On Thursday, the Intertribal Council of Arizona hosted the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's meeting at the Heard Museum on N. Central Avenue and member tribes made their case for maximizing Congressional and legislative representation for the next ten years.
The most dramatic proposal, presented by Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, calls for a sweeping Congressional district covering a vast area of the north and eastern areas of the state. Both Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic and Paul Davenport of the Associated Press described Gorman's proposal well.
By the time the tribal presentations began, after nearly an hour of discussion by AIRC members on potential adjustments to the Congressional grid maps, nearly sixty people were in attendance. That may have been the most people at an IRC meeting this year other than the Public Outreach Hearings. Some remarked that today's deliberation seemed more substantive and productive than has taken place since adoption of the grid maps. Still, they made no decisions on where lines will be drawn for the DRAFT maps they will present to the public for comment during the second round of hearings.
In Wednesday's meeting in Casa Grande, a couple of commissioners used the expression, "drill down" to reflect the need to analyze demographic data necessary to understand where each would like lines to be drawn. I don't know that they've succeeded yet in doing any of that drilling. Today, when discussing future meetings, McNulty proposed having today's meeting (scheduled for 10am at the Fiesta Inn in Tempe) instead be a work study session. That became a discussion on cancelling the meeting so commissioners could spend the day independently working in the Maptitude software while looking at the demographic data.
No cancellation was made. Meeting is still on for 10am.
Public testimony of note on Thursday, other than by tribal representatives, included Tucson Libertarian activist Jim March making the case, this time also to the Native Americans in the audience, regarding the prison population issue. He played a PowerPoint presentation and told the audience that unless the method for addressing prisons is changed, it will materially dilute the voice of voters in Arizona's Tribal communities. March spelled out his concern that a Pinal County superdistrict -- covering the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson -- could become a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the private prison industry.
Granted, the demographic data, primarily the number of prisoners currently incarcerated in federal, state and private prison facilities throughout Arizona taken alone might suggest the problem is not necessarily a big deal. But a realistic scenario, considering several likely very real factors might legitimately support March's fear.
Florence and Eloy, now roughly halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, already have prisons. Gov. Brewer was very recently in Pinal County to promote another prison development project. Local businesses need local residents (who hold jobs) to spend money. A steady stream of government spending for the employees (to house and guard those prisoners) would provide an environment ripe for parochial interests in such a superdistrict (or more than one) with strong incentive to enact laws to promote higher prison populations and additional facilities.
To me, March's scenario, in present day Arizona, is realistic and not at all dependent on a "conspiracy theory" type mindset.
Another Tucson activist, Mohur Sarah Sidhwa, gave poignant testimony calling the idea of creating three Congressional districts on the border with Mexico, "ridiculous." She said that to draw three border districts will certainly dilute the voice of voters along the border. Since each district must have more than 700,000 residents, vast majorities in all three would be living far north of the border, including many in Phoenix. Where do politicians go? Where they can find the money and the votes to get elected and re-elected.
Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters Arizona, on Thursday, called on the AIRC to put focus on competitive districts now by developing an objective measure to put it on the front burner in their discussions.
An objective tool called Judge-It, developed by social scientists to crunch multiple sets of voter registration and election results data, happens to be available for no cost for the AIRC to use for competitiveness analysis. Strategic Telemetry most likely is capable of using Judge-It and performing the necessary calculations. Certain decisions, about and around which the commission has been "kinda, sorta" discussing already, must be made before it can be done. And likely a social scientist from academia would need to consult on interpreting the results generated by Judge-It. But these are things that can and should be arranged VERY quickly. If not, then we run a high risk of missing out on competitive districts for another decade. THAT would be tragic indeed.
It's also becoming increasingly obvious that a 5-0 consensus on any given mapping scenario is going to be next to impossible to achieve. Each commissioner will be under the gun -- FIGURATIVELY speaking -- to justify his and her position on a set of DRAFT map proposals. Given that a couple of them have already indicated they want to delay the second round of Public Hearings, time is of the essence.
There are no more procedural justifications for delay. Perhaps it's time for our five redistricting commissioners to s*it or get off the pot. Or they need a swift kick in the pants... or some other way of effectively getting a grasp on the urgency of the situation.