What do Milam and Burnet counties have in common? Not much.

Redistricting is rapidly overtaking the state’s budget as the top news story coming out of Austin these days. Competing plans are as plentiful as servants in Rick Perry’s rented mansion.

State battles to the side, the two most recent proposals have Milam County sharing a State House district with Burnet County.

This is a map proposed by Rep. Charles Schwertner (PLANH153 - House CSHB 150, for those of you at home keeping score).

One has to wonder if this is what County Judge David Barkemeyer meant when he said that having the county led by a Republican would give us better representation in Austin.

Surely not.

Milam County has as much in common with Burnet County as it does with West Williamson County … and you really had to tilt your head and squint to believe that a district that combined rapidly growing suburban Leander and Cedar Park with bucolic, rural Milam County as having common interests of any sort.

But, Burnet County? We have so much more in common with — and are much closer to — Falls and Bell and Robertson and Lee and even Brazos or east Williamson than with Burnet County. Why, they can’t even grow cotton or sorghum Burnet County … all they can grow are goats and tourists (and low paying service jobs)!

In a press release, our newly minted State Representative, Dr. Charles Schwertner, assures us that he believes “the new map will better reflect existing communities of interest [and] address the enormous growth that Williamson County has experienced over the last decade …”

So much for Milam County’s interests.

Once again, Republicans show that they care for very little but getting re-elected. Look at any of the proposed maps and you will see that there are very, very few rural districts which means there are very, very few state representatives who will really care about rural issues.

This is important because the last decade has seen important programs designed to help rural Texans fade away. So, as our rural voice is diluted — and all of these redistricting proposals further dilute the impact of rural votes — so will these programs which foster rural health care, transportation, emergency management (like wildfires!) and economic development fade.

As I told a local newspaperman, it feels like I’ve tilted at this particular windmill for the better part of two decades. I am no less incensed by the obvious partisan nature of the process today than I was the last time this happened.

I don’t doubt Judge Barkemeyer’s good intentions. Really. I don’t.

However, on more than one campaign occasion, he assured us that, because he’s a Republican, he would be able to influence our representation in Austin better than some veteran conservative Democrat. Voters believed him.

But these proposals are a travesty.  If he had any input into this, he was either  ignored or thinks these plans are just fine.

Perhaps it could be worse … I guess they could put us in a district with Fort Worth, like they tried to do back in 2004 …

• If you’d like to look at all the proposed maps, go to the Texas Legislative Council’s Website.

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About Richard Stone

... is a husband, a father, a writer, a journalist, an activist, an avid reader of trash science fiction and an occasional folk/bluegrass guitar player. He loves to travel, UT sports, community theater and sharing a good bottle of wine with good friends.
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