Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Redistricting -- there will be time to complain

Even though the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission appears tangibly, (yet just marginally) closer to developing a draft Congressional map, consternation is rising on all sides. Deliberation this morning began with sparks flying over whether the Everything Bagel map (abbrev. EB) is even a reasonable place from which they should be working. (click on the link to launch a Google Maps file to look at where the lines in this proposal would make a district for you).

Maybe it's a good thing that people on all sides of the political spectrum are alarmed at what has been decided so far. Indecision and then decisions, but nothing is yet set in stone. One point of major contention is whether to include Flagstaff in the western Arizona rural Congressional district or the eastern district.

Yes, it is still disturbing that the five commissioners seem poised to dilute the vote of Arizonans on the border with Mexico (by drawing three CDs along that border). But do we even have a way to quantify how bad that would be?

At this stage, it is important for concerned Arizonans to prepare and organize to make their preferences known. However, regardless of the outcome of the current deliberations, there will still be 30 days, after the AIRC adopts DRAFT maps to, as Comm. Scott Freeman says, "show us the error of our ways."

In the meantime, the Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl also wrote up today's deliberation on the Congressional map.

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A fundamental question all concerned citizens should ask themselves at this point is -- from this day forward, until the end of the upcoming 30-day comment period -- what will compel the five commissioners to be swayed by my testimony or written comments?

Everyone who has been paying attention to the process over the summer knows that the five of them have faced a tremendous amount of pressure, mostly from tea partiers and rabid GOP activists. Some of that pressure has come in the form of hundreds of people reading, with varying degrees of passion and vitriol, from the same or a similar script.

Though they may be reluctant to admit it, is it reasonable to assume that they have all been developing a thick skin over the last three months?  If so, what does that mean?

Thick-skinned variously means,

  • Not easily offended
  • Largely unaffected by the needs and feelings of other people.
  • Insensitive to criticism or hints
  • Not easily upset or affected

As an observer of these five people (along with the staff and consultants working with the Commission), right or wrong, all of those meanings fit to some degree. That's both good and bad. They are all very human, imperfect individuals. But they are also ALL committed to a noble, very difficult task that has taxed them personally, emotionally, financially and intellectually. They are all much more qualified than I am to be in the position they are in.

From the position of citizen, however, a position for which I hope I am as qualified as they, I am still compelled to describe what I see.

They may not have fully anticipated the political pressure they would face. But they are all still on the job. To survive emotionally requires them to withstand the intense criticism. How closely tied to that are the other aspects of a "thick skin?"

They have heard so many things from so many people that they probably can anticipate what some are going to say, before they say it. Some things said by members of the public must, by law, be disregarded. 

But today, in about an hour and a half of public testimony, none of the familiar tea party talking points were repeated, even though a couple of tea partiers testified. The AIRC has also had hundreds of people tell them the importance of drawing competitive districts for the next ten years. But today, several people made that case personally, not by reading someone else's script.  

Today, several members of Flagstaff 40 again attended and testified. Vice-chair Stephanie McKinney eloquently, and even very personally, articulated the significance of competitive districts. Among her points, she cited that only 15 of the 435 seats in the US House of Representative (Congress) are held by Members who ran in competitive districts. I do not, at this point, know her source but do want to find it. 

One natural result of having competitive Congressional districts, according to McKinney, will be to bring considerable national campaign money to Arizona. And that money means jobs.  

Judy Whitehouse, who lives in central Phoenix, talked about how objectionable we all find it when a bully has a head start in a race or advantage in any other kind of competition. Why would we find it acceptable to allow the 35 percent of the voters in our state (registered as Republicans) to bully the rest of us with a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature?

So, the key, for citizens advocating from any position on the political spectrum to reach a receptive ear -- and a consensus vote of the commissioners -- would seem to be to tell them what your point means to you, as a real person. The five citizen-volunteers on the AIRC have not completely turned off their sense of empathy, after all.

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Next Monday is the hearing date for Tom Horne's lawsuit seeking a court order to compel three of the AIRC commissioners to comply with his investigative demand (to be interviewed under oath). The lawsuit the AIRC filed in response to Horne does not yet have a hearing date, but the commission has asked for the two legal actions to be consolidated.  So, stay tuned for more to come on that front.

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There is certainly more involved with the notion of successfully advocating one's desired outcome for redistricting than simply public testimony. ASU social psychology Professor emeritus Robert Cialdini's research and writing on Influence is considered one of the most important works on the subject. Some of the principles are widely known and understood. Reciprocity, for example, is the bottom line in knowing how and why lobbyists giving gifts and favors to lawmakers is abhorrent and counter to the concept of government of, by and for the people.

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Earlier today, I tweeted that Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman had given what I believe is an outstanding example illustrating the concept of communities of interest. I'm not necessarily a Hallman fan and I do not necessarily agree with his overall message. But I appreciate the clarity with which he illustrated the concept of communities of interest. He described how the city of Phoenix owns and operates Sky Harbor International Airport, which borders Tempe. Phoenix builds on and from Sky Harbor in various ways for economic development.  Yet for Tempe residents and businesses, noise pollution from the heavy aircraft traffic can be a genuine nuisance. Hallman suggested that to ask one lawmaker to represent those competing interests presents obvious dilemmas. Tempe and other East Valley cities, therefore, are one type of community of interest distinct from the interests of Phoenix.


1 comment:

  1. I am of the mind that the border communities should be in one congressional district, not 3 and definitely not in the manner they are being proposed. Maybe that requires Tuscon to become an "island" district, surrounded by the border district. Does that qualify as gerrymandering?

    But competitiveness is at the front of my mind I don't see anything in this map that says, "competitive". That is a major problem.

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