) Ey yi yi.

      I’m even hoping that the Dillon State model can be overturned for home rule or another more logical paradigm that allows relief from chaos. Times have changed and local governments need more access to their problems than we currently have.

      However, whatever is selected must also address the needs of downstate’s needy areas. As with any society, it is to everyone’s advantage when prosperity is widespread.

      • Scott

        I think we are talking about two different things Tammi.
        1. I’m talking about statewide elected positions.
        2. I believe you are talking about roles and responsibilities of state vs local govts..

        Specific to your transportation point (and many other items), I think it’s absurd that VDOT is responsible for plowing and repaving my cul de sac (which is in terrible shape) or maintaining/replacing the one lane bridge on Hunter Mill Rd. In all things, the closer the money can stay to the locality the better. Certainly VDOT should maintain state roads, but there is no reason why local roads shouldn’t be maintained by the counties IMHO.

        I was not familiar with the Dillon State rules but if my quick read is accurate, the state should be able to define those roles and funding structures can be adjusted accordingly.

  • Stormy_Fireriver

    Does anyone actually care what Ken Plum says? My conservative voice in Reston is lost on all the blue anyway. Reston is fast becoming a crap hole. Can’t wait until I can move. Democrats ruin everything.

    • James

      Bye Felicia.

      • Stormy_Fireriver

        Oh you burned me.

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