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CubsRgr8

District/Council Boundaries

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Who decides the boundaries of a Council? Of a District? I look around and see physically adjacent Councils that cover terriories ranging from 250 square miles to thousands of square miles. I see Districts within a Council that have absolutely nonsensical boundaries. Given reduced funding from United Way, doesn't it make sense to organize in a consistent manner?

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The art of setting boundaries (gerrymandering) is an ancient political art form still practiced by both the United States Congress, and the House and Senate of each individual state. The object of this practice, is to avoid, at all costs, any logic or sense of continuity. None, on the face of this planet, have mastered the practice better than those who count themselves among the legislators of this great country. The traditions, though, are passed down from those great halls to countless agencies and organizations throughout the country, and the BSA has made the practice of the art a fascinating study, with the opportunities that abound across the nation for Council and District creation. The Great Scouters in the halls of the BSA in the great state of Texas exercise their power of creation by assigning boundaries to Councils in each state. Some councils are quite small, but very heavily populated. This occurence appears mostly in the zones of the country to which the species Homo Sapien have migrated in flocks, herds, and other great numbers. Other councils will be found to extend over vast territories where few of the two legged species dwell. Their unfortunate circumstance falls as enormous distances which must be travelled to come together in the ancient and honorable ceremonies and feasts that the Scouters in those largely unpopulated areas attend regularly.

 

While the Great Scouters in the halls of the BSA ply their trade with Council creation, they leave to the creatures dwelling within each council they create, the power and authority to sub-divide those councils into smaller and supposedly more manageable sectors called Districts. As with councils, districts too may cover small isolated areas, or huge barren spaces devoid of all but a few inhabitants.

 

In each case, the shape and form of the entity (council or district) is desired to encompass as many inhabitants as possible using vague and secret formulas and target numbers. The desired boundary lines are set so as to take strange and foreign shapes, as regularity and logic are to be avoided at all costs (as stated at the outset of the witless thesis). Variety is the spice of life, it is said, and the creators of the boundaries we deal with today have taken that to heart.

 

 

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As a counselor of the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge, I feel I must take issue with the assessment that Gerrymandering has nothing to do with logic or a sense of continuity.

 

Districts are most definitely drawn with logic and continuity in mind. To have districts drawn with more of "your people" (members of a specifc political party) in them than "those people" (members of the other political party)is completely logical. In this way continuity of a political party is preserved.

 

There you have logic and continuity explained.

 

Now to explain the rationale of Boy Scout Councils, you need a better double-talker than JM, myself or anybody I know.

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In our area, my council encompasses most of two counties, except for strip of towns on the Southern edge of those two counties (Oakland and Macomb), which belong to the Detroit Area Council. Also, Bloomfield Hills (the richest suburb in Detroit) is part of the Detroit Area Council even though it border Pontiac, where our council is based (the council office is ten minutes from the border). I know that Detroit was first council in our area. When the councils in the suburbs popped up in the late 1920's, Detroit managed to keep that strip of communities, most of which were the more affluent suburbs of that time and a couple of which still are. Also, most of the Detroit Auto execs live in Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham (which is another ritzy suburb in Oakland County), so when they are involved with Scouts, it is with the Detroit Area Council and tend to send their big donations to that council. Therefore, the reason why the Detroit Area Council keeps those cities is because they provide a large amount of the donations provided to the council. Yes, money does play a part in the formation of councils.

 

Our districts are done geographically by school districts. The only way troops in the same community would be in different Scout districts is if they are in different school districts. The school district I grew up in drew from eight different communities. In four of those communities, people that live in a different part of the community go to different school systems and in a couple of cases, are in different Scout districts.

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In most cases Council and District lines are drawn by County and or school district boundaries. Overall size is determined by population density and financial strength. As an example, there is no point in drawing a council/district area over an expanse of land where there are few scouts (mountains) or enough income to finance camps and services.

 

The who that makes the decision are committees made up of a variety of volunteers and professionals at local, regional and national levels.

 

When it happens depends on many things, local school and government consolidations. Scout Councils going broke, Population shifts, can all cause scout boundaries to be re-evaluated.

 

Hope this helps,

Bob White

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Most of the councils in my state (NJ, hence the name) also seem to follow county lines. We also have seen a great deal of consolidation of councils. I believe that in 1999-2000, eight councils in the northern half of New Jersey were consolidated into three. Each of these three councils probably has in the vicinity of 1.5 to 3 million residents, but obviously the Scouting percentages differ. (One result of the consolidation is that the 4-county Northern New Jersey Council, which is not mine, ended up with 11 countem 11 camps of various shapes sizes and locations, including a few high adventure camps in the mountains of upstate New York. They have recently started trying to sell off some of the New Jersey camps, but the neighbors kind of go nuts about the idea of a developer buying 500 or 1000 acres and turning it into 8 condos per acre with a mega-mall on the side. State legislators get into the act, lawyers start looking carefully at deed restrictions written when the land was donated 70 years ago, and what the council thought would be a good source of cash turns into a big headache.)

 

If you go back 30 years or so, I suspect that New Jersey has probably gone from a few dozen truly LOCAL councils to about 6 or 7. The first council I was in as a Boy Scout, Robert Treat, was just the city of Newark and two smaller towns. At that time the Bayonne Council -- one small city, and the council in which my father had been a Boy Scout, still existed. Both of those councils became part of "county" councils somewhere in the 70s or 80s and are now part of Northern New Jersey.

 

All this is to say that the council lines in this area make sense because they mostly follow natural political lines. I believe there may be 2 counties along the Delaware River that are part of a Pennsylvania-based council, but that is about as "odd" as it gets. Someone with big bucks must be behind the Monmouth Council (ironically, the one that made James Dale famous), because it is the only remaining single-county council I am aware of in this state.

 

As for districts, again these seem to mostly follow county lines, though higher-population counties (say 300,000 and up) are divided into two or more districts. My county has one district, which also includes a couple of towns in the next county (most of which is in another council), but this is not gerrymandering -- it is just a natural-looking line drawn in one place rather than another.

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And I live in one of those border councils, Minsi Trails Council, we stretch from Philipsburg, New Jersey and environs up to and including some of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylania, inclusing Allentown and Bethlehem, jumping rivers and mountains in a single bound. And I know scouters from all over this region and I guess I wouldnt have it any other way(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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My council was formed by the conglomeration of six back in the seventies. As such, we have five camps over 200 acres and four smaller camps. With 17,000 traditional members (last time I checked), this is a boon for Scout camping, especially in the summer months where it is difficult to get into other public camps.

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I'm not sure exactly why (although I'm sure money has something to do with it), but the trend seems to be for councils to consolidate and get bigger and less local. Two councils to the west of mine merged a few years back in what was a merger of two equal councils. My council, Clinton Valley, was the subject of two separate merger proposals in the late 80's, early 90's. The first one was a proposal to merge with the Detroit Area Council. The result would have been the second largest council in the country with over 70,000 members. Detroit actually approved the merger, but Clinton Valley rejected it because DAC was a big mess at the time with a lot of infighting between different districts and other problems. CVC didn't want to be dragged into it (especially since we had recently become very stable financially). A few years later, the Blue Water Council in Port Huron (which borders us to the Northeast and had just over 1000 members) was supposed to merge with us. However, the people at Blue Water were afraid of losing their identity (their council would have become one of CVC's districts and their OA lodge a chapter of Chippewa Lodge) and rejected the idea (I can't say I blame them) and have somehow manged to survive financially since then. However, there are always new rumors about which councils will be merging together.

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Thanks for all of the feedback. I posed these questions because I was approached about becoming involved at the District/Council level and while I'm sticking with Cub Scouts :) for now (my bias is evident in my username), my interest was piqued.

 

Here is what I conclude from your posts. A Council probably will continue to exist with its territory and boundaries intact AS LONG AS it is able to make a go of it financially. District territories and boundaries are set at the Council level and changing them probably is an internal political hassle. So, until I'm ready to jump in with both feet, I'll just observe from the unit level. Thanks again.

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My council is a combo of two. We span 3 counties & have 4 small camps & 1 large summer camp. Our districts seem to be divided by a combination of townships & boroughs. For example, my district encompasses 6 townships/boroughs.

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

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My council is in a different state (and time zone) than where we live. My district as well covers 2 states and time zones. This drives us all crazy - everyone has to always figure out which states time we are going by for different events, different states have different laws, things always seem focused on the state where the council resides (for example Scouting for Food drop off locations).

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Have they split any councils recently?

 

I know about several combinations, but I don't recall hearing of any splits.

 

Brad

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