Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Redistricting -- so much more ado... but is it about nothing?

The Tea Party is not ready to give up and let the will of the people of Arizona be carried out.

First they send a bus load of seniors to the June 30th IRC business meeting in Tucson to disrupt the process.  That day, the first three hours of the meeting were dominated by angry, sometimes irrational attacks against Commission chair Colleen Mathis.  Former Tea Party GOP Congressional candidate Ruth McClung's own mother, sounding like an evangelist, resorted to YELLING in her efforts to stir up the audience.

Then they began flooding blogs (this one, for example) and news website comments with threats:

I know it may be difficult, but come join us in July, 2011 watching the fiasco called the Independent Redistricting Committee.  They can't even plan meetings (time, date, location) until the mandatory 48 hours notice.

Get your camera, there is gonna be a wreck. (posted by "scooper")

Extreme right-wing blog, Sonoran Alliance has also been stirring people up by posting Mathis' AIRC application, claiming a clerical error means she was intentionally deceiving the people of Arizona, and fostering a hate-filled comment thread on the blog article. 

At the AIRC business meeting last week, Tea Party activists also tried to fill the audience.  This is not simply a liberal characterization.  Those folks wore buttons and sashes proudly proclaiming their Tea Party affiliation.  The sashes bore a reproduction of the Gadsden flag image.  The room, reportedly with a fire code maximum capacity of around 60 people, filled well before the session was called to order.  A significant overflow crowd went to a conference room less than a block away at the Arizona League of Cities and Towns to watch the live streaming online video.

The brouhaha these people hoped to start was put on hold, as the public comment period had been moved to the end of the agenda.  Because concerned Arizonans other than Tea Partiers also showed up for this meeting, and because many people were apparently not actually interested in the business of the AIRC, by the time public comment was held, there was not nearly as much tension in the air.  In spite of the Tea Partiers continuing to claim the sky is falling, quite a number of people said they support the work of the Commission thus far.
 
The Yellow Sheet has reported that both Gov. Brewer and AG Tom Horne have received hundreds of letters from people demanding Brewer remove Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis.

Horne responded to those letters by claiming his staff had done a legal analysis and he's disturbed by the developments. Rather than providing actual legal analysis, however, he declared "it's not my job, mahn!" and suggested constituents might want to contact the governor and state senate about it.  I'm not a lawyer, but I could have (and had already) done as much legal analysis as he includes in that letter.

The bottom line is that Mathis is being attacked for doing much the same as former AIRC chair Steve Lynn did in 2001.  Lynn voted his conscience, which reflected his wife's Republican activism. Mathis votes her conscience. However, people like Lynne St. Angelo (self-described political organizer, Tea Partier and Jesse Kelly campaign activist) must have immediate gratification, so rather than wait and let the process play out, they throw all kinds of tantrums and hissy fits to disrupt the Commission.

A couple of weeks ago, sensing the coming storm of discontent from the Tea Party, I set up a facebook page for the AIRC. I told the AIRC executive director and some of the commissioners about it, fully intending to transfer control to AIRC staff as people have been asking them to become active in social media.  On Monday evening this week, apparently shortly after learning that the meeting tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, July 13, was cancelled, people started signing up as facebook fans primarily so that they could post harsh comments critical of the Commission.  One such remark characterized the AIRC as corrupt because of the clerical error on Mathis' application.  Though facebook terms and conditions require people to use their real names,

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account (quoted in part):
  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal profile.
people using the names, Johny Appleseed and Right Wing Housewife complained about the cancelled meeting.  Phoenix mayoral candidate Jennifer Wright posted comments agreeing with those two.
 

By Tuesday afternoon, however, Wright had deleted her own comments.  Here's Right Wing Housewife's facebook profile pic,


Now, if these people were operating on anything other than a fear motivated visceral level, it seems reasonable to surmise that they would give rational consideration to the facts.

Facts such as that GOP heavyweight Doug Cole (longtime advisor to governors Symington, Hull and Brewer, works for GOP lobbying firm HighGround) telling the Arizona Republic that the time for concern over Mathis' application is long gone.

And Republican AIRC Commissioner Rick Stertz telling the Arizona Capitol Times that he is sick of Mathis getting beat up by the people making angry comments during Commission meetings.

Another fact that people are overlooking is that both Republican commissioners believe that the mapping consultant hired last week can do the job and that they will "trust, but verify."

Anyway, this blogger embraces the notoriety the flap over the AIRC facebook page has generated.

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The Arizona Eagletarian obtained the individual commissioners' scoring sheets for the evaluation of all four mapping firms interviewed in open session.



Freeman Stertz McNulty Herrera Mathis Avg
NDC – Doug Johnson 882 872 337 362 412 573
RAS – Tony Sissons 625 503 850 800 550 665.6
ST – Ken Strasma 727 642 902 902 902 815
TS – Howard Ward 640 590 340 340 340 450







total points given by each 2874 2607 2429 2404 2204 2503.6







Average points given by each 718.5 651.75 607.25 601 551 625.9

Both Scott Freeman and Rick Stertz gave Strategic Telemetry substantially higher scores than they did for either Research Advisory Services or TerraSystems Southwest.

Both Freeman and Stertz also, in comments on the scoring sheets, acknowledged but minimized the significance of NDCs sloppy proposal.

NDC principal Doug Johnson has been telling people that he lost out on the contract because of political bias.  While these scores show there is at least a little bit of truth to that, if Johnson had not been so cavalier and careless about his proposal, Herrera, McNulty and Mathis would not have been able to justify their scores for NDC.  It was abundantly obvious -- even more so after the Arizona Eagletarian spoke with a Republican and a Democratic member of Yuma County's Redistricting Advisory Commission -- both of whom were very displeased with NDC (currently contracted with Yuma County) for failure to meet promised deadlines, that hiring NDC would easily have put the AIRC in a position all too similar to that  described vividly by former AIRC Commissioner Minkoff.

But the Tea Party astroturfers are apparently not interested in facts or rational explanations.

Even though the Tea Party is calling for Mathis' removal,  and Tucson Republican state Rep. Terri Proud wants a special legislative session to undermine this voter approved process,
Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss has “no imminent plans’’ to call a special session. But he said Jan Brewer, a Republican, “is aware of the concerns of some of the legislators and she shares some of those concerns.’’

Benson said, though, Brewer believes any talk of overhauling or reforming what voters approved “is purely speculative at this point,’’ saying she instead wants to be sure the current system “is executed fairly and in accordance with the law.’’
Brewer, of course, alludes to what AG Horne should have said, that there is currently no indication of any unlawful activity or legitimate grounds for Mathis' removal.

I wonder how many times people have reminded Terri of the Proverb (16:18, KJV)
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  
How haughty must one be to have such contempt for what voters already decided?

Claiming to be ahead of the game, the Arizona Democratic Party two days ago declared that they started last March to keep an eye on the process.
In March, we launched the Drawing a New Arizona Project to serve as a watchdog for this important process and to protect its independence.
I'm not so sure they were that far ahead of the game.  But they have stepped up and started sounding the alarm.  And I'm glad.  ADP chair Cherny also said:
Let me be clear: I don't know whether Democrats will ultimately be happy with the lines this commission produces or not. That's not the point -- and it's not the commission's job to please one party or another.
And I agree with him on that point.

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Tomorrow, I expect to obtain the schedule for the first round of Public Outreach Hearings.  By then, I also expect to have copies of letters that have been sent to the governor, attorney general and AIRC demanding Mathis' removal, along with copies of letters in support of the work of the AIRC.  I intend to post a sample of the letters from both sides.

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