On Saturday afternoon, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission held a Public Outreach Hearing in Pinetop, AZ with remote teleconferencing locations in Holbrook and Winslow. The internet signal for the live streaming video slowed, frequently causing skips and making it difficult, but not impossible, to follow.
A common theme, among those addressing the Commission today, was a call for two rural Congressional districts and eight rural legislative districts. At other hearings in northern Arizona, some called for an eastern and a western Arizona rural Congressional district. Most who addressed this issue on Saturday preferred the idea of a northern and a southern district. And several of them stated emphatically they believe Flagstaff should NOT be included in the same district as Pinetop and other Northern and Eastern Arizona towns.
I wondered whether this was a concern about a certain person or political party. The current Representative from Arizona's First Congressional District, Paul Gosar, is a longtime Flagstaff resident, Dentist and small businessman. However, Gosar's two immediate predecessors, Ann Kirkpatrick and Rick Renzi, also are or were based in Flagstaff. Gosar and Renzi are Republicans, Kirkpatrick is a Democrat. The district extends from Flagstaff, across most of northern and eastern Arizona, including Pinetop, then south to Pinal County and Casa Grande.
Three people took the opportunity to repeat the tired tea party talking points, with characteristic disdain for the Commission. One woman actually addressed the young man from Strategic Telemetry, Willie Desmond, who attends the hearings to make a presentation on the process and to take notes during public testimony to assist with the aggregation of the comments.
That woman attempted to call Desmond out about his employer's experience with the redistricting process. Chair Colleen Mathis had to remind her that neither Commissioners nor staff could answer questions from the public at that time. Make no mistake, the people trying to disrupt, distract and divert the course of the hearings ARE tea partiers. And they invariably repeat the same points, sometimes verbatim.
AIRC staff at the Winslow remote site reported that approximately 10 citizens showed up to testify. Because of technical difficulties, or rather technological deficiencies with telecommunications in rural northern and/or eastern Arizona, people in Winslow could not hear what was going on in Pinetop. Because local law enforcement had heard that tea partiers might try to disrupt the Winslow gathering, the police chief and two or three other uniformed officers showed up.
The telecommunications problems occurred in both directions. It was extremely difficult for those in Winslow to be heard in Pinetop. Executive Director Bladine, at the site in Winslow, told the folks he would be happy to record their testimony by phone on the AIRC toll-free phone line when he is back at the office in the upcoming week.
Freedom of expression is one thing. Putting concerted effort into undermining Arizona's INDEPENDENT Redistricting Commission and process is something else altogether. I hope the Commission is able to put a stop to the undermining effort somehow.
The tea party's tired, overworked, incredibly lame set of false allegations should have run its course by now. The Arizona Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl claimed, during the Journalists Roundtable this week on Channel 8's Horizon, that the "real flash point" was the decision to hire Strategic Telemetry. However, the infernal tea party complaints, during AIRC business meetings, started immediately after Joe Kanefield, former legal counsel for Gov. Brewer was awarded a contract (more than two months ago).
The chatter in the business meetings, as well as in most of the outreach hearings, has been consistent, loud and irritating. The Commission has succeeded, except for the one business meeting in Tucson, at staying focused on its core responsibility.
Also on Friday's Horizon, Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luigi Del Puerto claimed that state Sen. Andy Biggs has been a voice of caution. He said Biggs has been suggesting to GOP lawmakers not to rush into any hasty actions. However, Biggs, on Senate letterhead, filed a two page Public Records Request, dated July 15, demanding copies of pretty much everything in every file held by the Commission. Being a (no longer practicing) attorney, Biggs KNOWS how to make people drown in paper.
suggested that GOP legislative leaders would put a financial squeeze on the redistricting panel if Bender was selected. Obviously, the four appointed Commissioners declined to choose Bender and that bullet was avoided.
Then came former AIRC Republican legal counsel Lisa Hauser protest of the legal services procurement process. It appeared she would cause trouble when Joe Kanefield was awarded a contract instead of her. Hauser has since backed off of the Commission, but now represents Russell Pearce in the legal action in Maricopa County Superior Court trying to get his recall election called off. Pearce, of course, has been known to be vindictive.
So, would it be much of a stretch of the imagination to figure that Andy Biggs' attempt to drown the AIRC in paper is an effort to overload staff and put a strain on the already tight money appropriated from the state general fund for the Commission? How likely would Russell Pearce be to offer to increase the AIRC appropriation at this stage of the game?
Mary Jo Pitzl also mentioned she had talked with state Rep. Terri Proud (R-Lynne St. Angelo)* on Friday. Proud, who has called for repeal of Prop 106, apparently said that because of Attorney General Horne's investigation, any action by the legislature has been put "on the back burner." However, Proud, just four days earlier, and AFTER Horne's investigation was announced, delivered another punch in the effort to make the AIRC drown in paper.
Pitzl also said that Proud's internet petition calling for removal of Colleen Mathis has gotten a low number of signatures. In contrast, a petition addressed to Gov. Brewer, telling her to "Keep Colleen Mathis as independent chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission" has collected more than 4,000 signatures so far.
* Terri Proud is apparently PROUD of her tea party affiliation. She officially represents LD-26 in the Arizona House of Representatives. LD-26 is essentially NW Tucson with the Town of Oro Valley smack dab in the middle of it. Lynne St. Angelo, who hails from Oro Valley, is the tea party organizer who has been among the loudest and longest complainers about decisions made by the AIRC.
And while I'm at it, I would be remiss to not take another shot (across the bow, of course, nothing more direct) at the UNfair Trust and its mouthpieces, David Cantelme and Michael Liburdi. Both Cantelme and Liburdi have gotten overtly hostile and verbally attacked me after I posed questions about the funding and membership of their CLANDESTINE lobbying group.
These bozos should take a lesson from the Prescott Valley Town Council. The PVTC approved an agreement with former councilman Mike Flannery to represent its interests before the AIRC. The agreement provides $2,600 to cover Flannery's out of pocket expenses and overnight accommodations.
How much would you bet that Cantelme and Liburdi are getting significantly more than $2,600 to represent Andy Tobin and company's interests while trying to co-opt minority interests before the AIRC?