Just when it seemed the tea party blather at Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission hearings was dying down, a few choice words from some new nutjobs came into play tonight in South Tucson.
Fortunately, the hearing started on time with Commissioner Linda McNulty presiding over the meeting with fellow Tucson resident, Commissioner Rick Stertz with her in person. In three hours, with no breaks for the court reporter, 59 people provided testimony for the record.
Blogger Ted Prezelski tweeted, "It took only an hour and a half before someone called the IRC, the IRC's contractors and the audience 'communists.'" That was Keith Van Heynigan. He proudly declared himself to be a tea partier and then proceeded to call President Obama a "Leninist." When people in the audience laughed and snickered at him, he turned and called them "commies." I wish it was only funny. But people like Keith are a tragic reminder of the impact of the polarizing politics that naturally follows when so many only have to appeal to fringe voters in primaries to get elected.
Thirteen speakers after Keith, Edward Kennedy spoke. No, not THAT Edward Kennedy. Definitely NOT that Edward Kennedy. This guy, hailing from Saddlebrook Ranch on the southern end of Pinal County started in with the worn out talking points put out by Sonoran Alliance and The Cholla Jumps weeks ago. Apparently, Ted didn't get the memo that those things failed to derail the AIRC. Kennedy, however, did call for Colleen Mathis to resign. Yawn.
Those other, familiar, tea party names and faces, including good ol' Lynne St. Angelo and her friend Marilyn Zurrell showed up. This time, however, they got with the program and spelled out what they wanted the Commission to consider for their communities of interest. They want to keep the current LD 26 intact with Oro Valley, Marana and Saddlebrook Ranch. St. Angelo presented a map to the AIRC. She also told them she wanted them to formally adopt, either tonight or at the next meeting, a definition of competitiveness.
Of course, St. Angelo's demand for that definition follows directly onto what Mr. Can't Tell Me has stated a few times at hearings around the state. Throw that together with some other common comments tonight and over the last couple of days and you have evidence that the UNfair Trust is directly tied in with the tea party organizers and others that have been showing up making the same points.
The most common theme tonight again was the importance of competitiveness in as many districts as possible. Not simply reading from someone's list of talking points, most clearly spelled out the significance of competitiveness for the future of Arizona.
But not every common or recurring theme was completely legitimate. A number of people specifically said they had been told Strategic Telemetry has recommended maps that put Saddlebrook Ranch in legislative and Congressional districts with Phoenix and Maricopa County. That even four or five people, in virtually the same phrasing, said this, is extremely disturbing.
Tonight, many people talked about communities of interest. There were several different understandings of what the concept even means. Two people (probably a husband and wife) each specifically described their bicycling routes and said that was their community of interest.
Another familiar face, Christine Bauserman, had obviously talked with several people who echoed her desire to move the lines separating CD 7 (Grijalva) and CD 8 (Giffords). Her people want the line moved to the east, making more of Tucson a part of CD 7, and CD 8 more of a rural district. The thinly veiled motivation for this change is to increase the number of Republican voters in CD 8, making it more difficult for Giffords to win re-election.
Going hand in hand with Bauserman's notions, several people claimed Green Valley, Sahuarita and Sierra Vista all to be one big happy community of interest. Donald Kret, however, called bullshit on that idea. Kret said the only thing Sierra Vista (more than an hour's drive southeast of Tucson) has in common with Green Valley (south of Tucson on the road to Nogales) is a high percentage of Republican voters. There is also a "small" complicating geographic feature separating the two -- the Santa Rita Mountains.
As the crow flies, it might be 40 miles between the two. Google maps, however, shows driving time between the two bergs at nearly two hours. The driving distance calculates to 97.9 miles. The people complaining about the rumored recommendation to link Saddlebrook Ranch with Phoenix said a distance of "about a hundred miles" demonstrates clearly that there is NO community of interest tie.
So you have people manufacturing all sorts of arguments for their hopefully safe Republican districts. But with 59 people testifying, it becomes obvious there are holes in several of the claims.
Of course, some people set forth descriptions of legitimate communities of interest. The challenge is not simply to aggregate the comments, but to discern which are sincere and which are a ruse. Republicans are doing this with communities of interest. And some minority politicians are doing the same thing with overemphasis on the Voting Rights Act.
Again, the challenge is differentiating the ploys from the proper pleas.
Also Tuesday afternoon, the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition awarded prizes for the best legislative and Congressional maps submitted in the group's contest. I should write about this more in a separate blog post. However, I was amused when Capitol Media Services' Howie Fischer greeted me with a raspberry. I told him it was nice to see him too. :)
Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl told me that she stands behind the claim she made on Horizon last week that the flash point in the AIRC controversy was when Strategic Telemetry was hired. Of course, as flash point, I'll agree. But the seeds of the controversy did begin when Joe Kanefield got the legal services contract. It's always good to discuss these issues with people who cover Arizona politics.