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Oglesby: New district maps need to be simple, fair
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Politics being politics, when Georgia's special legislative session for redistricting begins this summer, incumbents are going to be trying to tailor their district lines to their strengths as far as possible.

Georgia must fit in a new district, obviously somewhere in North Georgia. If any current legislators have congressional ambitions, they'll try to tailor the district they can run strongest in. City and county commissioners who run by district will be lobbying for the same thing.

Not all can get all they may want, for varieties of reasons. This promises to be a longer and thus more taxpayer-expensive session.

Some basic principles would help produce the most optimum reapportionment here and across the state, using our area as an example:

Create congressional districts compactly, splitting counties as little as possible. Ensure districts have compatible regional interests such as Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Habersham, Banks, Jackson and maybe Barrow counties. The combined populations of these counties may be too much and some may have to be lopped off.

For state legislative seats, again try to avoid splitting counties as much as possible.

For local offices such as city and county commissions and school board seats, make them as geographically compatible as possible, such as the area between Jesse Jewell Parkway and E.E. Butler and, if needed, over to John Morrow. Then perhaps from there another that takes in the area including Brown's Bridge Road and Dawsonville Highway. Other considerations must include voting precinct availabilities.

Those puzzles can be fitted into so many perfectly acceptable patterns making it all the harder with the special interests factored in. You get the picture.

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Changing gears, one congressional controversy is a proposal to eliminate public broadcasting TV. While I'm keeping an open mind on it, it brings to mind a jewel of a Saturday night program I accidentally stumbled onto just before last Christmas while channel surfing the Dish Network. This old, portly bearded man was belting out "O' Holy Night." I knew I'd heard that voice before but couldn't place it. Then it struck. It was Joe Feeney.

Feeney was an Irish tenor who sang on "The Lawrence Welk Show" that ran more than 50 years. Singer-dancer Mary Lou Metzer was host of an hourlong weekly show at 8 p.m. Saturdays. Sometimes, she'd bring fellow performers on and they would talk about their lives in between selected segments of Welk shows.

Most of these originally were broadcast in the 1970s though there've been some in the '60s and some in the '80s. She has brought Feeney, Sandy Griffin, tap dancer Arthur Duncan , accordionist Myron Fjorn, dancing team Bobby and Cissy and several others on.

I loved to hear Feeney sing those Irish tunes: "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," "Irish Lullaby," "Danny Boy," "McNamara's Band," etc. Compared to today's pop music, what I call noise, this is like a symphony. It is the most enjoyable and relaxing show I see on Saturdays. I do recommend it, especially to fellow old-timers.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor of The Times. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.

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