Originally created 09/25/01

Leadership failure



Georgia ignominiously joins South Carolina, Texas, Illinois and Oregon as states that couldn't work out their own congressional redistricting destiny. Most of those states, including South Carolina, failed because different branches of the state government were controlled by different political parties.

Georgia doesn't have that excuse. Democrats run both Peach State chambers. Yet since Aug. 1 they've squabbled and fought with each other like spoiled children.

Although the other states that flopped on redistricting threw in the towel before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Georgia did not. After a brief pause, Democrats renewed the petty quarreling until the Senate finally gave up Friday night and adjourned.

That was the right thing to do - as the entire exercise was turning into an embarrassment. In wake of the worst attack on U.S. soil in history, the nation's political leaders were coming together in a bipartisan fashion, yet rulers in Georgia's one-party state couldn't stop wasting taxpayers' money arguing over inches on a map, even though all the maps considered were drawn to boost Democrats' congressional representation.

And the finger-pointing afterward was no improvement. Negotiators had been near a compromise between a House plan that created a new middle Georgia district and a Senate plan that created a long district on the eastern border from Augusta to Athens.

But House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen, and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor indicated that Gov. Roy Barnes threw a monkey wrench into the compromise with demands to have more of Cobb County, his home, put in a new metro district to elect a Democrat.

"People meddled in the affairs of the General Assembly way beyond what has ever been done" before, fumed Murphy, concluding it was "a shame and disgrace."

The speaker is right about that, though he and other House members still hope to return Wednesday to renew negotiations. But if the Senate is not there, there's no one to talk with. Let's not throw away any more taxpayer money on a shame and disgrace.

Nor does it make sense to take the matter up again in January, as some suggest. If they couldn't get the job done this summer with nothing else on their plate, they'll never get it done when their plates will be overflowing.

Georgia, like South Carolina, should call in the federal judges to draw up congressional districts. But move quickly so candidates will know where to file, voters where to vote and primaries (and runoffs) won't be backed up against the general election in November.