The stage has been set, a team assembled, and despite every effort by the whiners in the Arizona GOP and tea party factions, the work will begin.
Over the last week, mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry, at the direction of the Commission, developed four maps. The four represent Congressional and legislative Grid Maps using two different starting points/methods for proceeding. None has been adopted as the starting point from which development of the Draft Maps (the next step) will continue.
There has been a range of reaction to the Grid Maps, but it's important to realize the maps (once adopted) are ONLY the starting point.
Demographer and Redistricting expert Tony Sissons told me recently that neither set will represent any partisan advantage over the other as a starting point.
Don't forget that tomorrow, at the 1pm AIRC meeting in the Phoenix City Council Chambers, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will address the Commission. Of course, if you cannot make it, online streaming video will be available.
Over the next few days, I will comment on the Arizona Eagletarian about the documents (a few at a time) the AG office said constitute the bases for investigation of the Commission.
The first several pages, which are only copies of the political GOSSIP rag (Yellow Sheet), contain obvious conjecture (guess work) based on unnamed sources giving their impression of discussion they had with various GOP leaders in the state legislature and with Gov Brewer's office.
The first, most obvious point to be made is that only people without critical thinking or reading comprehension skills can be expected to take at face value what the Yellow Sheet reports. The people who have been clamoring for removal (sending emails to the governor and AG) of the AIRC chair, for the most part, are not people who can afford to subscribe to the Yellow Sheet.
The "keep your socialist hands off of my Medicare" crowd can only be getting access to that GOSSIP sheet by way of a determined ASTROTURF campaign. [A tweet posted by a party interested in redistricting throughout the US linked to this behind the scenes look at Texas redistricting]
Consider the following excerpt from page 6 (YS dated July 7) of the pdf file:
Senate GOP leaders spoke with Brewer’s staff yesterday to discuss their problems with IRC Chair Colleen Mathis, and a Senate source said the Ninth Floor was receptive to the request that she be removed. "I think they’re open to the idea," the source said. The response from Eileen Klein and Michael Hunter, the source said, was that the senators should compile a list of offenses they believe Mathis has committed that warrant her removal. "We’re doing that now, so it’s looking good. I think you’re going to see the ball star [sic] to move," the source said. Already, there are reports that GOP leaders in the Senate have begun polling members to see if they would vote to remove Mathis. Were Brewer to elect to begin the removal process -Prop 106 dictates the removal of a commissioner to be initiated by the governor, then approved by two-thirds of the Senate- the source said it would open the door to a compromise with Mathis. One such deal could be an agreement from Mathis to hire a Republican mapping consultant - presumably National Demographics Corporation - that would work alongside Strategic Telemetry, said the source...This excerpt provides evidence, if of ANYTHING, that this whole controversy has been generated by GOP lawmakers for the SOLE purpose of providing a fulcrum for leverage to get the AIRC to actually DO backroom deals favorable to incumbent lawmakers. Isn't it ironic that informal scuttlebutt, including within Democratic clubs throughout the state, is that final maps are already a "done deal?"
Doesn't that actually lay bare the entire motivation on the part of vested interests who are upset they do not have a Steve Lynn clone at the AIRC helm this year?
Another intriguing item as I've pondered testimony this summer from Andi Minkoff and Adolfo Echeveste along with a transcript of the July 17, 2001 AIRC meeting -- each has a little bit different remembrance of how and why competitiveness was suppressed in the redistricting process ten years ago.
Beginning on page 36 of the transcript , Dr. Alan Heslop (founding director of the highly partisan Rose Institute and principal of 2001 mapping consultant National Demographics Corp), during a power point presentation to the AIRC, described how to "solve political problems" inherent in redistricting:
...indeed in all legislative processes I know of, the multiplicity of criteria is viewed by incumbents and their staffs as an advantage because you can choose this criterion here to solve that political problem and these other criterion there to solve another political problem and the underlying basis, and who's to criticize them? Perhaps we'd do it in their place. Perhaps the underlying basis for use of the criteria is not the criteria itself, incumbents, parties, or whatever.
Now, this is an occasion of a cross process using a very different perspective. How does the Commission resolve possible conflicts or prioritization of standards?
We suggest in this Power Point some resolutions for problems that we have described. Let me begin with a rehearsal of the Proposition 106 criteria, the federal mandates, and the grid adjustments. No doubt as you read Proposition 106, it unequivocally requires equal population standards. There is the same kind of unequivocality as to the Voting Rights Act Amendments. But then we come to the Proposition 106 criteria as listed in Section 14 C, D, E, and F. And the question that I posed in the first presentation was how is the Commission to apply these criteria?
Which criteria should have priority?
What happens when a particular area, when you are examining a particular line of districting, what about competition among these criteria and how should that competition be resolved? We think that the Commission, because it is involved in a very different process from legislative redistricting, needs a principal method of prioritizing these criteria. And we think that this method is found in the process set up by Proposition 106 itself and in arguments made on behalf of Proposition 106 at the time of its passage.
The transcript excerpts show clearly that NDC and Alan Heslop suggested the AIRC use the language of Prop 106, which he believed puts competitiveness as the lowest priority criterion, as the guide in the process.
The Arizona Supreme Court, finally in 2009, declared that methodology to be flawed and inappropriate.
Fast forward to 2011. The same interests that found convenient methods for sidestepping the wishes of the voting public are fighting like drowning swimmers to find a way to preserve the status quo. Most of them are conducting their survival fight behind the scenes. Others, like Frank Antenori and Terri Proud, prefer the brash, in-your-face approach. And Proud Terri keeps right on rolling along, this week getting the Arizona Daily Star to publish her mindless drivel and Tucson radio personality Bill Buckmaster to let her rant on the airwaves.
In the meantime, the press is failing tremendously at getting to the essence of this story.