Shape of the future

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  • Shape of the Future Suburbs seen as biggest bloc in Congress for the first time after 1970 reapportionment.

    By RICHARD LEHNE*

    HE nations scheme of legislative T representation is about to be re- arranged for the second time. The first adjustment came between 1962 and 1966 when, bound by court or- der, legislative districts were reappor- tioned to reflect population. While accomplishing these changes, the Su- preme Court of the United States established the constitutional princi- ple of population equality among leg- islative districts. This principle may have profound implications for the seventies. In 1970 a new census will record a decade of population mobil- ity. This census will then guide a new wave of reapportioning, and the second reapportionment revolution may have far greater consequences than the first.

    At first, reapportionment was an attempt to reduce the excessive rep- resentation of rural areas in state legislatures, thereby placing decisive weight in favor of policies to allevi- ate urban problems. It was soon rec- ognized, however, that large cities would not be the only beneficiaries of reapportionment; the suburbs also gained significant representation (see the REVIEW, June 1965, page 294). The first and second reapportionment revolutions have an impact on the representation of cities, suburbs and rural areas in the United States

    * Dr. Lehne is assistant professor of poli- tical science at Rutgers-The State Uni- versity, New Jersey.

    House of Representatives, and some implications for the formation of ur- ban policies.

    The following analysis of the changes to come from the 1970 census is based on population estimates for the 50 states provided by the United States Bureau of the Census. This permits apportionment of congres- sional districts among the states to re- flect the 1970 census,1 and once this is done, creation of districts within each state. Unfortunately, population esti- mates for small areas within the states are more spotty. The Bureau of the Census has published county estimates for 1966, and the Interna- tional City Managers Associations 1967 Municipal Yearbook contains Rand McNally estimates for cities for 1965. The districts used here are based on these estimates together with the assumption that the rate of population change from 1960 to 1965 or 1966 will continue until 1970. These districts offer a preview of representation in 1972, after the sec- ond reapportionment.

    To highlight some aspects of the changing representation, the constitu- encies are classified by location. If a majority of the residents of a district does not live in a metropolitan area, as defined by the Bureau of the Cen-

    1. This was done by the method of equal proportions as described by Laurence F. Schmeckebier, Congressional Apportionment (Washington, D. C.: The Brookings Insti- tution, 1941), pp. 21-32.

    351

  • 3 52 NATIONAL CIVIC REVIEW [September

    sus, the district is labeled non-metro- politan or rural. If a majority lives in a metropolitan area it is first clas- sified as metropolitan, and further as either central city or outside central city, as defined by the Bureau of the Census, if 50 per cent of its total population lives in either of these areas. It is also classified as a central city or outside central city district if 45 per cent of the total population lives in the central city or outside central city regions and no more than 30 per cent lives in either the central city, outside central city or non-met- ropolitan areas. I t is possible that neither of these criteria will be met yet the district will still have a ma- jority of its population in metropoli- tan areas. In these cases the district is mixed metropolitan. With these definitions set out, the impact of the first and second waves of reapportion- ing on the constituencies of congress- men can be examined.

    Representation in the national House of Representatives is deter- mined by a two-stage process. First a specific number of districts is as- signed to each state and then bound- aries are drawn within the state. Congressional districts do not fall as neatly into central city or outside central city categories as do state legislative districts. Yet the shifts in representation are clear. In 1962, 254 congressional districts were located in metropolitan areas, 106 in central cities, 92 outside the central cities, and 56 divided between cities and suburbs. The non-metropolitan areas held 181 of the 1962 districts. In 1966 the metropolitan areas picked up 10 districts (264), the cities gained four (1 10) and the suburbs,

    six (98). The non-metropolitan areas dropped to 17 1 districts.

    As dictated by population estimates for 1970, congressional districts were apportioned to states with some inter- esting results. California will gain an impressive six new congressional seats. Florida will pick up two, and Arizona, New Jersey and Texas will gain one each. Pennsylvania will lose two con- gressmen while the following states will each lose one: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The other states will keep the same number of congressional seats they have now.

    * * * Boundaries were drawn within each

    state to create districts equal in popu- lation. This procedure permits some leeway, although probably not as much as is commonly expected. In defining districts, counties were not divided unless previous state practice permitted i t or excess population de- manded it. The most minimal stan- dards of compactness and contiguity were honored and traditional districts were maintained where possible. Finally, every effort was made to maximize the non-metropolitan rep- resentation, even at the expense of the other standards.

    The results of this districting are as follows: 291 congressmen will come from metropolitan areas, 100 from central cities, 129 from the outside central city areas, and 62 from mixed metropolitan districts. One hundred and forty-four districts will be located in rural areas. This represents a shift of 2 7 districts from non-metropolitan to metropolitan areas, as expected. It

  • 19691 SHAPE OF THE FUTURE 3 53

    also represents, however, a shift of 10 congressional districts from the cen- tral cities toward the suburbs. Be- tween 1966 and 1972 the outside central city portions of metropolitan areas will pick up 31 new congress- men.

    For the first time suburban repre- sentation in Congress will be greater than central city representation. If, as a rough rule of thumb, the mixed metropolitan districts are split be- tween the central city and outside central city rcgions, another milestone has been passed. The suburban areas will replace the non-metropolitan re- gions as the home of the largest group of congressmen. More congressmen will come from suburban areas than from either cities or rural districts. Also, reapportionment changes based on the 1970 census will involve three times as many congressional districts as the changes accomplished between 1962 and 1966. * * *

    In drawing congressional districts in the past, certain tactics have been used to dilute urban influence. As many urban residents as possible were corralled into a small number of con- gressional districts when it was neces- sary to create some urban districts. In other areas urban residents were dispersed among many districts with overwhelming rural majorities. These two techniques kept to a minimum the number of districts with urban majorities. These tactics, however, will no longer be as possible as they were. In state after state, there sim- ply will not be enough non-metropoli- tan residents to go around. This is of course true in urban states such as Pennsylvania or California. More im-

    portantly, perhaps, i t is also true of states regarded as more rural like Indiana and Ohio, North Carolina and Texas. The tactics will be possi- ble one more time in states like Kentucky and Iowa. As suburbs grow and expand, however, the tipping point between non-metropolitan and metropolitan will be reached in these states also.

    Clearly, the suburbs are where the action is, or will be. This is reflected in the changing representation within the House of Representatives. But, for Congress, the redistricting after the 1970 census will be more impor- tant than anything to date. According to this preview of the 1972 election, we should look to Washington for the consequences of reapportionment.

    One thing that has been learned from the study of reapportionment is that the slot-machine image of legis- lative policy formation is a gross oversimplification. If you put in dif- ferent districts at the top, you are not necessarily presented with very dif- ferent legislation at the bottom. Leg- islative bodies are institutions with firmly established traditions of be- havior where the relation between constituency and legislation is more subtle and complex than immediate and direct. In the long run, however, the changes in constituencies can be expected to work their way through the legislative system. What could some of these changes be?

    Obviously, because of reapportion- ment there will be more suburban representatives in legislatures. Some may point out that Menlo Park is different from Orchard Park and Scottsdale does not have all the same views as Scarsdale. More importantly,

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    perhaps, they are all quite different from Camden and East Detroit. Michael Danielson has concluded from his study of commuter legislation that the most important characteristic of metropolitan and suburban represen- tation is the fragmentation of views and interests2 While there is un- doubtedly great diversity in the out- side central city portions of metro- politan areas, there has always been great diversity in the rural areas of the country. These differences have not blocked the rewards which rural areas have historically secured from legislatures. A1 though not identical, rural areas share more than a loca- tion. They share a commonalty based on their role as producers of primary goods, basically foodstuffs. What may be crucial is that, despite the diver- sity of rural representation, there have been enough legislators with suf- ficiently similar views to secure the benefits of coordinated action for their constituents. * * *

    The internal divisions within the suburbs are unquestionable, yet the suburbs also share a characteristic orientation as the consumer of cer- tain public services. For services such as education, transportation and pol- lution control, the suburban role of consumer is clear-cut. Furthermore, recent incidents in New York suggest that suburban representation in the state Assembly may have reached the critical level.

    Responding to budgetary pressures during the last legislative session,

    2. Michael N. Danielson, Federal-Metro- politan Politics and the Commuter Crisis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), pp. 195-198.

    Republican Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller proposed a reduction of anticipated increases in state aid to localities for education and welfare. In New York, central cities are more concerned about welfare programs, whiIe aid to education looms as more important in suburban budgets. A group of Republican suburban legis- lators rejected the governors pro- posals and demanded greater reduc- tions in the welfare aid with the money being restored to education aid. New Yorks strong governor and strong party discipline were not able to bring the recalcitrant suburbanites into line. Although comprising only a fraction of the suburban representa- tives in the Assembly, the bloc was large enough to withstand the pres- sures of the governor and win its point on state aid. It may be that the enlarged suburban representation in Congress in the next decade will reach the level to permit the benefits of co- ordinated action for suburban policy goals. The suburbs, it appears, will have to be listened to.

    While it is clear that there will be more suburban representatives, and perhaps critically more, there is some indication that suburban congressmen will differ from those they replace. In New York the shift of rural repre- sentation to suburban areas involved a shift to constituencies and legisla- tors with somewhat different charac- teristics. The new elements are some- what younger, better educated and more professional. The new districts are more affluent and less Protestant. The incident described above illus- trates the impression that the new legislators are more independent and less party-oriented, an impression

  • 19691 SHAPE OF THE FUTURE 35.5

    supported el~ewhere.~ Legislators who are more ideological should arise from districts which are more affluent. Legislators willing to disagree with their parties should come from areas where volunteers not dependent on party rewards are more common. * * *

    Neither the increase in suburban representation nor the differences of the suburban representatives is a nec- essarily hopeful trend for a response to characteristically central city prob- lems. One final trend, more specula- tive and remote, may offer a long- range prospect for at least partial solutions. While there will be more suburban legislators with somewhat different characteristics, changes are also going on within the suburban areas themselves. Although still cen- ters of great wealth, the suburban slums which Jean Gottman saw on the horizon have been appearing. It is almost common to find characteristi- cally urban problems in the suburbs. Frequent stories depict suburban ghettos and riots, organized crime and welfare loads. These and more prosaic urban needs cannot simply be ig- nored. Country estates and destitute ghettos exist within the same coun- ties. As legislative representatives at- tempt to devise soIutions to these

    3. Malcolm E. Jewell, The Political Setting of State Legislatures, in Alexander Heard, editor, State Legislatures in Ameri- can Politics (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1966), pp. 81-82.

    suburban problems of the future, they may define programs from which the central cities will also benefit. A meaningful response to todays urban problems may wait until they become tomorrows suburban ones. Then the Congress of the seventies may act.

    Certainly, the specific projections reported here are subject to numerous reservations. The underlying trends are unmistakable, however. The first wave of reapportionment moved rep- resentation out of rural areas to the cities and the suburbs. The second reapportionment will also take dis- tricts from non-metropolitan areas and place them in suburbs. It will, however, also shift representation from central cities to suburbs. In Congress, the redistricting to come will be much more dramatic than the first one. For the first time, more congressmen will come from the sub- urbs than from either the central cit- ies or non-metropolitan areas, People studying urban affairs have long known that the gold to pay for public policies was in the suburbs. Now, people concerned with urban policies must establish as a priority goal a sophisticated understanding of subur- ban political affairs and an enhanced awareness of the suburban political behavior. To ignore these questions will be to ignore the largest group in the Congress of the seventies and per- haps the group most important for the formation of urban policies.