Friday, July 20, 2001

Military caught in
political district fray

The commission will have to
figure out how to categorize
the isles' armed forces

By Pat Omandam

No matter how the 2001 Reapportionment Commission redraws the state's political districts, members say some neighborhoods will be split up.

"Some community is going to be split," said Harold Masumoto. "I don't think you can avoid that."

The commission is already feeling the pressure of a self-imposed Aug. 2 deadline to complete redistricting plans for Hawaii's two congressional districts, 76 state legislative districts and for staggered terms in the state Senate's 25 seats.

Yesterday, members of mandated advisory councils to the panel urged commissioners to rethink the decision to include aliens and nonresident military dependents in the adjusted population base being used to equally redraw the boundaries.

They say the exclusion of these two groups, which they estimate amount to 121,000 people, would give each neighbor island county an additional full House member, as well as avoid the need for a canoe district on Kauai.

Jim Hall, an advisory council member who served on a past decennial reapportionment commission, added that nonresident military dependents and aliens are not Hawaii citizens and should not be counted in the state's reapportionment. To include them when previous reapportionment panels have not will affect the next five elections, he warned.

But commission Chairman Wayne Minami said the uncertainty of whether nonresident military dependents consider themselves Hawaii residents prompted the panel to include them as a precaution in the population base. Also, both groups are residents in the sense that they pay general excise taxes and send their children to Hawaii schools, he said.

The panel also revealed three plans yesterday to redraw Hawaii's congressional districts to account for the growth in the rural 2nd District held by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.

The first "traditional" proposal keeps most of the districts intact except Waipahu, now in Mink's district. It would fold into the 1st District, represented by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

The second "north-south" plan divides the islands along the southeastern end of Oahu. It puts Kauai, Niihau and most of Oahu in District 2, and the rest of the state in District 1.

Masumoto, who came up with the north-south idea, explained he wanted the state to move away from the demographic designations of urban and rural because those classifications are not applicable anymore.

The final plan shown yesterday was submitted by Mink's office on Wednesday. It expands Abercrombie's district to Barbers Point but keeps Waipahu within Mink's district. The proposal, however, has uneven and forced boundaries, something reapportionment planners said early on they wanted to avoid.

Minami said the panel will accept redistricting plans from the public, but the time to do so is short.

The commission is expected to vote on a congressional redistricting plan next week, and on a state legislative plan on Aug. 2. The date was moved up a week to give the panel time to fix any major problems with the proposals.

Once preliminary plans are approved, they will be published and go to public hearings in September.

Minami said he hopes the commission will take a final vote on reapportionment Oct. 4.

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