Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive May 2011 Show 1121 Rural Redistricting

Rural Redistricting

By law, the State House must redraw district and congressional boundaries to reflect the change in population every 10 years; what does that mean for Oklahoma residents?
Rural Redistricting

State House

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Oklahoma House of Representatives

Show Dates

Show 1121: Rural Redistricting

Air date: May 22, 2011

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  IMAGINE JUST BY MOVING DOWN THE ROAD A BIT, YOU COULD INCREASE YOUR INCOME BY 20%.  THAT’S THE DILEMMA THAT MANY RURAL RESIDENTS NOW FACE; FEWER JOBS IN RURAL AREAS, FOR MUCH LESS PAY.  AS THE LATEST CENSUS SHOWS, RURAL MIGRATION IS A TREND THAT CONTINUES TO WORSEN AROUND THE U.S. AND RIGHT HERE IN OKLAHOMA.  JOINING ME NOW WITH WHAT THAT MAY MEAN FOR THOSE THAT STAY BEHIND IS OUR COURTENAY DEHOFF.

COURTENAY DEHOFF:  WELL ROB, BY LAW THE STATE HOUSE MUST REDRAW BOTH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS AND CONGRESSIONAL BOUNDARIES TO REFLECT THE CHANGE IN POPULATION EVERY 10 YEARS.  OKLAHOMA’S POPULATION GREW BY MORE THAN 300,000 PEOPLE, OR 8.7%, ACCORDING TO THE 2010 CENSUS FIGURES; BUT MOST OF THAT HAS BEEN IN METROPOLITAN AREAS, WHILE RURAL OKLAHOMA COUNTIES CONTINUE TO SHRINK.

WELL ALL THE SIGNS OF RURAL LIFE ARE HER, BUT SMALL RURAL TOWNS MAY BE IN DANGER OF BEING FORGOTTEN.

BECKY MCCRAY:  LET ME JUST SHOW YOU ALL MY COWS; HERE THEY ARE.

COURTENAY:  BECKY MCCRAY IS A RURAL ENTREPRENUER FROM SMALL, RURAL HOPETON, OKLAHOMA.

BECKY:  WE ALREADY WERE RAISED TO BE FRIENDLY; WE SMILE AND WAVE TO EACH OTHER ON THE HIGHWAY WITH EVERYONE.  AND, IF YOU’RE RAISED IN A BIG CITY YOU’RE TAUGHT, DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT; DON’T INTERACT WITH PEOPLE.  YOU CAN’T SEND YOUR KIDS OVER TO THE NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE.  YOU CAN’T TURN YOUR KIDS LOOSE IN A BIG CITY AND SAY, WELL, RUN DOWN TO THE THEATER AND GET YOURSELF A COKE; BUT, YOU CAN DO THAT IN A SMALL TOWN.  SO, WE HAVE THAT ATTITUDE, AND THAT FRIENDLINESS.

LARRY SANDERS:  AS AGRICULTURE GETS MORE EFFICIENT, THEY NEED LESS HUMAN LABOR TO DO WHAT THEY DO.

COURTENAY:  OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY AG ECONOMIST, LARRY SANDERS.

SANDERS:  YOU DON’T NEED AS MANY PEOPLE LIVING IN RURAL AREAS AS BEFORE.

COURTENAY:  AND WITH FEWER PEOPLE, MEANS LESS REPRESENTATION AT THE STATE CAPITOL AND IN WASHINGTON.

[SPEAKING AT LEGISLATURE]

A TREND DALE DEWITT, THE CHARMAN OF OKLAHOMA’S HOUSE REDISTRICTING PLAN, HOPES TO AVOID.

DALE DEWITT:  BASICALLY THE CHALLENGES THAT WE’VE FACED IN REDISTRICTING ARE THE, UH, THE DYNAMIC CHANGES OF RURAL OKLAHOMA.  THE LINES ARE GONNA BE MOVED QUITE DRASTICALLY IN SOME AREAS BECAUSE OF THE POPULATION SHIFT THAT WE’VE HAD ACROSS OKLAHOMA.  AND WHEN WE GET TO TALKING ABOUT THE GAIN OF POPULATION IN OKLAHOMA, IT WAS ALL IN THE INNER AREAS OF OKLAHOMA AROUND OKLAHOMA CITY AND TULSA; THEREFORE, RURAL OKLAHOMA IS GOING TO HAVE TO SHIFT QUITE DRASTICALLY.  AND SO, WE WILL SEE SOME MAJOR LINE CHANGES, SOME PEOPLE THAT MAYBE HAVE THEIR ENTIRE DISTRICTS MOVED TO DIFFERENT AREAS; WE WON’T LOSE DISTRICTS, BUT WE MAY SEE SHIFTS IN DISTRICTS.

COURTENAY:  A CROSSROAD THAT MEANS LESS RURAL REPRESENTATION AND MORE URBAN LAWMAKERS.

DEWITT:  WELL AS I JUST SAID, ON RURAL DISTRICTS, IT IS GONNA HAVE AN IMPACT.  WE WILL PROBABLY SEE A SHIFT AS FAR AS THE NUMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES THAT WE HAVE COMING FROM RURAL OKLAHOMA.  I THINK MY PHILOSOPHY, AND I WANT TO PRESERVE OUR RURAL DISTRICTS, I THINK THAT I WOULD JUST AS SOON HAVE 45 REALLY SOLID RURAL DISTRICTS AS TO HAVE 65 THAT WERE MEDIOCRE AND WENT INTO THE CITIES.  SO, THAT IS MY CHALLENGE AND MY UH, I GUESS OBJECTIVE, IS TO PROTECT THE ONES THAT ARE REALLY GOOD, SOUND RURAL DISTRICTS.  WE’RE SEEING OUR DISTRICTS MOVING INTO THE URBAN AREAS AND THAT IS WHAT I AM TRYING TO AVOID.  THOSE COULD ALL BECOME URBAN SEEDS IF WE’RE NOT CAREFUL; AND THAT’S WHAT I’M LOOKING AT AND TRYING TO PRESERVE, THOSE, THOSE DISTRICTS, AND, AND KEEP THEM RURAL.  CAUSE WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE SOME DISTRICTS THAT SLIVER INTO URBAN AREAS, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WE WILL TRY AND PROTECT THE ONES THAT WE CAN MAKE SOLID DISTRICTS OUT OF.

COURTENAY:  AND WHILE SUCH MOVES MAY NOT SLOW THE SHRINKING OF RURAL AMERICA, ANOTHER GROWING TREND MAY.  SANDERS BELIEVES THE LOWER WAGES THAT FORCED MANY RURAL RESIDENTS TO LEAVE LOOKING FOR BETTER PAY, COULD IN FACT, BRING THE SAME PEOPLE BACK LOOKING FOR LOWER LIVING COSTS.

SANDERS:  WE ARE SEEING A BABY-BOOM MIGRATION.  THE COHORT THAT I’M IN IS GETTING TO RETIREMENT AGE OR THEY JUST RETIRED, AND THEY’RE THINKING ABOUT WANTING TO GO BACK HOME, WHICH IS OFTEN A RURAL AREA.  OR THEY’RE THINKING ABOUT WANTING TO GO BACK TO AN AMENITY, NATURAL RESOURCE AMENITY-BASED AREA TO ENJOY THE SCENERY, UH, THE MOUNTAINS OR THE SEASHORE.  THERE’S GONNA BE MORE OF THOSE FOLKS IN MY COHORT MOVING BACK TO RURAL AREAS.  IT’S NOT GOING TO CHANGE THE TREND, BUT IT PERHAPS MAY SLOW IT DOWN; COULD TURN IT AROUND IN SOME AMENITY-BASED LOCAL AREAS.

COURTENAY:  MAKING RURAL AMERICA AS MUCH ABOUT LIFESTYLE, AS IT IS ABOUT AGRICULTURE.

BECAUSE OF STATE GROWTH, EVERY DISTRICT IN OKLAHOMA GREW IN POPULATION.  BUT, THOSE IN URBAN AREAS ALL SHRUNK IN GEOGRAPHIC SIZE, WHILE THOSE IN RURAL AREAS HAD TO TAKE TO EXPAND THEIR BOUNDARIES TO MEET THE SAME POPULATION NUMBER.

ROB:  A BIG PICTURE QUESTION FOR YOU COURTENAY, IS WHAT WE’RE SEEING HERE IN OKLAHOMA, IS IT A GLOBAL ISSUE AS WELL?

COURTENAY:  WELL ABSOLUTELY ROB; JOBS AND INCOME ARE IMPORTANT NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE.  WHETHER YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT MEXICO AND THE MIGRATION TO MEXICO CITY OR OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, PEOPLE IN RURAL AREAS ARE HAVING TO MOVE TO THE URBAN AREAS TO FIND ENOUGH INCOME TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES.

ROB:  ALRIGHT, THANK YOU SO MUCH COURT.

COURTENAY:  THANK YOU.