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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

Ohio's legislators keep eyes on lines

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Freshman Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) is repainting her house in preparation for a possible quick move this fall.

The State Apportionment Board yesterday began the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing the lines of 99 Ohio House and 33 Senate districts. Ms. Fedor fears her home will be on the wrong side of the new 52nd House District line this October.

“I don't want to be caught off guard at the worst time of year to buy or sell,” she said.

Although Toledo is expected to keep its city-based Senate seat and three House seats, all of them must pick up geography to compensate for population losses in the 1990s. In some cases, that means picking up suburban voters.

It's a shift that will be repeated in Cleveland and other urban centers, areas mostly represented by Democrats. As a result, urban interests in the Statehouse on such issues as school funding, firearms, and the environment could be further eroded.

After legislative reapportionment is completed this fall, the separate process of redrawing congressional districts will heat up. Because Ohio's population grew at a slower pace than most other states in the 1990s, the state will lose one of its 19 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans outnumber Democrats 59-40 in the Ohio House and 22-11 in the Senate. The sole Democrat on the five-member board is Senate Minority Leader Leigh Herington (D., Ravenna).

The rest of the board represents a virtual who's who of state Republican politicians - Governor Taft, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, State Auditor Jim Petro, and Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R., Glenford).

Ten public hearings are planned, including two on Aug. 20 in northwest Ohio. The first will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the University of Toledo College of Law and the second from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the University of Findlay. In the meantime, the public may check out maps and data on the Internet via www.ohioremap2001.org.

The Toledo district most likely to experience a pronounced suburban shift is Ms. Fedor's 52nd, which now includes most of the western and southern wards of the city, Ottawa Hills, and part of Springfield Township.

The district, represented by Republicans during most of the last decade, must pick up about 3,000 people to meet the new target population of 114,678.

“It's conceivable it could cross the river into Wood County. There are lots of ways they could go,” said Mark Salling, statistical director of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. The college was contracted by the state to analyze the Census data that will be used to redraw the districts.

The 52nd could be further squeezed by the geographic expansions of the inner-city 49th District, represented by state Rep. Jack Ford, and the 50th, held by Rep. Jeanine Perry. Mr. Ford's district experienced one of the most dramatic declines in population over the last decade and is the northwestern Ohio district most in need of a people infusion.

According to U.S. Census data, the district is roughly 18,000 people shy of the 114,678 population target. Only two districts, the 31st in Cincinnati and the 64th in Youngstown, are further out of line.

These districts are represented by African Americans and have heavy concentrations of minority voters.



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