Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Redistricting -- competition and legislative interference

Previously on Criminal Minds...

Oh, yeah, right, this is not a television program, there is real conflict about real problems and issues of concern to our society, our culture and our political governance.

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"Rodney King, May 1, 1992, 
Okay, we know we cannot actually get along. That's why Thomas Paine wrote, long ago in Common Sense, describing the origin and design of government,

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil...
Because it is a necessary evil, there is, has been and always will be great disagreement about what our government should do or refrain from doing.

REDISTRICTING, explained Arizona State University geography Prof. Mike Kuby in testimony at Tuesday evening's AIRC hearing in Chandler, has been a tool to consolidate power for the dominant political party in each state. That is why the tension and political gamesmanship by Arizona GOP leaders has been significant since we heard the first grumblings in December 2010 when Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams filed suit trying to block Paul Bender from being eligible for appointment to the commission.

For decades, Arizona politics has been dominated by the GOP. Prop 106, passed by voters in 2000 was a monumental step toward citizens taking back that power and authority. The bottom line purpose, as stated in the preamble to Prop 106 was for the commission to oversee the establishment of fair and competitive districts.

The GOP out maneuvered everyone else with the first AIRC. Two groups began planning more than a year ago to engage in the process hoping to ensure the GOP did not repeat the travesty imposed on Arizona ten years ago. The Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, organized and engaged. The Arizona Democratic Party began organizing and recruiting commission applicants even earlier.

When the screening process began, the fact that the GOP took for granted the success it had in 2001 became apparent. When the list of qualified applicants was furnished (in December 2010) to legislative leaders, squawking from tea partiers, GOP officials and fundamentalist right-wing organizations (Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy) began in earnest.  

Ever since then, the right-wing has engaged in a propaganda war, not to influence the drawing of the district lines as much as to intimidate and undermine the legitimacy of the independent redistricting process.

The bottom line is that the contentiousness will not let up anytime soon.


Gems from Tuesday evening's hearing in Chandler include:

  • Calling on the commission to establish competitive legislative districts, John Gallagher testified that Arizona citizens' frequent use of the initiative and recall processes is evidence of a non-responsive state legislature.
  • Martha Jo Billy from Gilbert said that the right to vote is a big lie if our vote can never count for anything.
  • ASU student Matt Lucky testified that the ritual of having an election, in itself, is not evidence of a democracy. He cited Iran as an example. Democracy requires meaningful elections.
  • Genevieve Vega mentioned the irony that in a national platform document, the Republican party calls for competition, but in Arizona, since they already dominate state politics, they disparage the concept. 
  • It occurred to me during the hearing that the contrast in personal style between Russell Pearce and his recall challenger Jerry Lewis is an apt analogy to the concept of a non-responsive (dogmatic) legislature vs responsive. 
Russell Pearce is as combative and dogmatic as they come in Arizona. His judgements are responsive to his hard-line dogma as opposed to the larger, broader perspective of the diverse voters in LD18. His dogma prevents him from recognizing the significance of his anti-Latino rhetoric and policy decisions on the overall economic situation for Mesa and all of Arizona.

Jerry Lewis shares Pearce's conservative overall approach, but seems far more capable of complex thinking and recognition of the impact of his positions on the people around him.

Russell Pearce has thrived in Mesa because the GOP has so dominated Arizona politics over the recent decades that the hardline ideologue voters have only had to vote in primary elections.

In a Mesa district which would have demanded politicians to reach a broader set of voters, someone like Jerry Lewis could have and would have likely emerged years ago.

As to Ms. Vega's point about Republicans and competition, the 2004 Republican platform says (on page 48),
Government should be: citizen-centered, not bureaucracy-centered; results-oriented; and market-based, actively promoting rather than stifling innovation through competition.  
What is more citizen-centered than competitive voting districts? What's more MARKET-based than competitive voting districts? What stifles innovation and positive public policy more than preventing election competition?

There are other very poignant gems in the 2004 Republican platform document, including about corporate accountability. But NOTHING stifles good public policy more than allowing one political party in a state or community to dominate elections.

A dear friend from the 1980s in the Phoenix area moved to Illinois and became a law enforcement officer working for a county government. He was so disillutioned by what he observed (Chicago style politics) among Democratic politicians that he could not tolerate my political perspective when we reconnected on the internet a couple of years ago. I understand his perspective. But in Arizona, the dominance of the Republicans makes the approach taken by Pearce and his ilk intolerable for me.


UPDATE on the legislative committee on interfering with the AIRC:

I just spoke with state Sen. Steve Pierce, one of the co-chairs of the new committee.

He would not give any indication of what the committee would do or recommend to do after the hearing(s) are complete. He did say he believes it will take several days to go through the process. He said all options are on the table. Those options include what AJ LaFaro suggested, removing all five commissioners and starting over, to removing just the chair (Mathis), to recognizing the possibility that citizen complaints are solely political disagreement with decisions and taking no action.

While Pierce sounded like a very reasonable person, I'm not comforted. In saying that he believes it will take several days to go through all of the testimony from the public, that's an indication that tomorrow and at least Monday and maybe more consecutive days, will be highly contentious. I would have to expect that UNfair Trust has been organizing behind the scenes and giving people guidance on what to say to provide justification for the committee to recommend call for a special legislative session.

If advocates for fair and independent redistricting do not show up, this could foreshadow a major set back.


  1. Steve, Thanks for keeping us informed about attacks on the IRC. Your report mentions that the legislative committee attacking the IRC is holding hearings now? Where and how can an advocate for fair and independent redistricting comment in these legislative hearings?

  2. Pete, I will address your question in my post this afternoon/evening. :)