The Great Lakes region is losing political power in Washington. Despite showing some population growth in the last census, other regionshave grown much faster. So, most Great Lakes states will be losingeither one or two seats in the House of Representatives in the 2002elections. That means the region could have a harder time gettingfederal funds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reportson what that might mean for the state of the environment:
THE GREAT LAKES IS LOSING POLITICAL POWER IN WASHINGTON. DESPITE SHOWING
SOME POPULATION GROWTH IN THE LAST CENSUS, OTHER REGIONS HAVE GROWN MUCH
FASTER. SO, MOST GREAT LAKES STATES WILL BE LOSING EITHER ONE OR TWO SEATS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN THE 2002 ELECTIONS. AND THAT MEANS THE
REGION COULD HAVE A HARDER TIME GETTING FEDERAL FUNDS. THE GREAT LAKES RADIO
CONSORTIUM’S LESTER GRAHAM REPORTS
ON WHAT THAT MIGHT MEAN FOR THE STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
(Illinois loses one seat; Indiana loses one seat; Michigan loses one seat;
Minnesota remains the same; New York loses two seats; Ohio loses one seat;
Pennsylvania loses two seats; Wisconsin loses one seat.)
FOR 50 YEARS OR MORE THE GREAT LAKES STATES HAVE BEEN LOSING SEATS IN
CONGRESS. IN THE LATEST CENSUS TAKEN LAST YEAR, THE SUN-BELT STATEES WRE
THE MAJOR WINNERS, GAINING 12 SEATS OVERALL. NINE OF THOSE ARE COMING AT
THE EXPENSE OF THE GREAT LAKES STATES.
THAT FACT HAS A LOT OF PEOPLE CONCERNED: POLITICIANS. BUSINESS LEADERS.
AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS AMONG OTHERS. THAT’S BECAUSE LESS REPRESENTATION IN
CONGRESS GENERALLY MEANS LESS POLITICAL CLOUT. AND MORE THAN LIKELY LESS
FEDERAL MONEY TO DO THE THINGS EACH INTEREST GROUP WANTS.
GEORGE KUPER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF GREAT LAKES INDUSTRIES. HE
SAYS ALREADY THE GREAT LAKES REGION DOESN’T CARRY THE KIND OF WEIGHT ON
CAPTIOL HILL IT SHOULD. AND LOSING NINE MORE VOTES IN THE HOUSE MEANS THE
SITUATION WILL ONLY GET WORSE.
“We’ve not been good in the past in terms of getting the federal
government to spend in our region commensurate with what we’ve sent to the
government as resources to spend. In other words, other parts of the
country are better at attracting federal government buying, if you’ll accept
that way of looking at the equation. And, uh, we’ve really been quite
concerned about that.”
A PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN ECHOES KUPER’S ASSESSMENT. BARRY
RABE IS INTERIM DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF NATURAL RESOURCES.
“And even before reapportionment, even before this takes place in
the next election, the Great Lakes states are consistently among those
states in the U-S tend –in dollars in / dollars out terms– to be net
losers in the federal grants and aid game.”
AND. RABE SAYS THE AREA THAT WILL PERHAPS BE HIT THE HARDEST WILL BE THE
ENVIRONMENTAL CLEAN-UP AND PROTECTION OF THE GREAT LAKES.
“Environment and natural resource spending have never been huge
ticket items out of the entire federal budget anyway, but if you begin to
tighten down even further and then play the reallocation game, that probably
does mean some futher moving of funding and grant activity out of the Great
BUT RABE SAYS SUCH PROBLEMS COULD BE SHORT-LIVED. IF THE GREAT LAKES STATES
DO GET LESS MONEY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. AND IF THE REPUBLICAN HELD
CONGRESS AND THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT CUT ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS
RABE BELIEVES THERE MIGHT BE A BACKLASH FROM VOTERS. HE SAYS OFTEN THE
MID-TERM ELECTION, WHICH THIS TIME COINCIDES WITH REAPPORTIONMENT, CHANGES
THE BALANCE OF POWER IN CONGRESS TO THE PARTY OUT OF POWER. IN THIS CASE,
THE DEMOCRATS. AND HE SAYS THEY ARE SOMETIMES MORE SENSITIVE TO
BUT SOME BELIEVE THE GREAT LAKES REGION LOSING NINE SEATS IN CONGRESS MIGHT
ONLY BE THE START OF THE REGION’S PROBLEMS. KEITH SCHNEIDER IS A FORMER
JOURNALIST WITH THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR OF THE
LAND USE INSTITUTE. SCHNEIDER SAYS THE SEATS LOST IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
ARE BEING TRANSFERRED TO THE SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST. WHERE MORE OFTEN THAN
CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS ARE ELECTED TO CONGRESS.
“We have the potential to replace moderate Republicans and good
Democrats who have been good on the environment in the Great Lakes region
with very, very conservative Republicans –who have been terrible on the
environment– in other regions who don’t have Great Lakes interests at
heart. So, I’d love to say it’s a more sanguine picture, but it’s not.”
SO THE GREAT LAKES CONGRESSIONAL SEATS AREN’T JUST LOST. THEY’RE
TO OTHER REGIONS OF THE COUNTRY THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY VOTE AGAINST GREAT
STILL. SOME OF THE MAJOR PLAYERS IN THE GREAT LAKES SAY THERE’S A LOT OF
POLITICAL CLOUT LEFT IN THE REGION. THEY POINT OUT THAT THE EIGHT GREAT
LAKES STATES HAVE 16 SENATORS. AND WILL STILL HAVE 125 OF THE 435 VOTES IN
THE HOUSE. AND. REGARDLESS OF THE MAKEUP OF THOSE 125 VOTES. THEY BELIEVE
THEY’LL REPRESENT GREAT LAKES ISSUES WELL. MICHAEL DONAHUE IS WITH THE
GREAT LAKES COMMISSION WHICH ACTS AS AN ADVOCATE FOR THE EIGHT GREAT
“Well, in all honesty, after all the years I’ve been working in
this field, I really must say that it really doesn’t make a great deal of
difference who’s in power in Washington or back in the states because there
is such a spirit of bi-partisanship involved. You know, we’ve seen
Republicans that are great on Great Lakes issues and those that aren’t and
it’s been the same story with the Democrats.”
AND SOME ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE ALSO FOUND THAT TO BE TRUE. MARGARET
WOOSTER IS WITH GREAT LAKES UNITED. A BI-NATIONAL COALITION OF
“They may have slightly different focuses, but the overall
interest –and they’re hearing from their constituencies is that Great
Lakes water quality, Great Lakes habitats do need to be protected.”
AND THE WAY TO DO THAT, EVERYONE SEEMS TO AGREE, IS FOR THE DIFFERENT
INTEREST GROUPS TO JOIN TOGETHER TO BACK JUST A HANDFUL OF MAJOR ISSUES. AND
ASK THE ENTIRE GROUP OF REPRESENTATIVES TO SUPPORT THOSE FEW INITIATIVES.
THAT WAY THE GREAT LAKES DELEGATION IS NOT SPLINTERED AND IT CAN SPEAK FOR
THE REGION WITH ONE VOICE.
For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.