The first order of business was discussion and adoption of Grid Maps. These serve ONLY as a starting point, so the commission doesn't simply tweak the existing district maps.
Stertz made a motion to adopt the second set of Grid Map options, then the fun began. Citizens were then invited to weigh in -- on this specific agenda item. The third one up was state Sen. "Captain Al" Melvin. However, he clearly had not been paying attention to the discussion or even cared about the agenda item. I say this because Capt. Al went completely off course and hit an iceberg -- after launching into a worn out diatribe attacking AIRC Chair Colleen Mathis. I've transcribed his comments for you to decide:
Yes, Al Melvin, I’m now in my third year as a state senator representing LD 26.The reason I wanted to speak early on today is just the entire nature of this commission. When it was put on the ballot by Mr. Pedersen, later a Democratic candidate for US Senate and the money he placed behind this measure, it was sold to the people as an independent redistricting commission, rather than the 90 duly elected legislators in the Arizona State Legislature.So, now we’re dealing with that institution here in this room. Basically, we’ve got two Republicans, two Democrats, and you ma’am, the chairlady, as a so-called independent on the commission. And I’m struck by the fact, and I know this has been pointed out before, that your husband was a paid treasurer for Nancy Young Wright, a Democrat candidate in LD26 for the House.And it came to my attention today that you specifically donated, I believe $100 to Mr. Cherny’s Democratic campaign for treasurer and that he lost to the Republican. And also that that individual, Mr. Cherny went on to become the current chairman of the Democratic Party for the state of Arizona.So, to me, the onus is on you ma’am to be brutally and totally honest to the 6.5 million people in this state.If it wasn’t for this commission, 90 duly elected legislators would be doing this job.Now it hinges on you, as the one independent, out of five, and what did that get us? It got us a mapping company with close ties to the Obama campaign. And to me, and the eyes of many people in this state, this commission, and its work is tainted.And it comes back to you, and this mapping company to do the right thing for the 6.5 million people in this state, to me it has already swung a hard left...
Herrera then interrupts, "Madam chair..." pointing out that Melvin is out of order. Melvin then cut his "testimony" short and Lynne St. Angelo, the tea party organizer with whom Melvin traveled to the meeting, is heard clapping loudly and rapidly.
At the next recess, I introduced myself to Melvin and told him I would write about him. When I told him he was completely out of order (with his comments) he wanted to argue that it was Strategic Telemetry that was out of order. However, he ended up just asking me to tell the truth about the situation. Which I assured him I would do. And now have done. If I was to be kind to him, I could only say that his performance was unseemly and unbecoming. I'm not sure he deserves that kindness, however.
When GOP state lawmakers allow themselves to be egged on by the likes of Ms. St. Angelo, perhaps they deserve all the embarrassment they bring upon themselves.
Some crucial points to consider concerning Capt. Al's comments:
- If only it was so easy for a rich person to put a CITIZEN initiative on a statewide general election ballot! Capt. Al publicly declared his disdain for the will of the voters by intentionally mischaracterizing this process as something so simple as ONE rich guy deciding to change laws for his personal gain. IF it was so easy, would not we see more obviously narcissistic measures put up by Arizona's Upper Crust?
- Capt. Al emphasized the role of "90 duly elected legislators in the Arizona State Legislature." Clearly implied by use of this expression is the message that the 90 members are the only way the people would get fair redistricting. However, if that were they case, would Arizonans have put so many initiatives on the ballot for so many years? For example, Indian gaming, medical marijuana, an INDEPENDENT redistricting commission, payday loans, and even a voter protection act because the legislature has repeatedly endeavored to dilute, weaken or negate voter approved laws?
- Capt. Al repeats the tea party talking point about Chris Mathis having worked for Nancy Young Wright's campaign as if that is an indictment of Colleen Mathis. Only people lacking even the most basic understanding of the difference between legal and political issues, and without a grasp of marriage as a partnership, would find Al's claim at all relevant to the AIRC.
- Capt. Al apparently thinks the world as we know it is going to end simply because Colleen Mathis made a campaign contribution to Andrei Cherny. Why is it that nobody found this apparent fact significant enough to shine a light on it prior to her appointment (March 1, well after 2010 campaign finance reports were filed)?
- What does it say about the voters who chose Capt. Al to represent them in the Arizona Senate? His campaign website says he's a college professor/adjunct lecturer for three universities. However, his appearance yesterday simply does not measure up to the credentials he claims to have.
Anyway, the commission adopted the second set of Grid Maps.
Strategic Telemetry next presented a summary of public testimony from the first round of outreach hearings. A power point presentation on this subject
The commission next discussed the idea of adopting definitions of redistricting related terms. Stertz had previously mentioned he felt it would be a good idea to address this subject. UNfair Trust's David Cantelme, several times, urged the commission, to adopt definitions so that the public can be assured the commission would apply the concepts consistently throughout the state.
Anyway, Cantelme's underlying message on this subject has been obvious from the start. He wants something he can use to sink his litigious teeth into and tear apart the work of the commission.
Freeman, McNulty and Herrera voiced concern about putting themselves in a box, which would limit their discretion in dealing with the complex decisions they must make.
"Chairlady" Mathis called for public comment on this subject.
Cantelme again went on the record to urge adoption of definitions. Others rebutted his remarks.
I couldn't let Cantelme go without putting my ideas out there also. Citing the Wednesday decision to contract with Maptitude, an option that will cost $27,349 more than another option, I expressed my concern over the commission yielding to threats made by UNfair Trust.
Cantelme asked for opportunity to reply and was granted permission. He specifically called my claims lies. However, even a cursory review of the documents in question, coupled with the way AIRC legal counsel characterized the letter, make it abundantly clear that Cantelme is the one who misrepresented the intent of his communications with the commission.
Stertz then said he recognized the commission had reached a consensus to NOT adopt the definitions at that time. No vote was taken on this agenda item.
The Arizona Republic's Alia Beard Rau detailed some of the adjustments commissioners directed ST to make to maps to present for consideration on Monday.
A reader just sent me another tip on Cantelme. The UNfair Trust mouthpiece represented former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, who was an intervenor, in a case ruled on this week by the Arizona Court of Appeals. Based on that court decision, Planned Parenthood of Arizona decided to close a number of clinics in rural Arizona this week.
Adams is a declared candidate hoping to replace GOP Congressman turned US Senate candidate, Jeff Flake. The reader who sent the tip has a hunch that one of the objectives of the UNfair Trust is to provide an opportunity for Adams and his chief rival, Matt Salmon to run in separate districts for Congress in 2012.
Since I've expounded on the situation with Cantelme's representation of UNfair Trust, it might also be appropriate to update the situation with John Mills, the taxpayer funded political operative reporting directly to Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin. At more than one recent AIRC meeting (including yesterday in Casa Grande), Mills and Cantelme sat together and have been overheard discussing strategy.
On Monday (also in Casa Grande), Mills came up to interrupt in a conversation I was having with two people before the beginning of the meeting. I was explaining some of the issues that had been in the news regarding the commission. Mills contradicted me, which certainly is not surprising. I pointed out that he gets paid by taxpayers to do political work. He again contradicted me. Again, not surprising.
Remember, House public information officer Paul Boyer acknowledged to me that Mills attends these meetings while on the clock. Boyer said Mills was authorized to do so because the Prop 106 language allows the legislature to make recommendations on the maps that the AIRC eventually develops.
The question arises when Mills does ANYTHING other than just observe and report to his boss about what takes place at AIRC meetings. Can spinning political messages to citizens and interrupting when I'm talking to those citizens reasonably be construed as the legislature making recommendations to the AIRC on draft maps?
On Wednesday (at the Phoenix City Council Chambers), after a female citizen testified about prison gerrymandering, Mills confronted her alone in the lobby when she got up to visit the rest room. She told me about it. I expressed my displeasure to Mills at a later recess in the meeting. He wanted to tell me his side of the story. But I was not interested in his excuses.
Recall that in May, when I had asked for Mills thoughts on something the commission had decided, he told me he just wasn't going to talk to me about it. At the next meeting, he told me that if I wanted him to comment on anything, I needed to contact Paul Boyer. On Wednesday, he got upset that I didn't want to listen to him excuse his abusive behavior.
This is not the first incident where Mills went well beyond the limits of what could reasonably be allowable for him to be doing, while being paid by taxpayers, at AIRC meetings. He confronted me early on in the process, when I spoke about the number of competitive districts that could be drawn on the new maps without compromising Voting Rights Act compliance. Mills has also been seen at public meetings at least one other time rudely challenging a citizen.
Shouldn't Mills be called out -- to the person who gives him orders and sign his time sheets -- for this blatantly unlawful conduct? Andy Tobin, the GOP Speaker of the Arizona House can be reached by telephone, fax or email.