A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jesse Parks: Consider what redistricting plan does to your voice; areas of Boone County “un-districted”

(Editor’s note: In a rare Saturday session, Republicans pushed through the redistricting maps they drew and presented in the first week of the legislative session. They have been sent on to the Governor who can sign, veto or allow to become law without signing. The City of Covington has already voiced opposition to the re-districting as it removes a Covington voice from House representation. Here, Boone County school board member Jesse Parks comes to the same conclusion about “un-districted” areas of Boone County.) 
This week we have seen the imminent changes to the House and Senate district maps in Kentucky. Establishment Republican representatives and senators are proud of the fact that for the first time in modern history they have been able to shape the district maps. For many, redistricting is leading to the feeling of being cut out of their neighborhoods.

In large parts of Boone County, neighbors have enjoyed or possibly not enjoyed steady representation from folks that have held office for quite a while. We know our state senator and representatives well. We see them out at restaurants and events around the county. We know their families and they sometimes know ours.

This week, the neighborhoods of Omaha Trace in Triple Crown, Heritage Trails, Steeplechase, The Downs, Walton, and many others were “un-districted.”

These neighborhoods were removed from the districts we have been a part of for decades. Instead of being represented by folks in our neighborhood, these neighborhoods have been placed in districts that stretch multiple counties to the south. With strange lines being drawn around sometimes a street or two placing them into districts with elected officials that live an hour’s drive away.

Click the image for a zoomable map for your district.

The issue here is that this area and other areas that are being “un-districted” have worked to either elect or sometimes un-elect their representatives. Now they will have zero voice due to the geography and different demographics of the new district. When a neighborhood is un-districted and placed into a district that historically covers mostly voters two counties away, what voice will that neighborhood have in the election of their state representative. The issues are vastly different. The local concerns are vastly different, and the voices of these communities will not be heard.
On Richwood Road, for example. The neighborhoods previously mentioned have enjoyed (or not) Sal Santoro (60) as their representative. Santoro is largely, at least locally, credited for the construction project that is widening the road and will eventually alleviate enormous traffic issues here. At a recent community town hall event with a Boone County commissioner and county staff, community members were asking questions about the slow progress of the project. The response from the county folks was they will make sure Santoro knows and since he sits on the transportation committee that oversees these projects, he will communicate your concerns and get things done.

That is the way things are supposed to work. Local issues handled by locally elected representatives. After all, Santoro travels this road daily.

Now, after these neighborhoods are “un-districted,” removed, and placed into three separate districts with the dividing lines being small cul de sacs and even sometimes along Richwood Road. The two new districts’ representatives (District 61 and 78) for this area live an hour’s drive away and will never travel these roads and therefore most likely will not be paying attention to the concerns of these neighborhoods.

Jesse Parks

Take other important issues for example. These neighborhoods, excluding Walton, are in the Boone County School’s district. Rep. Santoro and Senator Schickel live and have neighbors whose children attend Boone County Schools. This gives them a reason to care about and lobby for issues that arise with our local school district.

After these neighborhoods are removed from Santoro’s and Senator Schickel’s respective districts the new representatives live several school districts away with vastly different and often opposing problems and issues. It begs the question, will our new representatives lobby for what Boone County Schools need or will they lobby for only what their own neighbors in their children’s school district needs?

I can tell you as a member of the Boone County Board of Education, this is a real concern. One size fits all style governance and policy, when it comes to state governance, does not work with public education.
We will be watching as career politicians “un-district” neighborhoods from Walton-Verona to Triple Crown in southern Boone County and place us in districts that stretch to Falmouth and Dry Ridge in Counties far south.

Our current and our new representatives should know that drawing the districts in order to protect your elected positions in our state government for life by strategically dividing and diluting votes is wrong.

Being a representative or state senator was not meant to be a “forever” career. Boone County families will be watching to make sure you are listening to and representing us, our families, our local businesses, our schools, our neighborhoods, and not just your own personal ambitions of retiring with a state pension because you couldn’t be un-elected after you un-districted our neighborhoods and silenced our collective voice by diluting and dividing our collective votes.   

Jesse Parks is an elected member of the Boone County Board of Education, Division 3, which represents the areas he mentioned excluding Walton-Verona. 

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One Comment

  1. Nicole Brittany says:

    Mr. Parks was probably going to beat Sal in the next election because folks here think Sal does next to nothing. Sal didn’t even show up to the town hall mentioned in the article. Now the new maps divide Mr. Parks from Sal who lives a few streets over. That is not a coincidence.
    Though, I don’t mind because Mr. Parks is having a better impact on the school board pointing out the government waste, getting our kids back in school last year after being elected and trying to make sure the rest of the Bus Drivers and Custodians don’t quit.

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