Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Redistricting -- watching paint dry?

As the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission discussed and deliberated on potential changes to the Grid Maps, more than one member of the audience today was left wondering if watching paint dry might be as exciting.

While certainly not anyone's idea of adventure, this deliberation is still of the utmost importance for the future of public policy, good government and whether or not the will of the people of Arizona will prevail over the next decade.  Comments offered during the Call to the Public reflect a bit of frustration people have wishing there was even just one map on which to express approval or disapproval. Staff of the AIRC would like to be able to accommodate the wishes of those citizens, but really until the five commissioners adopt DRAFT legislative and Congressional maps, that will be difficult.

Instead, the best strategy for people to take might be to either tell the commission, in their own words, where they want lines to be drawn, or continue stressing what they want to be considered as priority criteria as the deliberations continue. As an observer, I can relate to the frustrations, but also understand and am encouraged the AIRC is doing the deliberation openly.  It would be SO much easier for them to confer privately and just make changes from there.  These five individuals are all committed to working it out publicly.

As a reminder, on the AIRC website, to study any map that has been posted, all one needs to do is click on the link for the map you'd like to look at.  For those familiar with Google Maps, the files posted in the KMZ format will open on your computer and look just like the ones on Google, without having to download any additional software.

The most notable mapping item discussed had to do with Rick Stertz' apparently favored three border Congressional districts map. He seems to really favor that concept. I can't say the idea is completely unworkable, but there are several potential problems it can pose. The first and one of the most blatant is that it would put central Phoenix in at least one of those districts. Very likely, neither people in Phoenix nor those in rural southern Arizona would find such a scenario acceptable.

A less obvious ramification could involve splitting Tucson such that it takes the SE Arizona district, now represented by Gabby Giffords, and removes Giffords from it. Regardless of whether she decides to run in 2012, the implications for making that area more Republican and less competitive are significant.

After explaining -- to one person expressing frustration over not having maps on which to comment -- that the five commissioners had left Friday's meeting with a box containing more than 1,500 public comments and 138 maps submitted by the public as suggestions, that person seemed to appreciate more the predicament AIRC staff faces when considering which maps to produce (on paper) to handout at meetings to the public.


Again today, the dates mentioned for the start of the second round of Public Outreach Hearings is Sept. 26 or 27.  Staff is planning to arrange for 23 or 24 hearings around the state.


Familiar faces again today came to testify during the Call to the Public.  Wes Harris, founder and chairman of the Original North Phoenix Tea Party showed up to resume where he left off yesterday when his four minutes was up. Today he called for the AIRC to terminate the contract with Strategic Telemetry.

Harris also expounded on student populations at Arizona's universities.  He claims students distort the electorate in the same way as prison populations.  What Harris fails to consider, it seems, is that while convicted felons cannot use the infrastructure and municipal services of the community surrounding the prison, university students can and do.  Students spend money, drive cars, ride bikes and often hold jobs in the community.  Again, while he might have some legitimate issues for which to advocate, Harris presents narrow and short-sighted arguments.

On the other hand, Jim March, a Tucson Libertarian activist, presented a succinct list of four options he understands as possible ways for the AIRC to treat prison populations. Because commission legal counsel will be making a presentation on legally available options (maybe as early as the next meeting, on Thursday), I will not go into detail. It's important to note, however, that March's comments reveal an openness to the notion that he doesn't know all there is to know about the subject. That's a significant factor that reflects what I believe is a more intellectually honest approach to advocacy. Be clear on this -- March is not a Democrat and certainly not a Liberal or Progressive. But he is, in my opinion, more intellectually honest than the people who have made a habit of attacking the commission.

And speaking of attacking the commission, Lynne St. Angelo spoke again. It's striking to me that for several consecutive meetings, her cell phone has gone off (or rang) during the meeting. And it's not like she has it where she can immediately hit the silence button. She lets it ring for a while, interrupting the meeting.  If it only happened once or twice, it would not be a big deal. But this has been a consistent recurrence.


Chris Rossiter read the letter below for the record at Saturday's meeting, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party.

This was in response to the following letter that had been hand delivered to the commission on August 17th.

The August 17 letter was signed by fifteen individuals with significant experience in civic affairs and public policy, including four former GOP state lawmakers, former ASU president Lattie Coor, the chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, a former mayor of Phoenix and two GOP members of the commission that screened the applicants for this year's AIRC.

Rossiter's letter, on the other hand, while incredibly eloquent, remains as misguided as any of the rest of the attacks and criticisms tea partiers have aimed at the commission.  He accuses the fifteen signers of the other letter of demagoguery.
a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes.
One has to wonder if the writers of Rossiter's letter were actually looking in the mirror instead of reading the letter the other group sent to Gov. Brewer.

Does to say the other letter "reeks of demagoguery" not itself constitute an impassioned appeal to emotions and fears?

As sincere as the Greater Phoenix Tea Party might be, the claim -- that these "so-called 'partisans' who are supposedly opposed to an independent and fair process'" helped uncover a potential conflict of interest that was not disclosed (referring to Colleen Mathis' application) -- reflects an ongoing lack of curiosity.

Groups like this really could learn what constitutes a genuine conflict of interest if they genuinely wanted to know.  It's been more than two months since Strategic Telemetry was hired and the controversy erupted. Why are they still repeating things that clearly untrue?

There are several other deficiencies in Rossiter's letter. It does, however, serve as an indication that sincerity coupled with a naive lack of understanding of politics and law keeps them from effectively advocating.  As such, all it can really accomplish is to further frustrate tea partiers who seem unable to grasp the reasons why they cannot be taken seriously.

To be taken seriously, tea partiers must learn to clearly state their legitimate interests, and even if doing so with passionate appeals, they must remain open to explanation and instruction regarding the concepts over which they currently find themselves confused.  Then they would be empowered to advocate effectively for things like more fiscally sound public policy and other legitimate ideas they may have.


1 comment:

  1. Though watching paint dry is not anywhere near the top of anyone's "most exciting" list of things to do, it can come with surprises. The way the paint dries into minute patterns that you may not have seen before is the way I view the work of the AIRC. Everyone wants a pre-determined outcome, yet pleasantly surprising patterns can emerge that one couldn't see before.

    Steven, you are helping us see those patterns and it is greatly appreciated. Thank you.