On Tuesday, Maricopa County elections officials recast the sense of urgency and Rick Stertz essentially said, "not so fast!" Mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry presented a summary and analysis of public input from the second round of hearings. And legal counsel presented initial (draft) analyses of racially polarized voting issues.
On Wednesday, Linda McNulty set forth a list of goals and recommended changes to address. That list was given to the mapping consultant to work up for discussion on changes to the Congressional draft map. Strategic Telemetry was directed to develop a working map and a change report. The initial goal will be to shore up Voting Rights districts to increase the chances of gaining DOJ preclearance on the first try (thereby preventing undue delays for implementing final maps next spring).
Though there was a quorum of the members of the commission, no votes were taken and no ultimate decisions made on Thursday. But Strategic Telemetry did present change reports for the proposed incremental changes to draft legislative districts 4, 24 and 26. I will scan and post the change reports as an update (on Friday morning) to this post.
One aspect of the tediousness of this stage of the process comes in questions presented by individual commissioners, with explanations and answers from legal counsel. Because the initial concern now is to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, Republican counsel subcontractor (and former DOJ redistricting analyst) Bruce Adelson is doing a lot of the explaining.
In light of insight that Joe Kanefield had presented the other day -- that the racially polarized voting analysis now available will have to be refined before the maps are sent to DOJ -- Stertz posed, a couple of times, a question similar to the chicken and the egg dilemma. In this case, Stertz wondered how much we would learn by "fixing" the Voting Rights districts, getting the analyses, then other changes will be made. Adelson recognized it as a good question and replied that he saw the need to "lock in changes subject to a final analysis."
Additional discussion and deliberation took essentially the same form, with no resolutions to anything on Thursday. They were discussing the working maps and change reports developed by Strategic Telemetry, without the public (or journalists/bloggers) having the working maps and the change reports. Without making them available in hard copy and/or computer files posted on azredistricting.org, it would be as if the discussion and deliberation were occurring in executive session -- because nobody besides themselves would know what the heck they were talking about.
During a recess, I approached ST's mappers about this. They initially indicated they were rushed to get the reports finished before the meeting began and had not had time to make copies. To me, that was unsatisfying. Therefore, during the public comment period, I put it on the record that I believe they should not consider their work complete (in preparation for a given day's meeting/deliberation) unless or until the digital files -- from which they derive the report copies they present to the commissioners -- are posted to the website at the beginning of the meeting. Recognizing the significance of the files for public accountability, ST gave me hard copies of the change reports right after the meeting adjourned.
The Hispanic Coalition for Good Government (County Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox (Maricopa), Pete Rios (Pinal), Richard Elias (Pima) and those working with them), on Tuesday presented a letter to the AIRC. That letter expresses some concerns with proposed Congressional districts as well as support for other aspects of the same map. Notably, HCGG supports the proposed lines in and around Yuma. Given that there are still people in Yuma grousing (note the comments after the article) about splitting that community and casting aspersions over the work of the AIRC, that letter provides significant documentation that will be crucial for DOJ preclearance.
Stertz also on Thursday stated that he wanted to address a concern presented by more than a dozen eastern Arizona city and town councils (in official resolutions). That got my attention. It certainly is reasonable for Stertz to want to address a concern presented in that way, in apparent unison, by so many local governments. Because none of the other commissioners or legal counsel said anything about it after he mentioned the resolutions, I made sure (during my comments on the record) to call attention to the fact that those resolutions were largely obtained under false pretense by Globe resident Jesse Bryant.
The Arizona Republic has, in blog posts (Laurie Roberts), columns by news columnists (EJ Montini) and in editorials and editorial columnist op-eds (Bob Robb) continued to address the IRC controversy and Brewer's phenomenal screw up. But that's not what they call it.
For the state's largest newspaper to recognize and commend Brewer for making what must have been a hard decision -- refusing to call a special session to put a repeal of Prop 106 on the February 28 ballot -- is certainly reasonable. But that's not all of what they have done lately.
Robb declared that Independent Redistricting, as a voter initiated reform, has failed. Roberts demonstrated a lack of understanding of the complexities of balancing the six Constitutional criteria with how she characterized the AIRC approach to competitiveness. She also still seems to have a problem with where Fountain Hills was lumped in the Congressional Draft map. Several of those non-news (editorial/opinion) pieces still assign some of the blame for the uproar to AIRC chair Colleen Mathis, citing her vote refusing to hire Lisa Hauser to be Republican counsel.
Not only has NONE of the writers of those blogs, columns and editorials been to any of the AIRC meetings themselves, they completely fail to recognize the role Lisa Hauser has actively played in the whole situation. Hauser, of course, was overlooked for the Republican counsel contract. Colleen Mathis' decision, in spite of near overwhelming disapproval for it, has proven to have been prescient.
Lisa Hauser's name is now forever etched into Arizona history as the author of Supreme Court pleadings that demonstrated brazen contempt for the will and intent of the drafters of and voters who enacted Prop 106. The actual language in the written briefs and in her oral arguments emphatically and specifically said that the INTENT of the voters was of NO CONSEQUENCE. It is also very reasonable to infer that Brewer may not have attempted to remove Mathis at all except for having been advised by Hauser that she could get away with it.
Do not forget that in her interview before the Commission last spring, she explicitly advised the five commissioners on how to AVOID enacting competitive districts.
Yet the Arizona Republic STILL blames Mathis for causing the controversy. If they did so knowingly (considering all of the facts), it's disingenuous. If they did so without having considered those facts, it's still reckless.
If anything, despite the fact that the draft maps still provide more favor to the Republicans in power now in Arizona than the voter registration numbers warrant, Colleen Mathis has done an incredible job at maintaining focus and keeping the AIRC on track.
Apparently right after I offered public testimony at Thursday's meeting, conservative activist* Shane Wikfors tweeted about it mockingly:
Does @SteveMuratore really believe that "agents" of Democrat-elected officials have NOT testified before the #AIRC? #seriouslyIt's nice to know that someone was listening, even though obviously not listening very well. He seems to infer that I said someone had testified before the AIRC as agents of certain Republican state lawmakers. What I DID say was that the person who had been soliciting the city and town council resolutions (referring to Jesse Bryant) to which Rick Stertz mentioned, had been doing so under false pretense because he had gone before several of those councils without disclosing that he is NOT registered to vote, or the reason he is not registered to vote.
What strikes me as most odd about this intriguing attention from Wikfors is how he describes himself on his twitter page.
Conservative Activist,Political Scientist/Consultant, Historian, Economist, Navy Veteran, Father/Husband, Christ Follower.I don't know anything about his credentials but some of those things I find easier to believe without verification than others. I've read that others have acknowledged him as a conservative activist. However, without knowing anything else about him, I have to wonder why he would claim to be a political scientist, economist, historian or Christ Follower.
Normally, one would claim some of those titles, descriptors, if they wanted to project an aura of credibility. But Christ follower? Really? Shane, unless I'm mistaken, wouldn't a Christ follower be someone who demonstrates by their walk (and talk) that they do as He would have them do? Would they not know such a person, by his fruit (Matthew 7:1-16)? Would a genuine Christ follower have to declare it in his twitter profile?
Expect notice to go out today (Friday) for Monday's meeting starting at 1pm at the Fiesta Resort in Tempe.
Tentatively, meetings next week will be held also on Wednesday (1pm), Thursday (11am) and Friday 9:30am), probably at the Crowne Plaza Airport.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers, including Sen. Biggshot and Minority Leaders of both chambers have been invited to present the majority and minority reports developed last month.