Since my last post, the AIRC has held hearings in Window Rock, Springerville, Eager, Pinetop and Tuba City.
The only significant item I've gotten from any of those hearings so far is that there continues to be concern among rural Arizonans that the two rural Congressional districts on the draft map that they either, 1) are far too large geographically and make it next to impossible for a Representative to travel to all communities in each, OR 2) they have too many people from Maricopa and/or Pima Counties.
One citizen testified at the Pinetop hearing that the only way to prevent having such vast geographic areas is for the Congressional district lines to radiate like spokes on a wheel from Maricopa County. He's essentially correct. During the first round of Public Outreach Hearings conducted by the AIRC, there was a loud and clear emphasis on having two rural Congressional districts. Well, in this case, to have rural only districts, they can ONLY be done by having vast areas.
Early in the hearing, state Rep. Karen Fann all but demanded Yavapai county's legislative district be designated as LD 1. Her main point was that the way the draft map sits now, she believes Yavapai would not have any representation their lawmaker could come from Maricopa or Coconino Counties.
Malcolm Barrett Jr. was the first (only the first) speaker this evening to invoke the "G" word for something he doesn't like about the map. Gerrymandering, that is. He also branded the current map as unacceptable because it looks like what a Democrat from Coconino County advocated for.
Sharon Egan was the first to invoke the mantra that Strategic Telemetry is working for Obama and therefore she is concerned that "this map" was going to be "shoved down our throat" like Obama did with the healthcare reform (the Affordable Care Act).
Other than the various tea party mantras, a common theme is "keep Yavapai County whole."
Others have indicated their hope that the commission actually listens and takes their testimony seriously. While I do not know what the final outcome will look like, I do know that one of the things that Strategic Telemetry contracted with the commission to do is to aggregate the comments to provide insight on how to properly weigh the points.
It's also becoming obvious that neither the blurb read by Strategic Telemetry nor the introduction by whichever commissioner presides over a given hearing is addressing anything that's on the minds of anybody at these hearings. Even I could just read a script. But Strategic Telemetry can and should adjust its introduction to -- for example -- explain that testimony will be taken seriously and aggregated and what that means to the people in the audience. Successful public speaking requires the person to know their audience. Early on in the second round of hearings, it looks like Strategic Telemetry isn't even trying to know the audience. The natural result is that the entire commission gets blindsided.
AIRC chair Mathis indicated more than 50 people testified this evening. ONE person mentioned the significance of competitive districts. ONE. However, MANY people expressed, in their own words, thoughts that clearly were reflections of the GOP anger sent forth from Arizona's governor and Congressional delegation last week.
That doesn't bode well even IF a politically competitive set of districts is made available for northern Arizona.