The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened this morning at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino for further deliberations on Congressional and legislative district maps.
This morning, members of an East Arizona Counties coalition, including Tommie Martin, chair of the Gila County Board of Supervisors and Greenlee County Supervisor Richard Lunt, presented to the commission and called for two rural Arizona Congressional districts.
Two members of the Hispanic Coalition for Good Government called for competitive districts while protecting minority rights pursuant to the Voting Rights Act, specifically saying they like proposed Congressional map version 7a.
Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn told commissioners "word on the street" is that support is growing for said version 7a. Martyn also expressed his concern about a district with a 20 percent advantage in Republican registered voters. When they got around to map deliberations, Freeman and Stertz latched onto Martyn's point, decrying "packing" Republican voters into a few districts. Since the subject had come up suddenly and both Republican commissioners used the term which normally refers to ways GOP map drawers (in other states, of course) dilute the voice of minorities to have a say in public policy decisions, it sounded to me like a talking point someone had been discussing behind the scenes recently. After the meeting, Stertz denied that was the case and said plenty of other words would describe the same concern.
McNulty caught on to the line of discussion and suggested it wasn't quite the same concern as with Voting Rights Act compliance for minorities.
Discussion turned testy a couple of times today, especially when Stertz claimed he had been harangued by Herrera and McNulty. AP writer Paul Davenport described the situation well today.
At one point this afternoon, Herrera suggested it would be good to get all of the minority groups together in a room at the same time to get them to come to a consensus on a way for the AIRC to comply with the VRA to satisfy them all.
Onita Davis, an Oro Valley resident who has previously said she was a member of Smart Girl Politics (a tea party related social networking website) complained about the version 7a. Davis also had harsh words for the idea mentioned by members of the Intertribal Council last week at the Heard Museum about wanting a district where they could elect a Native American to Congress. Ms. Davis is nothing if not articulate and eloquent. One of the few tea partiers, in my opinion that makes coherent points at AIRC meetings. Of course, Davis' still may or may not get her druthers on new maps.
The issue of transparency -- disclosure of commissioners' contacts with people seeking to lobby them on district matters -- came up this morning. Coming as no surprise to me, they came to no decision. After a brief opening statement on the subject by legal counsel, and with Mathis suggesting she would like the commission to adopt a rule requiring the five commissioners to be subject to the same logging requirements as mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry. Nobody explicitly indicated they opposed the requirement but they did express several, potentially legitimate, concerns. Again, Davenport also wrote about this issue.
Strategic Telemetry made a presentation on measuring competitiveness. ASU Prof. Jennifer Steen, who had hoped to speak to the commission on this topic, instead will submit written comments. Because Steen's academic and research interests include political statistics, no doubt she has potentially valuable insight on how to best measure competitiveness for proposed maps. No decision was made today.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, on a couple of key policy decisions today, left much to be desired in terms of quality customer service. Early on, I was told that I was forbidden from keeping my water bottle with me in the meeting. Not long thereafter, needing a snack (a piece of fruit), the two security guys ended up NOT being there to protect the safety of everyone in the meeting but to apparently protect financial interests of the Hotel by forbidding me from having any item that I brought from home to eat. I specifically asked one if his job was to prevent violence/ensure safety or to enforce contract provisions. Apparently one condition for renting the room was to forbid anyone from bringing their own snacks or lunch. This, of course, is totally outrageous.
Hoping to help the Wild Horse Pass management prevent a customer perception issue that could spread bad will, I called trying to get this worked out for tomorrow. No word as I publish this post whether they will get the message.
The commission meets tomorrow at 9am, again at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino (which is a different facility from Wild Horse Pass Resort).
LD17 (Tempe/S. Scottsdale Democrats) is holding its Second Annual Beer Summit/Social this Saturday, 4-7pm at the Barnes House. Details on the event page on facebook. Be there or be square! :)