Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Redistricting -- Cap Times hopes to ignite new controversy UPDATED

The agenda for today's business meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission included an item for discussion of the Attorney General's inquiry into possible violations of Arizona's Open Meeting Law and procurement rules by the Commission.

Executive Director Ray Bladine was late to the meeting, saying openly that it was because Arizona Capitol Times reporter Christian Palmer called him earlier saying he had heard that three of the AIRC commissioners plan to invoke Legislative Privilege to avoid cooperating with the AG investigation.  To me, Bladine's explanation sounded like he was joking with Palmer.  Palmer, who was at the business meeting with his reporter's notebook, clearly was not amused.

Then during the AIRC hearing in Glendale, I received a Google Alert with a link to Palmer's write up of the situation. Palmer's lede, however,
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission could stumble into another partisan divide, but this time it involves whether members will cooperate with Attorney General Tom Horne’s investigation into whether the commission violated open meeting and procurement laws when it hired a mapping consultant in June.
suggests Palmer's trying to make the news happen.

Of course, since I can't read the entire story, I don't know all of what Palmer reported or concluded.  But really, does a NEWS story (which answers the questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How something HAS happened) speculate on a controversy that only might happen?

What DID happen today is that AIRC legal counsel Joe Kanefield and Mary O'Grady gave a little bit of background on the investigation as the AG's office had relayed it to them.  The potential hot button issue is that the AG's investigator wants to interview each of the five commissioners.  AIRC counsel then discussed the concept of legislative immunity which apparently DOES cover the members of this commission.  Because the meeting was running long, they did not go into executive session.  They also put off any decisions until the next business meeting (tentatively scheduled for August 15).

During discussion, however, Herrera did say that he intended to invoke the legislative privilege.  The degree of controversy this causes is still not certain, regardless of Christian Palmer's axe-grinding. A number of factors yet to be considered will determine whether this will be a big deal.  No doubt tea partiers will be looking for anything to grab onto to claim something is rotten in Denmark, or at the Evans House. And they already HAVE cited Palmer's questionable reporting to claim their beefs are legitimate.

The other big issue at the business meeting involved decisions on direction to be given to Strategic Telemetry for how to develop the Grid Maps. Rick Stertz declared in the July 8 business meeting he wanted to have a say in how the Grid Maps were developed.  So, today, the Commission flipped coins to randomize a couple of points of guidance given for how to proceed.  Ken Strasma, president of Strategic Telemetry, said they could have them ready in a week.  So unveiling those maps will be done at the next business meeting.

Other than the now mundane tea party protestations about what the Commission is doing wrong, or the latest declaration by someone who has absolutely no legal insight or related professional expertise on a new way they have discovered corruption, the only thing I found noteworthy was some bickering and posturing between a couple of commissioners.

The bottom line, in my view, is that both Rick Stertz and Scott Freeman have been put on notice from their partisan overlords (j/k about the overlords part) to no longer be nice guys.  Both of them were more pushy, picky or downright confrontational today.  Of course, I do not expect them to be all lovey dovey because this really is a sort of chess match, an intense competition for the delegation of the power of voters for the next decade.

While his tone was noticably different (a tad more assertive/aggressive) than at prior meetings, Freeman was clear and appropriate in points he made. Stertz, however, was a different story altogether.  In hearings and in personal conversations, he has consistently been reported as being completely charming and gracious.  At times, he has demonstrated that persona in public meetings, as he did while the Commission interviewed Strategic Telemetry back in June.

Today, however, Rick Stertz was forceful, aggressive.  The term that comes to mind is micro-managing. It comes up with school boards and city councils.  Just this last spring, Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio wanted to do some micro-managing.  He got Frank Antenori to shepherd a bill through the Arizona Legislature for him. Antenori, you may recall, has been a voice in the tea party bluster and blather hoping to undermine the AIRC.

Anyway, I was hoping to wait until morning to write this post.  It's after 1am and here I am writing.

Very briefly, the Public Outreach Hearing in Glendale had at least 160 (according to City of Glendale officials) 209 members of the public (went through the security screening) showed up.  There were quite a few tea partiers as well as quite a few who thanked the Commissioners (Mathis, Freeman and Herrera attended this one) for their volunteer service.

Not much new info to report on the public testimony.  Most tea partiers were polite in their comments.  One, Ann Heinz, who has been to several hearings, was downright rude and belligerent.  Rather than discuss her redistricting preferences, she attacked Herrera for what she had heard by watching the earlier business meeting online.  At some point, this crap has to stop.  She was clearly out of order.  But Mathis graciously allowed Heinz to continue making an ass of herself anyway.

I suspect the reason the meeting was polite otherwise is because every person entering the Glendale Council Chambers went through a metal detector first.  And at least four uniformed Glendale police officers were in the auditorium at all times.

UNfair Trust mouthpiece Can't Tell Me attended but did not stay for the entire meeting and did not speak.  He did speak at the business meeting earlier.  He made an outrageous claim about the bid submitted by mapping software developer Azavea for the public to use to provide input on maps AIRC develops.  Can't Tell Me said that the bid amounted to having a "far left" organization (Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition) subsidize redistricting in Arizona.

The unmitigated gall of that guy!  He represents a group that refuses to disclose who either organized it or who funds it.  Yet he comes out and accuses a bipartisan group operating completely in the sunshine  -- which wants to restore common sense to Arizona's electoral systems -- of nefarious motives.  What does he take us for?

Anyway, ACDC co-chair Ken Clark and Dr. Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona both eloquently and poignantly rebutted Cantelme's drivel.

Next up, Public Outreach Hearings in Sierra Vista at 6pm today (Aug 4); Friday 6pm in Phoenix, at the Burton Barr Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.; and Saturday at 1pm in Tucson.

Obviously, if you're reading the Arizona Eagletarian, you're interested.  Attend one of these hearings if possible. If not, then watch the live streaming video.   And tell the Commission what you want to see happen with redistricting for the next election.

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