Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Taking politicians out of redistricting; Early childhood education program in Harrisburg

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 4, 2016 9:00 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, February 4, 2016:

We live in a partisan society politically.  Some say the Congress is as polarized along party lines as any time in our history.  How did we get that way?

Many point to Congressional reapportionment practices by states like Pennsylvania as one of the culprits.

Using U.S. Census population statistics that are collected every 10 years, the state legislature in Pennsylvania gets to draw the state legislative and Congressional district boundaries.

The majority party in the legislature wields a lot of power over what those final maps will look like.  Often, the districts are developed or gerrymandered in a way that would make it easier for candidates from the majority party to be elected or re-elected to office.

Democratic State Senator John Wozniak is proposing taking redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and setting up a commission to draw the district lines.

Wozniak describes his plan on Thursday's Smart Talk.

We often hear that early childhood education - learning in a structured setting before a child enters kindergarten - is one of the keys to a child growing up to be a good student.  Research also indicates early children education is especially important for children living in poverty. 

The Joshua Group is a non-profit that operates a program for kids in Harrisburg's Allison Hill.

Kirk Hallett, founder and director of the Joshua Group joins us on Thursday's program.

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Kirk Hallett

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-02-04 10:00

    Lee from York emails….
    For kicks, I looked at the vote totals for the Pennsylvania house races in 2014. I added up the votes each candidate received, adding zero for a party who did not put up a candidate. Unless I made some serious errors, the Democratic candidates across PA had more votes than the Republican candidates, yet the Republicans gained seats, claimed a "mandate" and that hubris may have led to a budget stalemate.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-02-04 10:01

    Melvin from Millersburg emails...
    Rather than creating a comission to create the legislative districts, why not simply rely on a mathematical algorithm such as the shortest-splitline algorithm? In my opinion, mathematics is the most nonbiased method we could use.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-02-04 10:01

    Tom in Carlisle emails...
    The current legislative map was originally drawn for the 2010 effective elections. It took three iterations of this map to get through the court system because it was so badly twisted and turned to favor republicans. It wasn’t until the 2015 effective elections that the map was actually valid. My US Representative is now in Hazelton. How local is that?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-02-04 10:02

    Rich emails...
    128 members of the general assembly. Divide the population of the state in half, a north south line. Then in half again seven times. Now you have 128 GA districts designed not by a computer not by politician. Start by getting a central location for each municipality under (say) 2500 people. More populous municipalities divided into clear wards or precincts (no need for equal size) and note the "center" location.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-02-04 10:02

    Donald emails...
    I could not agree more with the Senator’s plan. The idea that we could have 1 million more Democrats and a PA house and senate that are always Republican is ridiculous. And a new census won’t change things because the Republicans control everything. I know you are talking about PA districts but I live in the 15th House district which has a pancake shape from Harrisburg to the NJ border. We need this change more than anything in our political system.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-02-05 12:25

    Bil says...
    If the politicians are really serious about reform, here’s a suggestion for them that is simple and would eliminate politics from reapportionment. We already have permanent boundaries that never change ..... called county boundaries. Throw out this whole concept of voting districts and use counties. Each county would be a “voting district”.

    And, I would go one step further. Pennsylvania can no longer afford over $300 million dollars a year to have a gigantic sized legislature where nothing can get done. We have too many politicians. Therefore, the legislature gets downsized. Each county has one senator and two representatives. That’s it. Please suggest these ideas to Senator Wozniak and we’ll see how serious our politicians are about reform.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-02-05 13:04

    Bob comments...
    Redistricting? It's a good idea to have absolute neutrality in this-----but it won't happen.

    In a State that has the most bloated, overpaid, inefficient, and insulated group of self-aggrandizing politicos in the entire United States talk of redistricting reminds me of talking about changing the front and rear tires for better gas mileage on a wrecked car stuck in a ditch.

    Why not just turn and focus attention to ways the citizens could more effectively become a part of the actual legislative process by allowing them to put on the general ballot a call, say, for a Constitutional Convention that could impose term limits, alter the pay scale and pension perks, and generally overhaul this beached whale rotting carcass that calls itself the Pennsylvania Congress . . . ?

    Since that Congress in its infinite corruption DOES NOT allow the citizens to interfere with their skullduggery, the ONLY thing left is for the citizens to mount a ballot request by means of signature gathering imploring their own representatives to let them have a referendum on the general ballot-------and so far, the PA Congress has firewalled and blocked any such action.