Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Redistricting -- Sierra Vista; day 3 of lege interference hearing

At tonight's hearing of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in Sierra Vista, immediately after the first speakers -- elected local officials -- a thirteen-year-old who has lived in Cochise County all of her life called for adjusting the draft maps to keep her county whole.

While it was a wonderful exercise and civics lesson for a young person like her, the essay she read clearly was not written exclusively by her. I have to wonder if Commissioner Stertz will disrespect her reading of someone else's concerns like he did last night in Tucson. Stertz took issue then with those who complimented the commission but called on them to draw more competitive districts.

Tonight, the most emphatic message is that citizens disapprove of the Congressional draft map, which splits Cochise County so that a third representative's district is on the border with Mexico. That, of course, was Stertz' biggest push early in the map drawing process. The citizens of Cochise County, across the board,  those who want more competitive districts and those who do not, think it's a lousy idea.

By the way, the message from SOOOO many other Arizonans about the Congressional district maps, but especially from Sierra Vista and Cochise County, was foreseeable. In fact, it was foreseen. My friend Mohur Sarah Sidhwa testified specifically on that point last month. And in this blog, I made the same point.

Some tea partiers have claimed that a good bit of the acrimony aimed at the commission could have been avoided if only they had done this or that. While tonight's message from citizens at the hearing could indeed have been avoided with some different decisions, the commission still would have taken it in the shorts on some other issue. But the fact remains -- as Stertz acknowledged -- there was a great deal of passion from both sides demanding to keep Cochise County whole.

The fact that both sides did not like it does NOT mean it was the right decision. So, Chairwoman Mathis, please stop using that faulty logic.

The criticism for this decision rests as much on Stertz as on any of the other commissioners. Nevertheless, the draft maps as they stand now STILL represent a good faith effort to address and incorporate competing, legitimate concerns raised by citizens throughout the state. But a point Stertz tried to make at a hearing last week -- that he did not agree with the draft maps and voted against them -- now rings hollow because largely, the concerns of Cochise residents tonight are a result of changes made at his urging.

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Rick Stertz' closing comments tonight were dramatically more respectful of the audience. Citing the passion by speakers on "both sides," he said they provided lots of food for thought. He noted that when the thirty day comment period for the draft maps is over, the commissioners will commence doing some hard work to incorporate the feedback citizens from all over the state have given them. THAT is the correct approach to what citizens say in these hearings. That is the correct approach to recognizing that "both sides" disapprove of the maps.

There may come a time when the commission can recognize that both sides disliking a set of maps is a good indicator. But that time has NOT come. And that will not be the only indicator.

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The Joint Legislative Committee on Interfering with Independent Redistricting met again today. Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl tweeted (for @azcInsider)
After 20 minutes, Joint Legis Committee on Redistricting adjourns. Has invited #AIRC members to attend Wednesday, don't expect a showing.
The committee's arrogance is only exceeded by its hubris.

The only possibility, and it would be tragically sad if this comes to pass, is that Rick Stertz might attend. I've not spoken with him, but some observers have told me they think he's done things to undermine the work of the commission on which he's committed so much of his time. I just hope that's not what he's been doing. One would hope his closing comments tonight were from the heart and that he will not be doing anything, including appearing at the legislative committee meeting in the morning to lend any credibility to the kangaroo court.

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Today's legislative committee hearing was short, as few people showed up to testify. I understand that Proud Terri did testify. Can there be much of a question as to whether her comments carried any substance?

Another member of the state House of Representatives did testify. It was Carl Seel and he got some press as a result.

Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jeremy Duda wrote:

Rep. Carl Seel suggested that the Independent Redistricting Commission’s mapping consultants may have put him in a less Republican district in retaliation for his legislative record. Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting, Seel, R-Phoenix, questioned why Strategic Telemetry – which has ties to Democratic candidates and causes, including President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign – put him in a new district that eliminated much of his conservative support.
“My district has gone from a solidly Republican district where I am positioned, interestingly enough, to a district that may be considered a competitive district. Now, I don’t know if that has anything to do with the legislation that I’ve sponsored or not,” Seel said during his testimony to the committee.
Questioned after he made his public comments, Seel told the Arizona Capitol Times that he is not accusing Strategic Telemetry or the IRC of gerrymandering him into a less favorable district – and he had no proof that such a conspiracy took place.
But he said it was curious that he was put into less Republican district, and that numerous other GOP incumbents were packed together into the same districts. “Is there a connection? I’m not sure. Have I been targeted? I’m not necessarily saying I’ve been targeted. I’m not making that claim. I’m merely saying, once again, if Strategic Telemetry, being as left as they are and with the connections that they have, it’s plausible that they may have designed their lines in a way that significantly benefit the party that Ken Strasma is so closely aligned with,” he said, referring to the president of Strategic Telemetry.
Seel said his sponsorship of HB2177, known to many as Arizona’s “birther bill,” could theoretically make him a target. “I would imagine that if I were Obama and this is the only bill in the nation that got through a Legislature, that it might get his attention, and therefore it would probably get the attention of Obama’s chief strategist, Ken Strasma,” he said. 
Now, Duda and the entire newsroom at the Capitol Times know two very significant FACTS that should have been a part of the story but were not.

  1. Strategic Telemetry does NOT make decisions as to where any of the district lines would be drawn.
  2. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has taken great pains to keep all staff and commissioners from knowing, let alone even thinking about considering, where any of the lawmakers reside.
While it's not a "fact," it IS CLEAR that Seel's connection is NOT PLAUSIBLE. The Capitol Times has had reporters watching the district line drawing process long enough to state unequivocally that Seel's claims are nothing less than absurd.

The Capitol Times HAS put a great deal of staff time into pinpointing where incumbent lawmakers and Members of Congress shake out on the draft maps. It makes for intriguing political theater and plenty of speculation as to who will do what. But it's clearly irresponsible for them to publish this story and allow Seel to legitimize insane ramblings inspired by imaginative, paranoid tea partiers.

Seel's testimony however, fits with other controversies he's been involved in during his tenure as an Arizona lawmaker. Besides Mr. Seel being neck deep in the birther bill situation, he has also been in bankruptcy with his house close to foreclosure. Channel 5 KPHO covered the story. Right now, it looks like the video on the KPHO website is to a different story, but the written narrative is about Seel's possible quid pro quo.

Seel also represented Arizona in one of The Daily Show's many stories covering our state. (Pardon the ad before the TDS clip).


So, here we have an Arizona lawmaker whose judgment is guided by magical thinking. He pushes birther bills, mysteriously drops a major amendment in what looks like quid pro quo with mortgage holder on his house and makes himself and Arizona look foolish on nationwide television. But the Arizona Capitol Times gives credibility to his dubious allegations.

Really, can the Arizona Capitol Times legitimately claim to be a news organization when it so obviously panders to the GOP regarding Independent Redistricting?

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