Today's meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission went off without a hitch. Well, depending on who you talk to.
After last week in Tucson, the Commission held off on public comment until after the rest of the business on the agenda was addressed. Held in the Third floor conference room in the Executive Tower of the State Capitol, the room was full a little while before the meeting started. AIRC staff had made arrangements with the Arizona League of Cities and Towns to accommodate overflow seating. Housed at 1820 W. Washington Street, the League is just a stone's throw from the West entrance to the Executive Tower.
More than 60 people sat for presentations by AIRC legal counsel on related redistricting laws, including the federal Voting Rights Act, and on Open Meetings and Open Records laws.
Strategic Telemetry, now officially under contract to the Commission, discussed the process they would begin next week, including to set up office space on the second floor of the Evans House (where the AIRC offices now occupy the first floor).
Deputy Executive Director Kristina Gomez discussed the first and second rounds of public input hearings. The first round is scheduled to begin the week of July 18. The schedule of dates, times and locations will be posted, hopefully early next week. Provision will be made for people who work day jobs by having early evening meetings, generally from 6pm to 9pm, weeknights and during the day on weekends.
Additional logistical details on the hearing schedules, on a project management timeline, a process for receiving, cataloging, indexing and categorizing public input received in verbal, written and other digital formats was discussed.
The hiring of a Public Information Officer will likely take place before the next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13 at 9:30am in Chandler. Exact location TBD. Details must be posted by 9:30am Monday.
The first discussion upon calling the meeting to order at 9:35am was about the order of addressing agenda items. Commissioners Stertz and Freeman both tried to insist that agenda item IX, public comment, be taken first thing. Their rationale was that people could say their peace and leave so others could take their chairs for the rest of the meeting. Both suggested capping the comment period at one hour.
However, the agenda had been posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting and people knew that public comment was the last item. Chairman Mathis explained that this was a business meeting and they needed to address the business first.
My initial assessment upon first seeing the agenda on Wednesday was that those concerned about the mapping consultant selection would have the opportunity to listen to Strategic Telemetry's presentation. For many that would begin to address their anxieties about a firm with Liberal/Progressive clients. Those people would be in a better position to comment thoughtfully afterward. And some did.
Quite a number of people, Democrats and conservatives, Progressives and Tea Partiers, were afforded the opportunity to speak. A gal named Judy captured the entire meeting on her video camera. She said she posts clips to YouTube. If she send me links, I may include some clips in future blog posts.
Judy also voiced concern that when Chairman Mathis explained, at the beginning of the meeting, how comments would be handled, that she would not be given time to speak her mind. But it ended up that everyone who wanted to speak was given time to do so. I counted 15 names of people who were called but were not present when their turn came.
There is more to write about this event, including some things said during the public comment and some during breaks in the action (recess). I had an interesting conversation with Sen. Jack Harper that I will write about, and more, over the weekend.
Colleen Mathis also read prepared remarks again, this time addressing criticisms raised last week and again today about her application to become a Commissioner. I will also address that over the weekend.
However, most notable about the public comment today was that there was more of a balance between angry Tea Partiers and others who criticized the Commission and those who expressed appreciation and support for the hard work the Commissioners and staff are doing.