Not for me, but for all five members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
Fifty-two people gave public comments. The vast majority expressed angry indignation, primarily aimed at Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis, about the decision made yesterday by the Commission to hire Strategic Telemetry, a D.C. based firm to serve as mapping consultant.
Strategic Telemetry has done political work, including geographic micro-targeting for candidate campaigns. But that's not what the firm was hired to do here in Arizona.
One online observer likened this meeting to a major case of "working the refs." An example of how this sports analogy relates to influencing decisions (in journalism in this case) is found here.
Most certainly, the Tea Party related groups have every right to organize for political advocacy. The commissioners ALL felt the pressure. It was apparent on their faces. During a recess after the nearly three-hour comment period , one commissioner said that even though the comments were not aimed at him (or her), he (or she) could definitely feel it.
I wonder how many of those members of the public took the time to understand Wednesday's decision. How many learned anything about Strategic Telemetry other than that it had done work for Democrats? And how many reviewed the interview and presentation the firm made last Friday?
Granted, Strategic Telemetry's proposal has not yet been made public. It will be, hopefully soon. I hope thoughtful conservatives take the time to read it as soon as they can.
When they do read it, will conservative leaning Arizonans stop when they see words that trigger partisan angst? Or will they do as Commissioner Rick Stertz did when interviewing Strasma and probe to understand what Strasma and his firm can do for conservatives in our state?
Commissioner Mathis was tremendously gracious under fire today. Yesterday, to explain her vote, she read a prepared statement (posted here and on the IRC website). Today, because Arizona Revised Statutes allows for it,
H. A public body may make an open call to the public during a public meeting, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, to allow individuals to address the public body on any issue within the jurisdiction of the public body. At the conclusion of an open call to the public, individual members of the public body may respond to criticism made by those who have addressed the public body, may ask staff to review a matter or may ask that a matter be put on a future agenda. However, members of the public body shall not discuss or take legal action on matters raised during an open call to the public unless the matters are properly noticed for discussion and legal action. (emphasis added)she responded to the criticism and did so with thoughtful insights. Each of the other commissioners did likewise.
Commissioner Stertz, citing President Reagan's famous quote, "trust, but verify," echoed his thoughts from yesterday that he intends to work with Strategic Telemetry but will be vigilant to hold them accountable to their promise and proposal.
Will Tea Party activists in Arizona trust Rick Stertz? I am confident he is willing to be held accountable for his promise too.
One commenter, Christine Bauserman, wanted to know why I seem to have inside knowledge of what is going to happen with the IRC before it gets posted BY the IRC. During the recess, I told her my secret. I make phone calls and ask questions.
I do so because I have a passion. I want to know and I want YOU to know. I want everyone interested in Congressional and legislative redistricting in Arizona this year to know all that is legally available to know about the process. I want to let you know background and what is happening as it is happening. I don't believe in hoarding this knowledge only for my friends or those who share my political views.
Because I believe that the anxiety so many people expressed today arises -- at least in part -- from not knowing what is really going on, I hope to provide an antidote to that anxiety. Of course, not everyone will agree. But if we actually LISTEN to each other (it IS a two-way street, after all), we can have discussion. Fruitful discussion.
Isn't that one of the biggest things that has been lacking in the Arizona Legislature over the last couple of years?
Because I have attended most of the IRC meetings, I have come to know -- to a degree -- each of the commissioners. Because they have read my blog and watched and listened to me, they know -- to a degree -- me. Regular readers know that from the start, I have been most skeptical regarding Commissioner Stertz. I still do not agree with his politics. But I've developed a profound respect for him, as I have for each of the other four.
If I was afraid, if I was anxious, or if I lacked curiosity, I would not have been able to share any of these insights with you. I hope you will join me in this journey as we all continue learning, sharing insights and discussing what we want this state to look like when the AIRC is finished with its work.
In her comments today, Shirl Lamonna seemed to be concerned that I had done a google search on her (because of her previous comments before the IRC). Welcome, Shirl, to the World Wide Web and to what accountability is beginning to look like today. I'm glad you joined us (as well as the other groups you participate in).
Taxpayer funded GOP operative John Mills, who attends all the IRC meetings (on YOUR dime) is justified by his boss, Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, on the basis of the right given by voters for the state legislature to make recommendations on the district maps produced by the AIRC. However, today, as soon as Mathis began responding to the criticism leveled at her, Mills went to complain to IRC counsel Mary O'Grady that it wasn't on the agenda. O'Grady pointed him to the statute I cited above. Would a reasonable person think that qualifies as making a recommendation on the district maps?
Mills was also heard (by me) telling someone that the IRC has totally blown it regarding the timelines. Readers should note that this Commission effectively fired the State Purchasing Office yesterday. SPO was helpful in getting things going for hiring legal and mapping consultants. But yesterday, the Commission exercised its constitutional prerogative to conduct the hiring on its own.
Today, because the public comment period went FAR longer (and was more stressful) than anticipated, several substantive agenda items (everything other than the public comment and the Executive Director's report) were tabled. In other words, these five real people who have volunteered for a thankless job, had to put them off until next week.
Besides the personal wear and tear each endures, organizations (this time it was the Pima Community College District) graciously host commission meetings. They do not generally charge rent for the space but would need to pay additional costs to keep facilities open beyond regular business hours.
Last point -- the kindest thing I can say about former AIRC chair Steve Lynn's comments on Wednesday is that they were unseemly and unbecoming. If you want to know more, watch the recording.
I actually got this posted exactly at midnight. So, the date on the post will be July 1. However, I wrote it intending to get it posted before June 30 ended. Happy New (Fiscal) Year!