The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission hearing tonight was held in the Casa Grande City Council Chambers. Like in Bullhead City, the video was high(er) quality. Wish they could all be like this.
Thirty-two members of the public testified before the Commission tonight. Two of them, Maricopa mayor Anthony Smith and fellow Town Council member Julia Gusse, appeared by remote video link at the Maricopa Unified School District Board Room.
The most salient point I must make is that Tucson Republican Commissioner Rick Stertz declined (failed) to take the golden opportunity he was afforded to express his support for the AIRC, for Commission Chair Colleen Mathis and for the process he has devoted himself to carrying out with four other volunteers.
To say I am disappointed that Rick Stertz missed the opportunity would be an understatement. For him to believe that the tea party's absurd allegations will go away without any effort on his part is unbelievably naive.
Two familiar faces at AIRC meetings, Lynne St. Angelo and Geri Ottoboni-Gilmore, were missing at last night's hearing in Bullhead City. Tonight, until Lynne St. Angelo's turn to speak, the Casa Grande hearing was properly focused on the redistricting desires of people in Pinal County.
St. Angelo was the seventh person to testify. She started off on a different tack. Rather than immediately go into the tea party talking points, she had a couple of paragraphs written out to rationalize her belief that competitiveness should be diminished as much as possible. But she reverted back into the same old same old.
Geri Ottoboni-Gilmore, aside from her persistent pursuit of tea party objectives, is a wonderfully personable grandmother who occasionally brings her two grandsons to meetings hoping to instill her desire for civic engagement into them. I applaud her involvement and that she's a genuinely friendly soul.
Ottoboni-Gilmore suggested that sign language interpreters and captions on the video for deaf citizens would be a very good thing. She also wanted to correct what she said at the Mesa hearing on Monday. At that time, she overstated the amount the state legislature had appropriated for this year's AIRC and the redistricting process. But she still missed the mark. Not only on the amount of the appropriation, but also by restating several of the tea party's absurd allegations -- as fact. Specifically, she said three of the commissioners "are corrupt;" that key documents were shredded; and that calls were made between AIRC commissioners in attempts to trade votes.
Adding a new twist to this overdone set of complaints, Stephen Kohut, claimed that if Colleen Mathis had not lied on her application, she would have been "ineligible for selection" as Commission chair. Kohut's Linked-in profile says he is chairman of the Pinal County Republican Committee, facilitator for Pinal Tea Party Patriots and an ex-officio board member of the Casa Grande PAChyderms. Kohut also kicked it up a notch by saying he had no choice but to start raising money to sue the AIRC over the lines which would obviously be drawn inappropriately.
Enough IS enough.
The process IS legitimate. THESE commissioners ARE legitimate.
And it is well past time for Rick Stertz to deal with this situation squarely.
Meanwhile, most of the other people tonight told the Commission what they want in the process of drawing the new districts. Several emphasized competitiveness. A couple of people attempted to justify minimizing or all out elimination of competitiveness.
More than one Pinal County Supervisor spoke tonight. They did not share the same message. Pete Rios talked about the Copper Corridor and his concerns regarding the Voting Rights Act. Another Pinal Supervisor, in an apparently subtle contradiction to Rios talked about the Sun Corridor. A common theme, not limited to those two, was to keep Pinal County as intact as possible. Some people had maps to illustrate their suggested changes.
Phoenix attorney Richard Lynch presented a plan, with a good deal of specificity, on behalf of several people or groups in Pinal County for a new Congressional district including most of Pinal County, all of Graham and Greenlee and parts of Apache and Navajo Counties. He spelled out that the group he represents wants to ensure only two of the nine new Congressional districts are Voting Rights districts.
Snell and Wilmer attorney Mike Liburdi, speaking AGAIN on behalf of UNfair Trust testified last this evening. Liburdi had less to say than either he did last Friday or Cantelme did on Monday. But he DID say that his group does agree with Lynch that Latino voters have ONLY two of the nine Congressional districts.
In light of the old adage, that a man is known by the friends he keeps, Liburdi spent a good 20 minutes in deep and friendly conversation with tea party organizer Lynne St. Angelo this evening after the hearing closed. Which is more credible, that UNfair Trust wants what's best for Latino voters in Arizona (like Liburdi and Cantelme have claimed) or that they are in cahoots with tea partiers?
Why do the people in UNfair Trust think they can get by without disclosing their underlying motives, message and money sources? Why would Arizonans take what they say at face value if they continue to refuse to come out into the sunlight. Last week, Rick Stertz, in closing comments at one of the hearings reiterated the truth that sunlight is a great disinfectant. UNfair Trust, thus far, has been AFRAID to come out of the shadows.