UPI's Capital Comment for March 25, 2002

By United Press International  |  March 25, 2002 at 3:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 25 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Decision day -- The tiny community of Georgetown, Colo., has been much in the news lately thanks to the exploits of its mayor, former stripper Koleen Brooks. The controversial civic leader has been at odds with many of the town fathers over her plans to revive the community's small business district.

Since taking office, Mayor Brooks has been accused of flashing her breasts in public and faking a minor assault on her person. On April 2, Georgetown voters will go to the polls to settle the issue in a recall election that could replace the mayor and a number of members of the town's board of selectmen. Brooks, though she has not assembled a slate to run with her, is encouraging voters to "start over" by re-electing her and putting in a new board while, at the same time, voting down Ordinance #2 -- an effort to make economic development projects much more difficult to undertake by imposing a stringent zoning code on the tiny hamlet.

The dry look -- Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest women's public policy group, is praising NBC's decision to pull hard liquor ads from its lineup.

"We are extremely happy that NBC executives got the message and returned to the practice of socially responsible advertising," CWA President Sandy Rios said. "The growing problem of underage drinking is all too real. The last thing our children need is more incentive to try alcohol."

NBC came under fire from many quarters after it announced it would break with practice and run brand-specific ads for hard liquor products on the air. Until NBC's move, only beer and wine ads have been seen on American television.

Three seats and counting -- The state of Utah hopes that oral arguments scheduled for Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court will give it what the Census Bureau couldn't -- a fourth congressional seat.

At issue is what the word "actual" means in terms of the constitutional requirement for a decennial census. It's a small word but there are big things riding on it.

The attorneys for the state of Utah maintain that "actual" means that each person or household must be counted if it is to be included in the census number. If Utah is correct in its interpretation, then the proposed notion of sampling as well as the current practice of imputation -- where census enumerators who are unable to establish the size of a household after six visits assign the same number of occupants to that home as are reported as residing in its nearest neighbor -- would be tossed out.

The Census Bureau has used the practice of imputation for close to 40 years with congressional approval. But Utah says these "phantom households," as they are known, may or may not be occupied homes. Tom Lee, the attorney who will argue for Utah and against imputation, says that in 2000 the Census Bureau lowered the standard by which addresses on its master list were labeled apartments or houses.

In the complex computations that determine how many of the nation's 435 congressional seats go to each state, North Carolina edged out Utah for an additional seat by less than 1,000 people. Utah says that imputation is responsible for the loss and, had actual enumeration been employed as the standard, it would have won a fourth congressional district. Instead, they claim, that seat became North Carolina's 13th CD.

Court watchers expect a ruling will be handed down before the November elections, the first in which the post-2000 census congressional maps will be used.

For the GOP, it's a bright, bright, sunshiny day -- Florida's new congressional lines look as though they will help the Republicans maintain control of the House in the fall.

The new lines should add two seats to the GOP majority outright while strengthening the Republican base vote in previously vulnerable districts. The new lines also make at least one Democrat-represented seat competitive for the first time..

The new 24th Congressional District is comprised of parts of Seminole, Orange, and Volusia counties, strong GOP areas. President Bush carried the seat with 52.2 percent of the vote in 2000. The likely GOP candidate is State House Speaker Tom Feeney, who has already raised $397,786.

The new 25th Congressional District is based in south Florida's Miami-Dade, Collier, and Monroe counties. It voted for Bush by 54 percent in 2000. GOP State Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the brother of current U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., is the likely Republican candidate in this seat.

The redrawn 5th Congressional District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Fla., gives the Republican a shot at the seat for the first time. Bush won the new 5th with 52.4 percent of the vote in 2000.

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