Last year’s Republican-led reapportionment shifted hundreds of thousands of people in and out of the 12th District, but the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. John Barrow, says the district’s concerns remain the same.
Barrow heard citizens’ questions and comments Monday morning at the Evans County Annex in Claxton, the first stop on his 2012 Rural Listening Tour. He is holding similar meetings this week in Tattnall, Toombs, Candler, Emanuel, Screven and Washington counties. The tour will conclude with a 12:30 p.m. session Friday at the Bulloch County Agricultural Center in Statesboro.
Monday’s chat touched on the delayed closing of rural post offices, prospects for job creation, regulation of community banks, and threats posed by Iran. Evans County Extension Agent Mike Dollar asked Barrow a general question about the effects of reapportionment.
“The good news, to my way of thinking, is that Evans County is going to remain in the 12th District, and I will continue to serve Evans County to best of my ability in the next Congress,” Barrow said.
All of Bulloch County also remains in Barrow’s district.
After growth shown in the 2010 Census gave Georgia a 14th district in the House of Representatives, the target population for each district was about 691,000. The 12th District was a few more than 500 people off the mark, Barrow observed.
But he noted that, although his district was nearer the target population than any other Georgia congressional district, the remapping controlled by the state Legislature shifted “300,000 something” people into the district and almost as many out.
As a Democrat representing counties that often elect Republicans to other offices, Barrow has seen his district redrawn repeatedly over the last decade. He moved to Savannah six years ago after a reapportionment session chopped his earlier home in Athens out of the district.
Plans to move again
The 2011 reapportionment again puts Barrow’s house outside the 12th by placing Savannah and Chatham County entirely in the 1st District. He plans to move back into the 12th District, “certainly in time for the next Congress,” he said. That Congress will convene in January 2013, and until then he represents the old district.
“The move is not something that we have to do right away,” Barrow said. “Chatham County is still in the 12th District and will remain in the 12th District for the rest of this Congress, but it is my policy, as in the past, to live in the district that I represent.”
Meanwhile, Barrow also reminded constituents that there is no requirement that members of Congress live in the districts they represent. The Constitution requires only that they be residents of their states.
In a follow-up interview, Barrow said that the redrawing of his district was “all about politics” and partisan strategy. Now several candidates are vying for the Republican nomination to challenge him in November, but he said he remains confident that the district’s concerns haven’t changed.
“I’m very much encouraged,” he said. “The counties that I’m going to be given the honor of competing to represent in the next election are just like the counties that I represent right now. Their concerns about the issues are just the same.”
Post office issue
One national issue that drew local attention was the targeting of certain post offices for closure as the Postal Service seeks to cut costs. Before also proposing last fall to shutter some larger distribution centers, including one near Savannah, Postal Service officials early in 2011 listed more than 3,600 post offices and retail outlets — many of them small — for possible closing.
In Evans County, post offices in two towns with fewer than 200 people, Daisy and Bellville, were eventually targeted. Daisy’s post office, a regular one operated by the Postal Service, was on the original list, and in October the Postal Service announced the cancellation, which was to have taken effect Dec. 31, of a contract for Bellville’s privately operated post office.
But in December, postal officials put all post office closings on hold until May 15 in response to concerns expressed by members of Congress. The contract for the Bellville office was also reinstated.
Daisy Mayor Inman Brown Jr. and his wife, City Clerk Carolyn Brown, spoke to Barrow on his way into Monday’s meeting.
“We feel like it’s maybe a dead issue now,” said Mayor Brown. “He has given me a lot of encouragement.”
But just in case, local officials have letters on file supporting Daisy’s appeal, Brown said.
During the meeting, Evans County Probate Judge Darin McCoy, a resident of Bellville, thanked Barrow and his staff for help in keeping the Bellville office open.
Barrow says that before closing any post offices, the Postal Service should look at other changes, such as reducing the amount of money set aside for future employee benefits.
“There are lots of things they could do besides shut down service, and we need to explore every alternative to cutting down the areas of service,” he said.
Barrow said he is looking at legislation that has been drafted to address the Postal Service’s problems and he hopes to see a proposed solution by the time the moratorium expires in May.
“I don’t want to just kick this can down the road,” he said. “I want to solve this problem and put the Postal Service on a solid, paying basis so that folks know what level of service to expect.”