Census 2000 will have no effect on Alabama’s representation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2000

The 2000 federal census is a long way from being completed but it is a given that when all the noses are counted Alabama will neither gain nor lose a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives.

The state experienced a modest growth in population during the final decade of the 20th century, but not nearly enough to warrant another Congressional seat. The big gainers will be California, Florida and Texas, the losers will be states like New York, Michigan and Illinois.

As far as Alabama is concerned, the state saw a slow but steady decline in congressional representation during the 20th Century. From a record high of 10 seats in the U. S. House after the 1910 census it dropped to 9 in 1930, 8 in 1960 and 7 in 1970.

Old timers will surely remember the fierce fight in the Alabama Legislature after the 60 census. Unable to agree on what district to eliminate, the lawmakers finally threw in the towel and came up with the bizarre "9-8" plan under which the nine nominees ran in a statewide free-for-all, with the low man being eliminated.

With it now certain that Alabama's number of congressional seats will remain intact, there will be no similar brawl after the 2000 census.

However, what the census will surely do is require a major re-drawing of legislative districts in the state. There have been enormous shifts of population within Alabama counties since the 1990 census.

Population explosions in such counties as Shelby, Baldwin and Autauga, to mention a few, will necessitate more legislative representation for them which means less for counties which suffered population losses.

Thereis no denying that the sunis setting on the remarkable political career of Joe Reed of Montgomery. For decades Reed was the unchallenged leader of African-Americans in Alabama politics. As chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the No. 2 man at the powerful Alabama Education Association, chairman ofthe Alabam State University Board of Trustees and as a Montgomery city commissioner, Reed walked

with a big stick.

In recent years the ADC influence has dwindled, upstaged by the New South Coalition; Reed lost his chairmanship of the ASU board, and he was thrown off the Montgomery City Commission in the 1999 elections.

All of which is to say it seemed only right that in the twilight of his illustrious if controversial career Reed should have been picked to be chairman of Alabama's delegation to the Democratic National Convention. While it is little more than a ceremonial position, to be the first black to chair an Alabama delegation to a national convention is a deserved recognition.

With no intention of making light of the recent ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court on public prayer in schools, it brings to mind one of my favorite cartoons of long ago.

It was published at a time when the threat of a nuclear attack on this nation loomed strong…a time when many Americans built fall-out shelters.

The cartoon showed a notice posted on a school bulletin board, and it said it all: "In the event of a nuclear attack the Supreme Court's ban on public prayer is temporarily suspended."

And as another wag put it, as long as they give students exams in physics and calculus, there will be prayer in the classrooms.

On a more serious note, Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor insisted that the recent ruling did not affect the court ruling under which Alabama schools are operating. In that case the courts ruled that schools can neither encourage or discourage student-led prayer but that genuine student-initiated prayer is permissable.

No matter, it is evident that the long-standing custom of having a prayer before high school football games is disappearing.