Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, August 29, 2011

Redistricting -- busy week ahead

Now that the actual mapping work is taking place, it might seem odd to not have something to write every day. The last meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was held last Thursday. So, what has been going on in the meantime?

Mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry held one-on-one training sessions with the individual commissioners regarding the Maptitude software. This is a dramatic contrast between 2001 and the current AIRC. In 2001, only the mapping consultant (NDC) worked directly (hands-on) with Maptitude.

Since the five commissioners have been trained, they are now better equipped to give intelligent direction to ST.  And given that deliberation and discussion is taking place in open session, those meetings should be delightful for GIS (geographic information systems) nerds. Everyone else, however, may find them tedious and boring. Well, almost everyone else.  A good bit of the detail in those discussions will be difficult to retain, but I keep my eyes and ears open for the nuggets of political meaning.

Speaking of political nuggets, the next meeting of the AIRC is scheduled for Wednesday, August 31, 1:30pm at the Pharmacy Board Hearing Room (State Capitol Tower, 3rd floor).  Agenda items of note include approval of minutes from a couple of previous meetings, a presentation and discussion on how Competitiveness and Compactness are measured, and discussion (and possible action) on contracting with an analyst/expert in racially polarized voting issues.

Now that the five commissioners have been trained on Maptitude and the AIRC has authorized a contract for that software to be made available for public input, I wondered when it would be rolled out. Ex. Dir. Bladine told me he understands it could be ready within two weeks.  They will then figure out the best way to handle training for the public. The two week time frame still puts it ahead of publication of DRAFT maps and the second round of Public Outreach Hearings.

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Attorney General Tom Horne's partisan witchhunt continues this week.  On Saturday, Horne's predecessor Terry Goddard, along with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, had an op-ed run in the Arizona Republic (quoted in part).

Unfortunately, from the moment the current commission began its work, it has been under attack by a highly partisan coalition that is throwing roadblocks in its path.
At the moment, the bulk of complaints are directed at the commission's selection of attorneys and a mapping firm. Several Arizona politicians who didn't like those choices want to undo the contracts that were awarded.
Unfortunately, the attacks are not limited to accusations and outbursts at commission meetings. They also come from the highest levels of state government. Some legislators have threatened to remove the independent chair of the commission if she doesn't do exactly what they want.
And Attorney General Tom Horne recently announced an investigation of the commission - breaking a longstanding attorney general protocol of never discussing pending investigations before a lawsuit is filed or a grand jury has returned an indictment.
As a former Arizona attorney general and as former mayors, we both know how easily investigations can become politicized. The power of the Attorney General's Office must not be or appear to be subverted for partisan purposes.

How any impartial observer could conclude anything other than Horne's investigation being a partisan attack eludes me.

If Horne discloses, as Blog for Arizona's AZ Blue Meanie suggested he should, any "evidence" he received (as state Sen. Frank Antenori claims) of impropriety, maybe we could see otherwise. However, my understanding is that the AG investigator forwarded all he had on the AIRCs alleged wrongdoing already.  The only thing in those documents was complaints that people did not like the mapping consultant and legal counsel contractors.

Then along comes the Arizona Capitol Times' Christian Palmer with more editorializing.
Contrary to Goddard’s assertions, Horne has not been conducting the investigation before the public. He has released zero details, aside from confirming noncritical information that has no bearing on whether the commission broke state law. One such tidbit was confirmed last week when Horne acknowledged to me that his office would conduct its first interview with an IRC commissioner – Republican Richard Stertz. His cooperation with the investigation seems to be anything but forced, and his fellow Republican on the panel, Scott Freeman, has given every indication that he, too, is willing and ready to speak with Horne attorneys investigating the matter.
Palmer's hubris is evident this time in that, without ever having obtained a law degree, let alone having held the office of Attorney General, Palmer declares Goddard wrong and Horne right.

Goddard indicated that Horne broke from long established protocols.  Palmer, however, seems to have missed the point on protocols (like declining to speak about ongoing investigations) and instead saying only that Horne did not release any details of the investigation. Even on that, Palmer is wrong. Horne's office provided copies of complaints, as a result of a Public Records Request by AIRC legal counsel, from ranting tea partiers as the basis for the investigation.

Regular readers of news stories about investigations of any kind of alleged white collar crime will be familiar with the expression "the (whichever agency is investigating) declines to comment due to the ongoing investigation." Examples here, here and here.

Even if this was a situation where challenging a former state AG's experience and insight might be warranted, might it take someone with more depth of experience than Mr. Palmer has to give any credibility to it?

At this stage, can there be any question that Christian Palmer's approach to covering the AIRC is that of someone with an ax to grind?

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Last week also had one of those politicians hoping to sabotage the AIRC publish an op-ed in various publications. The release date shown, Aug 22, is AFTER Biggs received notice (on Aug 19) that his public records request had been fulfilled by the AIRC. And even if Biggs claims he did not see the letter before sending out the op-ed, he HAS seen the notice since and the op-ed claiming the AIRC has failed to honor his request for documents is STILL up.

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After Wednesday's meeting, two more are tentatively scheduled for Friday and Saturday, to discuss mapping issues. Details still to be determined.









3 comments:

  1. Steve,
    What are your thoughts on the various organizational maps? Looks to me like some organizations may have focused too closely on minority majority districts. Protecting CD7 and CD4 are both critical to the Dems, but who is left to make the other seven districts competitive?

    I understand the Voter Rights Act makes things difficult. Just looking for your thoughts.

    Bryan

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  2. Thanks for the question Bryan. I don't have any opinions on any of the specific maps submitted by any group or individual yet. I only have questions. And I like some of the questions I've heard each of the five commissioners pose in open meeting discussions thus far.

    I just watched the recording of this week's Sunday Square Off (channel 12, with Brahm Resnik). On the segment about redistricting, I found Brian Murray's claims, on several points, outrageous and lacking credibility.

    However, what he had to say about Democratic interests being at direct odds with Hispanic (Voting Rights Act) interests was intriguing. I disagree with him that the two are necessarily either/or instead of both/and. I'm not convinced that a win/win for Hispanic voters and Competitive districts (which seems to be what he was really getting at) is impossible.

    It's way too early to tell how any set of suggestions is going to play out.

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  3. Steve,
    I appreciate your thoughts. It will be telling to see the final product to determine if a DOJ criterion truly allows competitive districts, in addition to mandated minority majority districts.

    No matter, I believe the Arizona voter is smart enough, and is upset enough, to elect the right person no matter the party.

    We all wait with baited breath as the commission presents maps in the coming days...

    Keep up the good work.
    Bryan

    ReplyDelete