Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Redistricting -- Even a dog can shake hands

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Ex. Dir. Ray Bladine told me he took a call today from a reporter who said, jokingly, "I didn't know that Terry Goddard (former Arizona Attorney General) was working for the commission now!" Bladine retorted, "I didn't know until yesterday that Christian Palmer was working for [current Arizona AG] Tom Horne!"

The verbal jabs (playful nudges, really) stem from Saturday's op-ed in the Arizona Republic calling for Horne to end his partisan harassment of the AIRC, and Palmer's lame attempt to deligitimize Goddard's op-ed.

By the way, the headline/title for today's post comes from a Warren Zevon song, chosen because at last Thursday's AIRC meeting in Casa Grande, Palmer refused to either shake hands with me or even engage in small talk. It makes me wonder if he takes himself too seriously.

-----

Tomorrow's AIRC meeting in the Pharmacy Board's conference room (third floor, of the State Capitol's Executive Tower) is still scheduled and will convene at 1:30pm.

The next meeting afterward is tentatively scheduled for 1:30pm Friday.  The likely location is in Tempe.  The commission expects at that time to resume discussion on mapping issues.

-----

Last night, I watched the recording of this week's Sunday Square Off, which airs on Sunday mornings on Channel 12 in Phoenix. In the third segment, the panel -- which included Democratic Diva blogger Donna Greathouse, Chris Herstam and Nathan Sproul associate Brian Murray, lead by Brahm Resnik -- discussed the AIRC, its progress and the controversies raised by the tea party and other insecure GOP interests.

Murray, whether by accident or intentionally, wrongly stated that AIRC chair Colleen Mathis had previously worked for a liberal member of the Arizona Legislature.  Chances are that he was wanting to recite the tired tea party talking point about Mathis' husband Chris having done campaign accounting work for Nancy Young Wright in 2010.

Murray went on to make several other claims about the AIRC that, for anyone who has been following the commission this year, are obviously outrageous.  For example, he characterized the pace of the mapping, and the goal to be finished by the end of October, as Mathis trying to have maps drawn before anyone takes the opportunity to understand what the maps will mean.  But nobody challenged Murray on his claims.

The only thing Murray said that seemed to have any connection to reality is his belief that drawing districts favorable to Democrats (since nobody but Republicans has articulated this objective, presumably Murray meant to say "competitive districts") can only be accomplished by giving Hispanic voters and other minorities the shaft, so to speak.

His claim is not necessarily true, but to work out something that could approach a win/win for minorities while maximizing competition will take more effort.  This is simply, in my view, the latest GOP talking point trying to divide its opposition.  Murray's bio (linked above) does say he oversees all print and electronic media messaging for Sproul's propaganda machine.




Monday, August 29, 2011

Redistricting -- busy week ahead

Now that the actual mapping work is taking place, it might seem odd to not have something to write every day. The last meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was held last Thursday. So, what has been going on in the meantime?

Mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry held one-on-one training sessions with the individual commissioners regarding the Maptitude software. This is a dramatic contrast between 2001 and the current AIRC. In 2001, only the mapping consultant (NDC) worked directly (hands-on) with Maptitude.

Since the five commissioners have been trained, they are now better equipped to give intelligent direction to ST.  And given that deliberation and discussion is taking place in open session, those meetings should be delightful for GIS (geographic information systems) nerds. Everyone else, however, may find them tedious and boring. Well, almost everyone else.  A good bit of the detail in those discussions will be difficult to retain, but I keep my eyes and ears open for the nuggets of political meaning.

Speaking of political nuggets, the next meeting of the AIRC is scheduled for Wednesday, August 31, 1:30pm at the Pharmacy Board Hearing Room (State Capitol Tower, 3rd floor).  Agenda items of note include approval of minutes from a couple of previous meetings, a presentation and discussion on how Competitiveness and Compactness are measured, and discussion (and possible action) on contracting with an analyst/expert in racially polarized voting issues.

Now that the five commissioners have been trained on Maptitude and the AIRC has authorized a contract for that software to be made available for public input, I wondered when it would be rolled out. Ex. Dir. Bladine told me he understands it could be ready within two weeks.  They will then figure out the best way to handle training for the public. The two week time frame still puts it ahead of publication of DRAFT maps and the second round of Public Outreach Hearings.

-----

Attorney General Tom Horne's partisan witchhunt continues this week.  On Saturday, Horne's predecessor Terry Goddard, along with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, had an op-ed run in the Arizona Republic (quoted in part).

Unfortunately, from the moment the current commission began its work, it has been under attack by a highly partisan coalition that is throwing roadblocks in its path.
At the moment, the bulk of complaints are directed at the commission's selection of attorneys and a mapping firm. Several Arizona politicians who didn't like those choices want to undo the contracts that were awarded.
Unfortunately, the attacks are not limited to accusations and outbursts at commission meetings. They also come from the highest levels of state government. Some legislators have threatened to remove the independent chair of the commission if she doesn't do exactly what they want.
And Attorney General Tom Horne recently announced an investigation of the commission - breaking a longstanding attorney general protocol of never discussing pending investigations before a lawsuit is filed or a grand jury has returned an indictment.
As a former Arizona attorney general and as former mayors, we both know how easily investigations can become politicized. The power of the Attorney General's Office must not be or appear to be subverted for partisan purposes.

How any impartial observer could conclude anything other than Horne's investigation being a partisan attack eludes me.

If Horne discloses, as Blog for Arizona's AZ Blue Meanie suggested he should, any "evidence" he received (as state Sen. Frank Antenori claims) of impropriety, maybe we could see otherwise. However, my understanding is that the AG investigator forwarded all he had on the AIRCs alleged wrongdoing already.  The only thing in those documents was complaints that people did not like the mapping consultant and legal counsel contractors.

Then along comes the Arizona Capitol Times' Christian Palmer with more editorializing.
Contrary to Goddard’s assertions, Horne has not been conducting the investigation before the public. He has released zero details, aside from confirming noncritical information that has no bearing on whether the commission broke state law. One such tidbit was confirmed last week when Horne acknowledged to me that his office would conduct its first interview with an IRC commissioner – Republican Richard Stertz. His cooperation with the investigation seems to be anything but forced, and his fellow Republican on the panel, Scott Freeman, has given every indication that he, too, is willing and ready to speak with Horne attorneys investigating the matter.
Palmer's hubris is evident this time in that, without ever having obtained a law degree, let alone having held the office of Attorney General, Palmer declares Goddard wrong and Horne right.

Goddard indicated that Horne broke from long established protocols.  Palmer, however, seems to have missed the point on protocols (like declining to speak about ongoing investigations) and instead saying only that Horne did not release any details of the investigation. Even on that, Palmer is wrong. Horne's office provided copies of complaints, as a result of a Public Records Request by AIRC legal counsel, from ranting tea partiers as the basis for the investigation.

Regular readers of news stories about investigations of any kind of alleged white collar crime will be familiar with the expression "the (whichever agency is investigating) declines to comment due to the ongoing investigation." Examples here, here and here.

Even if this was a situation where challenging a former state AG's experience and insight might be warranted, might it take someone with more depth of experience than Mr. Palmer has to give any credibility to it?

At this stage, can there be any question that Christian Palmer's approach to covering the AIRC is that of someone with an ax to grind?

-----

Last week also had one of those politicians hoping to sabotage the AIRC publish an op-ed in various publications. The release date shown, Aug 22, is AFTER Biggs received notice (on Aug 19) that his public records request had been fulfilled by the AIRC. And even if Biggs claims he did not see the letter before sending out the op-ed, he HAS seen the notice since and the op-ed claiming the AIRC has failed to honor his request for documents is STILL up.

-----
After Wednesday's meeting, two more are tentatively scheduled for Friday and Saturday, to discuss mapping issues. Details still to be determined.









Friday, August 26, 2011

Redistricting -- mapping, doggone it! -- UPDATED

Extra, extra, read all about it: on Thursday, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit in federal court seeking to overturn Voting Rights Act provisions governing changes to Arizona's legislative and Congressional district maps. Because of Arizona's history of racial discrimination in voting, new maps must be precleared, either by Department of Justice or a federal court.

Ironically enough, Horne's action coincided with the Hispanic Coalition for Good Government presenting proposed Majority-Minority (Voting Rights) Congressional districts to the AIRC. Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox lead the presentation along with Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and Pinal County Supervisor (and former longtime state lawmaker) Pete Rios. Their presentation focused on two proposed districts primarily covering areas now represented by Ed Pastor (CD4) and Raul Grijalva (CD7).

Wilcox said the proposed CD4 is 60 percent Hispanic, and "we feel this is what we can accept as a majority-minority district." She also cited a wide array of social/demographic characteristics of the proposed district.  Maybe I missed it, but I do not recall hearing anything about the effectiveness of representation in Congress of the concerns of minorities in Arizona.

By the way, is protection of minority voting rights in Arizona the issue?  Tom Horne would have us believe that there is no need to extend Voting Rights Act protections to Arizona minorities.

On its face, Horne's lawsuit is patently absurd. Evidence already exists that the 2001 AIRC proposed legislative district maps that intended to discriminate against minority voters.

Or should we be thinking in terms of restoration? Clearly, there are Hispanic and other minority elected officials at several levels of government in our state.  But at the Arizona legislature, or in Congress, is the voice of Arizona's minority voters heard in public policy debate?  How would the changes proposed by this coalition protect, or more appropriately restore that voice?

Kudos to commissioners McNulty and Herrera for asking some good questions. Herrera asked about the concept of packing.  Rios replied that there is a fine line and he believes DOJ will pick up on any effort to pack. By the way, the coalition also said its proposal was endorsed by MALDEF. McNulty also indicated she wanted to compare, side by side, these maps with those commissioners directed Strategic Telemetry to develop addressing Voting Rights Act considerations.

The most significant aspect of yesterday's meeting was the open discussion on mapping related issues. So much more discussion will take place before any maps will even begin to resemble a DRAFT that could be adopted and presented to the people of Arizona for review and comment.

While partisan interests continue to suggest the final maps are a "done deal," the contrast between the first AIRC and what is taking place now is very exciting to me.  The five commissioners deliberate in open session and that is very encouraging.

Clues exist in the agendas, minutes and transcripts of the 2001 AIRC to suggest a great deal of its deliberations were done in executive session. Among the points to note, they entered into executive sessions based only on vaguely stated purposes (see item IV). With reference to obtaining unspecified legal advice, God knows what they talked about. Well, aside from those attending the closed sessions, and maybe a judge or two.

The only thing that is a done deal concerning this redistricting is the census data upon which the new maps will be based.  Everything else is still subject to the open process.

A couple of days ago, I spoke with Adolfo Echeveste, the second executive director of the first AIRC. Reflecting on his testimony at the Public Outreach Hearing in Pinetop last month, Echeveste told me he wishes he also said that the outrage and controversy raised by GOP and tea party interests makes him think they have absolutely no confidence in the Republican commissioners.  And I agree completely.

Rick Stertz and Scott Freeman are both smart, assertive and fully capable of making their ideas and their "druthers" known.  Despite all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the 3-2 votes on legal counsel and mapping consultants, both are fully participating in the discussions on mapping issues, doing so with confidence, and influencing policy decisions that are about to be made.

-----

Also, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement in response to Tom Horne's lawsuit:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Statement of Attorney General Eric Holder on Lawsuit Challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1965
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement regarding a lawsuit filed today by the State of Arizona challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

“The Voting Rights Act plays a vital role in our society by ensuring that every American has the right to vote and to have that vote counted.  The Department of Justice will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act in this case, as it has done successfully in the past.  The provisions challenged in this case, including the preclearance requirement, were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 with overwhelming and bipartisan support.  The Justice Department will continue to enforce the Voting Rights Act, including each of the provisions challenged today.”
-----
From the Congressional Record of July 20, 2006 (emphasis mine)

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues Senators CORNYN and HATCH from the Judiciary Committee—Senator HATCH having chaired the committee for several years—and the assistant majority leader of the Senate, Senator MCCONNELL, to speak on the legislation renewing the Voting Rights Act.
Let me begin by saying I support the Voting Rights Act extension. This law was critical to ending over 90 years of voting discrimination against African-Americans in the South. Prior to this law, many States enforced discriminatory policies that were designed to and that did prevent African-Americans from voting. Since that law was enacted, many of the same States where African-Americans first voted in far lower numbers than Whites now have higher percentage of African-Americans voting than other races.
The Voting Rights Act is a historic achievement that has corrected one of the glaring injustices of our Nation’s past. It has been an important step in our Nation’s continuing progress toward our founding ideal that all men are created equal. 
Mr. President, I wish to address some questions that have been raised about this reauthorization and ask my colleagues if they concur in my interpretation.
The bill amends section 5 by legislatively abrogating two Supreme Court cases interpreting the act: Reno v. Bossier Parish and Georgia v. Ashcroft. These changes are related to one another. They are designed to operate together to achieve a common objective: the protection of naturally occurring legislative districts with a majority of minority voters. 
The two changes to section 5 accomplish this goal by enhancing and refocusing the operation of section 5. These changes simultaneously bar redistricters from denying a large, compact group of minority voters a majority-minority district that it would receive in the absence of discrimination, and also to bar redistricters from breaking up a compact majority-minority district that has been created in the past. 
Some have raised the specter that Federal bureaucrats will abuse the authority we are giving them under this provision, that they will characterize all manner of practices as having a ‘‘discriminatory purpose.’’ In particular, there has been some suggestion that the new language will be abused by the Justice Department to require creation of the maximum number of Black majority districts possible or the maximum number of so-called coalition or influence districts, in which minority voters are combined with enough White voters of similar partisan leanings to elect a candidate.
I don’t think this is what the bill does, or that it can be reasonably read to do this. To say something has a discriminatory purpose is a term of art. It is the language of the jurisprudence of the 14th amendment, of cases such as Washington v. Davis, which define when particular action constitutes racial discrimination and violates the Constitution.
There is a well-defined body of case law defining when racial discrimination violates the U.S. Constitution. That case law provides clear borders to the limits of the Executive discretion being granted in this bill. 
One traditional and important standard for identifying unconstitutional racial discrimination is to ask whether the challenged court action departs from normal rules of decision. In the case of redistricting, courts and the Justice Department would ask: Was the decision not to create a Black majority district a departure from ordinary districting rules? If a State has a large minority population concentrated in a particular area, ordinarily rules of districting—following political and geographic borders and keeping districts as compact as possible—would recommend that these voters be given a majority-minority district. If the redistricters went out of their way to avoid creating such a majority minority—one that would be created under ordinary rules—that is unconstitutional racial discrimination, and it is banned by this bill. But this bill does not require the creation of a majority-minority district that would not be created under default districting rules. Nor does the bill require the creation of coalition or influence districts. It bars discrimination against racial minorities, not against electoral advantages sought by either Republicans or Democrats. Moreover, no group is entitled to always be included in a district where the candidate of its party will prevail.
This section’s abrogation of Bossier Parish does not permit a finding of discriminatory purpose that is based, in whole or in part, on a failure to adopt the optimal or maximum number of compact minority opportunity districts or on a determination that the plan seeks partisan advantage or protects incumbents. With the language of this bill, we are importing the constitutional test in section 5, and nothing else. With this understanding, I support this improvement to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Redistricting -- UNfair Trust update

On August 23, Tucson Libertarian activist Jim March filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State alleging that David Cantelme, an attorney representing a clandestine group called Fair Trust, may have violated state lobbying laws.

After reviewing the complaint, state elections director Amy Bjelland responded.

Bjelland indicated that as a matter of policy, the AZSOS
believes the public interest would be better served by applying Title 41 lobbying registration requirements to the IRC, and therefore we are considering proposing a statutory change at the next legislative session. 
The essence of Bjelland's response, other than specifying the SOS policy position, is that the issue has neither been addressed by legislation nor litigated adequately to provide her office with guidance to take any action.

Note also that Bjelland cites David Cantelme and his "purported" client, Fair Trust.  I take issue with Bjelland characterization.  On NUMEROUS occasions, both David Cantelme and Michael Liburdi have indicated, on the record, before the AIRC to representing this organization.

March responded to Bjelland in an email this evening (8/24):

Ms. Bjelland,
I am in receipt of your response. While I am not surprised at the final outcome, I believe you have failed to consider the various repercussions of your stance.
The short-term issue is obvious: what appears to be a “hidden agenda” is in play. In fact, the PR implications of the FAIR Trust stance on disclosure is becoming somewhat problematic for them. I have now spoken with three professional journalists who have all been rebuffed when they asked who is behind FAIR Trust: Steve Muratore, Paul Davenport at the AP and Evan Wyloge at the AZ Capitol Times. FAIR Trust's secrecy is costing them, and they wouldn't do so unless they were hiding something at least moderately ugly.
I assume you know all this and I welcome your stance on altering the lobbying laws later. Which won't help us now except [it] might be read by the FAIR Trust people (the ones actually in charge that is) as a veiled warning that what they're doing is morally wrong if not legally so.
But there's a bigger issue at stake, one that goes to the heart of the people's right to enact initiatives.
You are basically saying that for the people to pass any new initiative and have it work properly, they have to consider every possible interaction with the current laws. They have to consider all possible ramifications with the entire ARS...and if they fail to do so, the people's intent will not be considered if some part of the existing body of law isn't explicitly linked to the new initiative.
This has the long-term effect of severely weakening the initiative process, and is a pointer to where you went wrong in your analysis.
The courts have, as you say, called the redistricting commission a legislative function. They did so in 2003, before the new initiative in 2006 that de-coupled the commission from the existing, seated legislators and added the “independent” part. So the voters knew (or would have reason to know) that they were creating a “sub-branch of the legislature”. Which means that all of the rules and regulations pertaining to the legislature carry over to the IRC, where they are even slightly applicable.
In short, you are wrong in your analysis, and in a way that not only weakens protections at the IRC, it weakens (bordering on “cripples”) the initiative process in Arizona.
I respectfully ask you to reconsider.
Jim March2nd Vice Chair, Pima County Libertarian Party
I can't say whether March is correct in suggesting Bjelland could actually do something about this now, but I do know that this is not the end of the story. Whether or not any one individual or group in Arizona could initiate a court action to compel UNfair Trust to disclose will be an open question.

That this is a very important matter with a great deal of urgency is obvious.

Thus far, UNfair Trust has acted with total impunity regarding the intent of disclosure laws.

I have to wonder what it would take to get Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington involved. CREW says it "uses high-impact legal actions to target government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests."

While CREW has a "tip line" (web input form), it might take hearing about this situation from numerous Arizonans in order to actually get its attention. CREW's phone number is 202-408-5565.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Redistricting -- a dose of political reality?

Yesterday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met to start getting into the nitty gritty of drawing the maps that will form the structure for the state's political campaigns for the next decade.

Other than making it sound like the AIRC, its members and staff had an awakening to the significance of protecting Minority voting rights, the AP story by Paul Davenport does a good job of summarizing the meeting.  Well, as good a job as one can be expected to do if not actually in the room paying attention to the peripheral activity.

Davenport's story yesterday showed up on newspaper websites, the first one being the Houston Chronicle, before the meeting even adjourned. I mention this as an example to show that editors often decide to include only some, but not necessarily all of what an AP reporter writes on a given event.

I included the MyFoxPhoenix link because it had more of the details.  On some websites, the lede gave the impression this year's commission did not previously realize that the Voting Rights Act is the first priority and trumps all others. Six criteria are required by Prop 106 for the new maps.

However, as Davenport explains:
Created as a result of a 2000 ballot measure to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature, the first Arizona redistricting commission learned the importance of Voting Rights Act compliance the hard way. It had to redraw several legislative districts to satisfy Justice Department objections.
Regular readers of this blog will know that people (perhaps prompted by county elections officials) have been complaining about the time line this year's commission has been following.  The first round of hearings was held later this year than ten years ago. Selection of legal counsel and the mapping consultant took longer this year also.  Back in March (this year), Maricopa County elections officials addressed the commission to lay out the urgency for completing the maps by October.

However, a number of things, in retrospect, point to THIS commission actually being able to complete its job in time to prevent the adverse ramifications MANY people had to deal with last time.

This year, the AIRC has moved methodically to (at least attempt to) ensure things were done properly.  I'm convinced that no decisions made differently by them would have appeased the raucous GOP and tea party people.  That is, any decision shy of reinstituting two of the major factors in the first AIRC having delayed so badly. Namely re-hiring Lisa Hauser to be Republican legal counsel and National Demographic Corp to facilitate complete elimination of competitive districts this time.

In the face of side shows like Tom Horne's partisan witchhunt and the tea party efforts to disrupt meetings, the AIRC has remained focused and is proceeding deliberately.  And it looks very much like the target specified by Strategic Telemetry -- to complete the maps for submission to DOJ for preclearance by the end of October -- is realistic and in sight.

That's because THIS AIRC already knew to avoid dramatic pitfalls and substantive errors made by Steve Lynn's 2001 AIRC.  Yesterday, I wrote that Bruce Adelson, the former DOJ attorney consulting on preclearance related issues, showed me a DOJ letter dated May 20, 2002 (yes, MAY 2002... when it was already too late for county elections officials to put any new maps into effect for the 2002 primary elections).  In that letter, DOJ issued an extremely rare finding that Steve Lynn's AIRC INTENDED to discriminate against minority voters.

Beginning on page 4, the letter, regarding the proposed LD23, says that because two towns, San Manuel and Oracle -- with significant minority populations -- had been removed from the benchmark district (the 1990s LD7) and replaced with Casa Grande and Apache Junction with dramatically higher Anglo populations, the Bush Administration's DOJ said it could not establish that the changes had been made without the intent to discriminate.

THAT is a key factor in Arizona elections officials being dramatically delayed in implementing any AIRC generated maps/district lines for the 2002 elections.

THIS year, the AIRC had that lesson in mind well before Adelson made his presentation yesterday.

-----

Last week, in public session, the commission discussed the burden certain public records requests had placed on staff.  In particular, there have been three dramatically burdensome requests, by Arizona Capitol Times reporter Christian Palmer as well as from GOP state Rep. Terri Proud and Sen Andy Biggs (majority leader).  Other records requests, from other reporters and bloggers, have been minor compared to those three.

Biggs and Proud requested copies of just about EVERYTHING.

At the meeting last week, Stertz asked legal counsel if the records requests have been "onerous."  Mary O'Grady replied with one word, "yes."  Biggs has since repeated his request.  Republican counsel Joe Kanefield reported that Biggs' request has required counsel to review "tens of thousands" of documents to determine which should be considered confidential according to statutory requirements.

-----

Yesterday, the commission revisited last week's decision to require mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry to keep a log of all contacts it has with people regarding its work on this redistricting.  The question of whether to allow media (including bloggers) to be excluded from the log was today's subject. This issue was NOT decided.  Kanefield had his associates do some research on the issue. However, McNulty, also an attorney, raised questions that went beyond the scope of Kanefield's research.  Mathis said she'd like additional info before taking a vote on the matter.  Freeman supported that position and the subject was put off for another day.  But not before they made sure ST knew to include media and blogger contacts in the log.

As one might expect, media outlets that cover the AIRC are keenly interested in the issue.  News stories and blog posts here, and here and here for example. The Blog for Arizona post by AZ Blue Meanie is particularly poignant, as it cites the issue of UNREGISTERED LOBBYISTS that have been attempting to influence (and already succeeding in some skirmishes) the commission.

If as Commissioners Freeman and Stertz said yesterday, the underlying issues are to allay citizens' concerns and provide transparency to the public, perhaps it is the commissioners themselves who should be making their phone records public.  After all, WHO will be making district line decisions?  Who do you think is going to be subject to lobbying efforts from those wanting to influence the end result of the redistricting process?

The tea party might be (still) concerned about the mapping consultant, but nobody who understands the process and the players believes Strategic Telemetry will be doing anything other than providing technical consulting services. The buck stops at the foot of the five commissioners.

-----

Tucson Libertarian activist Jim March wrote up a complaint (also embedded below) about UNfair Trust and John Mills [In case a reader finds my use of the name "UNfair Trust" confusing, that is how I refer to the group calling itself Fair Trust]. Though I did not witness it, two people reported to me that Mills confronted Jim March in the parking lot after the public session yesterday.  Mills (as I have personally witnessed) gets upset easily.




Before leaving the meeting yesterday, I also observed Mills making demands of AIRC staff to provide copies of any maps anyone presents to the commission.  Again, I fail to see how Mills making any demands of AIRC staff could reasonably be considered appropriate according to the Arizona Constitution (section 16). Remember that House spokesman Paul Boyer cited as that section as authority for taxpayers to foot the bill for John Mills activities at AIRC meetings.

-----

The AIRC meeting is scheduled for NOON on Thursday in Casa Grande.

A group of Hispanic county supervisors (who started presenting yesterday in Tucson, but could not finish due to time constraints) will present their map suggestions. Provision has also been made for other citizens, individuals or groups to present maps for consideration by the commissioners.

Otherwise, continuation of ongoing mapping issues and the matter of media contact with Strategic Telemetry are also scheduled, as is an update, probably in executive session, on legal advice related to the AG investigation.

Yesterday was the first meeting in which people who signed up to give public comment were not given the opportunity to speak. Hopefully that trend will not be ongoing.









Monday, August 22, 2011

Redistricting -- intriguing day in Tucson...

Unfortunately, driving back home, in my 19 year old Nissan pickup without using the air conditioner, fried me.  I had plenty of water but was still VERY hot by the time I got home.

There's plenty to write about, so I'll pick up where I left off in the morning. :)

Redistricting -- ambitious agendas

As I write this, Strategic Telemetry is presenting map options it was instructed to develop last week. Out of thirteen agenda items, thus far, the AIRC has addressed five and are on the sixth item, not necessarily taken in order.  At the beginning of the (after lunch) public session started at 2pm, Mathis announced the meeting would have to end by 3:40pm due to schedule conflicts for one or more commissioners.

This morning, former DOJ attorney Bruce Adelson presented for more than an hour on the subject of the preclearance process. He discussed what will be required to meet the AIRC burden to prove that the maps neither intend nor result in retrogression. Retrogression, that is, in the ability of minorities to elect the representatives of their choosing.

At a recess, Adelson showed me a letter DOJ sent to the 2001 AIRC. The letter indicates DOJ issued the (extremely rare) finding that they actually intended to discriminate against Hispanic voters in (the originally proposed) LD23.  This evening, I will update the blog to provide a copy of the letter and will highlight the significant language.

The AIRC also affirmed the contract with Strategic Telemetry, though Bladine presented transcript excerpts from prior meetings which show unambiguously that he had the authority to execute the contract. I will also post, in tonight's update, the transcript excerpts.

Also, revisiting an item initially addressed last Wednesday, they considered amending changes they made to the contract with Strategic Telemetry.  To address (tea party) concerns about its political work, the commission decided to require ST to keep a log of contacts it has with anyone related to its Arizona project.  At that meeting, I posed, during public testimony, that I felt it inappropriate to include media inquiries because that can form the basis for harassment of one or more media outlets.

Freeman and Stertz objected to excluding the press, especially bloggers from this requirement.  Kanefield had his law firm do some research on the subject, but McNulty presented questions outside the scope of the research he had available. The matter was tabled pending further research, but ST, in the meantime, must keep that log, including when this blogger contacts anyone with that firm.

Looks like the public session will wrap very shortly as they intend to go into executive session to receive legal advice related to the AG investigation.

Mary Rose Wilcox, Richard Elias speaking but will go long so they want to be on Thursday's agenda... Bladine is working on setting up the next meeting for Thursday, probably in Casa Grande.

Since they will be going into executive session, I will have to shut down my computer quickly to resume this evening.




Redistricting -- Tucson meeting/Voting Rights Act issues

The Arizona Redistricting Commission convened at about 9:15 this morning first to have a presentation by former DOJ attorney Bruce Adelson on Voting Rights Act issues.

Adelson described the preclearance process and the type of analysis that must be prepared in order to facilitate DOJ approval.  Q and A following.  Commissioners asking about things like packing minority voters in too few districts to dilute the ability of minorities to elect representatives of their choice in other districts.

Because I have secure access to the internet at this meeting, I'll update from time to time during the meeting.

Currently between 40 and 50 members of the public in the audience.  Expect more, especially tea partiers toward the end when public comment period is expected.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Redistricting -- Rubber stamps, discussion and dialogue


Some political complaints in Arizona have been brewing for at least ten years. While there were obviously common statewide themes in the first round of Public Outreach Hearings, there were also some regional themes.

People outside of Maricopa and Pima Counties want lines drawn such that the majority of people in at least two Congressional districts will be from rural areas.  Citizens in western Arizona want a district primarily focused on populations along the Colorado River.  Like a story in the White Mountain Independent notes, in eastern Arizona, they do not want to be represented in Congress by someone based in Flagstaff.

One of the easiest exercises for people interested in the current efforts of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is to boil down the mistakes of the first AIRC and hope this year's group do not repeat them. Naturally, of course, they will make plenty of their own. But mistakes alone (or lack thereof) will not determine the success or failure of this year's redistricting.

Nevertheless, there is a very vocal faction that DOES want the same mistakes made, when it's all said and done. That would be those who want to continue dominating public policymaking with a supermajority in the state legislature.  The GOP's luxurious supermajority is so dramatic their lawmakers do not even bother to greet Democratic colleagues in the halls of the legislature.

Among the enduring stories people tell about the first AIRC, is that the Independent chair, Tucson Electric Power executive Steve Lynn along with AIRC Republican legal counsel Lisa Hauser dominated the process. Some wonder if the ongoing tea party cacophony these days, about Colleen Mathis' husband Chris having worked in a political campaign last fall, has any grounding in the fact that Lynn's wife was active in GOP circles ten years ago.

Hauser has brought plenty of her own drama into this year's process already, protesting the AIRC legal services procurement process. Former counsel to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and current State Bar President Joe Kanefield beat Hauser out for the contract this year.  And the tea people have been complaining incessantly about it ever since.

Much has been made of the sharp partisan divide in this year's process.  In fact, as the Arizona Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl has reported, the 3-2 AIRC votes on contracts for Republican legal counsel and for the mapping consultant contract can be viewed as flash points for the subsequent tea party uproar.  Many of the 2001 AIRC votes ended up being 4-1 with Democratic Commissioner Andi Minkoff being the lone dissent.

In this year's AIRC, none of the factors cited above (from the 2001 AIRC) has been replicated. Nor, in my estimation, will they be.

Among the concerns I have heard from activists and elected officials over the last few weeks is a belief that the end result of this year's statewide redistricting is a "done deal."  I strongly disagree.

None of the five current commissioners is dominating any part of the process.  Barring any unforeseen event, none will.  On Wednesday, when Justice O'Connor addressed the commission, she validated them as individuals and as a team. Intentionally or not, she also recast the disagreements they've had thus far as simply part of an important process that all of Arizona is depending on them to complete with diligence and integrity.

Numerous studies have been done on the dynamics of group decision-making, which naturally includes tolerance and candid discussion on points of disagreement.  Tolerance of disagreement can be characterized by the expression, "agreeing to disagree" whereby relationships within the group remain intact and, at least, respectful.  I believe this condition exists within the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission today and is being positively nurtured, or at least maintained by two key people, Commission Chair Colleen Mathis and Executive Director Ray Bladine.

Don't get me wrong, certain disagreements do seem to bother each of them, but overall, there is a healthy atmosphere of respect in the meetings and in relationships among the members and staff that everybody, but especially those two, contribute to making happen.  There's a distinct difference between something bothering someone and it being intolerable.

A key thing to remember -- and a stark contrast between the first and the current AIRC -- is that the way disagreement is handled makes all the difference in the world in the quality of the outcome.

My impression of the first AIRC is that Steve Lynn managed disagreement by doing his best to suppress it.  Morrison Institute for Public Policy senior research fellow David R. Berman described Lynn (in the section on the Role of the Independent) defining his role as being a consensus builder.  I believe that's a dramatically false characterization. True consensus is not developed by surpressing disagreement, but by working through it.

Otherwise, the five page Morrison Institute paper seems to be a fair overview of the 2001 process. 

If one reflects on the testimony provided by 2001 AIRC commissioners Minkoff and Lynn to this year's commission, it is blatantly obvious they did not work through their disagreements ten years ago. It's also apparent that they do not now respectfully disagree with each other.

My observations do not reflect the feelings, and may not reflect the attitudes, of this year's five commissioners.  I'm not inside their heads.  But I do observe their interactions and am keenly interested in the process.  I've said before and still think it is valid, that as long as this group does its deliberations on the maps publicly, the result will be good.  Or at least less bad than it was the last time.

Maintaining respectful relationships will go a long way to ensuring effective public deliberation. A key component of respect is tolerance of the perspective from which each of the commissioners views the project ahead of them.  If they stay on course -- and I think they've done a tremendous job staying focused so far -- they will succeed.

 



Friday, August 19, 2011

Redistricting -- To Define or Not to Define, THAT is the question -- UPDATED

On Thursday morning, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened at the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande. They covered a variety of items, including adoption of the Grid Maps; a review of public testimony from the first round of hearings; consideration of definitions for possible adoption (such as Communities of Interest and Competitiveness) and more. 

The first order of business was discussion and adoption of Grid Maps. These serve ONLY as a starting point, so the commission doesn't simply tweak the existing district maps.

Stertz made a motion to adopt the second set of Grid Map options, then the fun began. Citizens were then invited to weigh in -- on this specific agenda item. The third one up was state Sen. "Captain Al" Melvin.  However, he clearly had not been paying attention to the discussion or even cared about the agenda item.  I say this because Capt. Al went completely off course and hit an iceberg -- after launching into a worn out diatribe attacking AIRC Chair Colleen Mathis. I've transcribed his comments for you to decide:

Yes, Al Melvin, I’m now in my third year as a state senator representing LD 26.
The reason I wanted to speak early on today is just the entire nature of this commission. When it was put on the ballot by Mr. Pedersen, later a Democratic candidate for US Senate and the money he placed behind this measure, it was sold to the people as an independent redistricting commission, rather than the 90 duly elected legislators in the Arizona State Legislature.  
So, now we’re dealing with that institution here in this room. Basically, we’ve got two Republicans, two Democrats, and you ma’am, the chairlady, as a so-called independent on the commission. And I’m struck by the fact, and I know this has been pointed out before, that your husband was a paid treasurer for Nancy Young Wright, a Democrat candidate in LD26 for the House. 
And it came to my attention today that you specifically donated, I believe $100 to Mr. Cherny’s Democratic campaign for treasurer and that he lost to the Republican. And also that that individual, Mr. Cherny went on to become the current chairman of the Democratic Party for the state of Arizona. 
So, to me, the onus is on you ma’am to be brutally and totally honest to the 6.5 million people in this state. 
If it wasn’t for this commission, 90 duly elected legislators would be doing this job.  
Now it hinges on you, as the one independent, out of five, and what did that get us?  It got us a mapping company with close ties to the Obama campaign.  And to me, and the eyes of many people in this state, this commission, and its work is tainted.  
And it comes back to you, and this mapping company to do the right thing for the 6.5 million people in this state, to me it has already swung a hard left... 
Herrera then interrupts, "Madam chair..." pointing out that Melvin is out of order.  Melvin then cut his "testimony" short and Lynne St. Angelo, the tea party organizer with whom Melvin traveled to the meeting, is heard clapping loudly and rapidly.

At the next recess, I introduced myself to Melvin and told him I would write about him. When I told him he was completely out of order (with his comments) he wanted to argue that it was Strategic Telemetry that was out of order.  However, he ended up just asking me to tell the truth about the situation.  Which I assured him I would do.  And now have done.  If I was to be kind to him, I could only say that his performance was unseemly and unbecoming.  I'm not sure he deserves that kindness, however.


When GOP state lawmakers allow themselves to be egged on by the likes of Ms. St. Angelo, perhaps they deserve all the embarrassment they bring upon themselves.

Some crucial points to consider concerning Capt. Al's comments:
  • If only it was so easy for a rich person to put a CITIZEN initiative on a statewide general election ballot!  Capt. Al publicly declared his disdain for the will of the voters by intentionally mischaracterizing this process as something so simple as ONE rich guy deciding to change laws for his personal gain. IF it was so easy, would not we see more obviously narcissistic measures put up by Arizona's Upper Crust?
  • Capt. Al emphasized the role of "90 duly elected legislators in the Arizona State Legislature." Clearly implied by use of this expression is the message that the 90 members are the only way the people would get fair redistricting.  However, if that were they case, would Arizonans have put so many initiatives on the ballot for so many years?  For example, Indian gaming, medical marijuana, an INDEPENDENT redistricting commission, payday loans, and even a voter protection act because the legislature has repeatedly endeavored to dilute, weaken or negate voter approved laws?
  • Capt. Al repeats the tea party talking point about Chris Mathis having worked for Nancy Young Wright's campaign as if that is an indictment of Colleen Mathis.  Only people lacking even the most basic understanding of the difference between legal and political issues, and without a grasp of marriage as a partnership, would find Al's claim at all relevant to the AIRC.
  • Capt. Al apparently thinks the world as we know it is going to end simply because Colleen Mathis made a campaign contribution to Andrei Cherny. Why is it that nobody found this apparent fact significant enough to shine a light on it prior to her appointment (March 1, well after 2010 campaign finance reports were filed)?
  • What does it say about the voters who chose Capt. Al to represent them in the Arizona Senate? His campaign website says he's a college professor/adjunct lecturer for three universities.  However, his appearance yesterday simply does not measure up to the credentials he claims to have.    


Anyway, the commission adopted the second set of Grid Maps.

-----

Strategic Telemetry next presented a summary of public testimony from the first round of outreach hearings. A power point presentation on this subject should be is posted on the AIRC website sometime today (Friday) now.

-----

The commission next discussed the idea of adopting definitions of redistricting related terms. Stertz had previously mentioned he felt it would be a good idea to address this subject.  UNfair Trust's David Cantelme, several times, urged the commission, to adopt definitions so that the public can be assured the commission would apply the concepts consistently throughout the state.

Anyway, Cantelme's underlying message on this subject has been obvious from the start. He wants something he can use to sink his litigious teeth into and tear apart the work of the commission.

Freeman, McNulty and Herrera voiced concern about putting themselves in a box, which would limit their discretion in dealing with the complex decisions they must make.

"Chairlady" Mathis called for public comment on this subject. 

Cantelme again went on the record to urge adoption of definitions.  Others rebutted his remarks.

I couldn't let Cantelme go without putting my ideas out there also.  Citing the Wednesday decision to contract with Maptitude, an option that will cost $27,349 more than another option, I expressed my concern over the commission yielding to threats made by UNfair Trust.

Cantelme asked for opportunity to reply and was granted permission.  He specifically called my claims lies.  However, even a cursory review of the documents in question, coupled with the way AIRC legal counsel characterized the letter, make it abundantly clear that Cantelme is the one who misrepresented the intent of his communications with the commission.


Stertz then said he recognized the commission had reached a consensus to NOT adopt the definitions at that time.  No vote was taken on this agenda item.

-----

The Arizona Republic's Alia Beard Rau detailed some of the adjustments commissioners directed ST to make to maps to present for consideration on Monday.

-----

A reader just sent me another tip on Cantelme. The UNfair Trust mouthpiece represented former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, who was an intervenor, in a case ruled on this week by the Arizona Court of Appeals. Based on that court decision, Planned Parenthood of Arizona decided to close a number of clinics in rural Arizona this week.

Adams is a declared candidate hoping to replace GOP Congressman turned US Senate candidate, Jeff Flake.  The reader who sent the tip has a hunch that one of the objectives of the UNfair Trust is to provide an opportunity for Adams and his chief rival, Matt Salmon to run in separate districts for Congress in 2012.


-----

Since I've expounded on the situation with Cantelme's representation of UNfair Trust, it might also be appropriate to update the situation with John Mills, the taxpayer funded political operative reporting directly to Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin.  At more than one recent AIRC meeting (including yesterday in Casa Grande), Mills and Cantelme sat together and have been overheard discussing strategy.

On Monday (also in Casa Grande), Mills came up to interrupt in a conversation I was having with two people before the beginning of the meeting.  I was explaining some of the issues that had been in the news regarding the commission.  Mills contradicted me, which certainly is not surprising. I pointed out that he gets paid by taxpayers to do political work.  He again contradicted me.  Again, not surprising.

Remember, House public information officer Paul Boyer acknowledged to me that Mills attends these meetings while on the clock.  Boyer said Mills was authorized to do so because the Prop 106 language allows the legislature to make recommendations on the maps that the AIRC eventually develops.

The question arises when Mills does ANYTHING other than just observe and report to his boss about what takes place at AIRC meetings.  Can spinning political messages to citizens and interrupting when I'm talking to those citizens reasonably be construed as the legislature making recommendations to the AIRC on draft maps?

On Wednesday (at the Phoenix City Council Chambers), after a female citizen testified about prison gerrymandering, Mills confronted her alone in the lobby when she got up to visit the rest room.  She told me about it.  I expressed my displeasure to Mills at a later recess in the meeting.  He wanted to tell me his side of the story.  But I was not interested in his excuses.

Recall that in May, when I had asked for Mills thoughts on something the commission had decided, he told me he just wasn't going to talk to me about it.  At the next meeting, he told me that if I wanted him to comment on anything, I needed to contact Paul Boyer.  On Wednesday, he got upset that I didn't want to listen to him excuse his abusive behavior.

This is not the first incident where Mills went well beyond the limits of what could reasonably be allowable for him to be doing, while being paid by taxpayers, at AIRC meetings.  He confronted me early on in the process, when I spoke about the number of competitive districts that could be drawn on the new maps without compromising Voting Rights Act compliance.  Mills has also been seen at public meetings at least one other time rudely challenging a citizen.

Shouldn't Mills be called out -- to the person who gives him orders and sign his time sheets -- for this blatantly unlawful conduct?  Andy Tobin, the GOP Speaker of the Arizona House can be reached by telephone, fax or email. 




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Redistricting -- Justice O'Connor addresses the AIRC -- UPDATED

Citing the increasingly polarized political climate in our country, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on Wednesday encouraged members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to work together to develop consensus on fair and appropriate redistricting.

Other highlights of her talk included telling the commissioners to expect a lot of criticism and unwanted publicity. But, she said, this is not a popularity contest.  "Arizona is fortunate to have the law it now has on redistricting, and it looks like a good one to me," O'Connor said.

"I think voters sent a special message that we want to take partisan politics out of the redistricting process and create fair representation in our legislative and Congressional districts.  The citizens of Arizona have confidence in you that you will draw boundaries that will not favor any particular elected official, political party or special interest.  Don't give up.  Do it well. We'll thank you later. Good luck to all of you."

-----

After Justice O'Connor's speech, the meeting recessed for a few minutes to take pictures.  Besides the fact that everyone wanted their picture taken with the former member of the US Supreme Court, I think that was a significant part of the day.  The speech, at least for now, brought a tone of cooperation to a commission that has had some stark disagreements already and will again.







Pictures of Justice O'Connor with Rick Stertz and with Jose Herrera turned out even blurrier than the one with Ray and Teddi Bladine (second from the bottom).  But I can't complain.  I took these pics with my Blackberry (phone).

-----

The Commission covered other items of business today before a call to the public for comment.

They voted to accept a proposal for citizen input using online software provided by Maptitude. The significance of this decision lies in the fact that it was the MOST EXPENSIVE a significantly more expensive option and was chosen primarily based on the fact that UNfair Trust mouthpiece David Can't Tell Me issued a veiled threatened of litigation if the lower cost option from Azavea was adopted. Azavea provided the online mapping tool Redistrict Arizona for the mapping contest sponsored by the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition.

This is perhaps the firstfruits of what I've described as "working the refs" in previous posts.

I sometimes wonder if the people at the Arizona Capitol Times can see the forest through the trees.  In its gossip rag, the Yellow Sheet, they have reported on numerous "gotcha" items.  It seems they frame every criticism of the AIRC as evidence of sinister intent and corrupt individuals.  And tea partiers have been eating it up.

However, they blatantly laid bare the motivation of the GOP legislative leadership. Using the bottomless money pit known as (UN)fair Trust to badger the AIRC, they aim to make chair Colleen Mathis vote with Freeman and Stertz on as many decisions as possible.

In this case, today, AIRC counsel Mary O'Grady strongly advised the commission to accept the more expensive mapping tool option because of the risk of potential litigation (threatened in a letter from David Cantelme).

It is incredibly disturbing to me to see this happen.

-----

The commission also discussed and gave informal approval to staff to proceed with setting up the second round of public input.  Here is where my disappointment begins to flesh out.  I've talked with people in various venues who believe the end result of the redistricting process is already a done deal.  And if it is a done deal, then the public hearings are just a formality.  A step consisting of "going through the motions."

Yet, as perhaps the one person who has most closely followed the AIRC itself, I know that is the last thing any of the five commissioners would say or believe.  And certainly, it is not the intent of a majority of the commission.

But today, we saw the invisible hand of money extend its influence on the process.  Cantelme's letter (which I have already requested by way of FOIA/Public Records Request, and will post when I get it) represents an initial shot across the bow of the AIRC.

The AIRC flinched.

EVERY citizen who cares about this process should be gravely concerned that UNfair Trust has effectively usurped the voice of the voting public with this decision.

-----

In a second decision today, contract amendments for mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry were discussed and authorized.  The intent, though seemingly innocuous, puts another chilling shackle on the process.

To ward off criticism of Strategic Telemetry, because of its experience in Democratic political campaigns, the AIRC directed Ray Bladine to amend the contract to require ST to keep a log of all contact it has with anyone in Arizona related to its redistricting work.

Herrera rightly noted, in discussion before the vote was taken to authorize the changes, concern with ST having contact with press/media.  Because I did not have any advance knowledge of what amendments would be made, I was surprised and found this to be disconcerting.  At the recess, I submitted a request to speak.  I was given the opportunity and called attention to the fact that I understood the intent was to keep track of any potential lobbying anyone might try to do by talking to anyone at ST. However, to make a log of media contacts smacks of harassment of the commission and suppression of freedom of the press.

Not for a second do I believe the intent of any member of the AIRC was to harass anyone wanting to shine disinfecting sunlight on themselves, staff or contractors.  But this again smacks of capitulation by the AIRC -- at the advice of counsel -- to political pressure from UNfair Trust, from the AG investigation and from the dozens (not hundreds, not even so many "scores," but a few dozen) of angry, loud and blatantly uninformed tea partiers and GOP activists.

To his credit, Rick Stertz abstained from voting on this motion, though I didn't get a chance to ask him why.  To THEIR credit, other members of the Commission put their concern on the record when they talked about future agenda items, saying they wanted to revisit the issue to consider excluding the press (including bloggers) from the logging ST must do.

Today's agenda also had items on Open Meeting Law training (which was skipped altogether) and adoption of certain definitions.  ASU political science Professor Jennifer Steen spoke to the issue of definitions. Ken Strasma also indicated he intends to discuss this issue in presentations he expects to make in tomorrow's meeting (in Casa Grande, at 10am) and on Monday (agenda/notice expected tomorrow or maybe Friday morning).  So, adoption of definitions (i.e. "competitive districts," "communities of interest," "significant detriment" and more) was deferred to a future meeting.

The AIRC also authorized contracting with Catalyst: Secure, an "e-discovery" firm.  Apparently, this one hit another nerve with the tea people.  I found out at a recess that on Tuesday a brewhaha came up.  It seems Strategic Telemetry had previously worked with a firm called Catalist.  Needless to say, tea party puppetmistress Lynne St. Angelo took her customary turn at the public input mic to harangue the AIRC over this.  But she was talking about Catalist, not Catalyst: Secure.

Which brings me to this question: if knowledge is power, why do St. Angelo and the other tea partiers insist on going on record so many times with such obvious ignorance of pertinent, relevant facts?  They obviously want the power to influence the AIRC.  And maybe they think they are making a difference.  But really, it has been the invisible hand of limitless amounts of money that has, without any shouting (except for Cantelme's hissy fit at me after the Mesa hearing), that has caused the commission to make the disturbing decisions the GOP wants made. 

And UNfair Trust will continue to exert that invisible influence unless that group -- currently empowered by a Federal Elections Commission advisory opinion and emboldened by the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court -- is stopped by the voice of the Arizona voter demanding a return to common sense districts for the next decade.

-------

UPDATED to provide a link to Cantelme's letter upon which AIRC legal counsel advised against choosing the lowest cost option for online mapping software to allow citizens to submit suggestions for district maps or changes to other proposed district maps.  Azavea's bid came in at $49,651. Maptitude, according to Cantelme's letter (and confirmed by phone with a representative from Strategic Telemetry) will cost $87,000. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Redistricting -- THIS is what you've been waiting for!

Tomorrow and Thursday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Meeting will meet to begin the arduous task of drawing maps.

The stage has been set, a team assembled, and despite every effort by the whiners in the Arizona GOP and tea party factions, the work will begin.

Over the last week, mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry, at the direction of the Commission, developed four maps.  The four represent Congressional and legislative Grid Maps using two different starting points/methods for proceeding.  None has been adopted as the starting point from which development of the Draft Maps (the next step) will continue.

There has been a range of reaction to the Grid Maps, but it's important to realize the maps (once adopted) are ONLY the starting point.

Demographer and Redistricting expert Tony Sissons told me recently that neither set will represent any partisan advantage over the other as a starting point.

-----

Don't forget that tomorrow, at the 1pm AIRC meeting in the Phoenix City Council Chambers, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will address the Commission.  Of course, if you cannot make it, online streaming video will be available.

-----

Over the next few days, I will comment on the Arizona Eagletarian about the documents (a few at a time) the AG office said constitute the bases for investigation of the Commission.

The first several pages, which are only copies of the political GOSSIP rag (Yellow Sheet), contain obvious conjecture (guess work) based on unnamed sources giving their impression of discussion they had with various GOP leaders in the state legislature and with Gov Brewer's office.

The first, most obvious point to be made is that only people without critical thinking or reading comprehension skills can be expected to take at face value what the Yellow Sheet reports.  The people who have been clamoring for removal (sending emails to the governor and AG) of the AIRC chair, for the most part, are not people who can afford to subscribe to the Yellow Sheet. 

The "keep your socialist hands off of my Medicare" crowd can only be getting access to that GOSSIP sheet by way of a determined ASTROTURF campaign. [A tweet posted by a party interested in redistricting throughout the US linked to this behind the scenes look at Texas redistricting]

Consider the following excerpt from page 6 (YS dated July 7) of the pdf file:

Senate GOP leaders spoke with Brewer’s staff yesterday to discuss their problems with IRC Chair Colleen Mathis, and a Senate source said the Ninth Floor was receptive to the request that she be removed. "I think they’re open to the idea," the source said. The response from Eileen Klein and Michael Hunter, the source said, was that the senators should compile a list of offenses they believe Mathis has committed that warrant her removal. "We’re doing that now, so it’s looking good. I think you’re going to see the ball star [sic] to move," the source said. Already, there are reports that GOP leaders in the Senate have begun polling members to see if they would vote to remove Mathis. Were Brewer to elect to begin the removal process -Prop 106 dictates the removal of a commissioner to be initiated by the governor, then approved by two-thirds of the Senate- the source said it would open the door to a compromise with Mathis. One such deal could be an agreement from Mathis to hire a Republican mapping consultant - presumably National Demographics Corporation - that would work alongside Strategic Telemetry, said the source...
This excerpt provides evidence, if of ANYTHING, that this whole controversy has been generated by GOP lawmakers for the SOLE purpose of providing a fulcrum for leverage to get the AIRC to actually DO backroom deals favorable to incumbent lawmakers.  Isn't it ironic that informal scuttlebutt, including within Democratic clubs throughout the state, is that final maps are already a "done deal?"

Doesn't that actually lay bare the entire motivation on the part of vested interests who are upset they do not have a Steve Lynn clone at the AIRC helm this year?

Another intriguing item as I've pondered testimony this summer from Andi Minkoff and Adolfo Echeveste along with a transcript of the July 17, 2001 AIRC meeting -- each has a little bit different remembrance of how and why competitiveness was suppressed in the redistricting process ten years ago.   

Beginning on page 36 of the transcript , Dr. Alan Heslop (founding director of the highly partisan Rose Institute and principal of 2001 mapping consultant National Demographics Corp), during a power point presentation to the AIRC, described how to "solve political problems" inherent in redistricting:
...indeed in all legislative processes I know of, the multiplicity of criteria is viewed by incumbents and their staffs as an advantage because you can choose this criterion here to solve that political problem and these other criterion there to solve another political problem and the underlying basis, and who's to criticize them? Perhaps we'd do it in their place. Perhaps the underlying basis for use of the criteria is not the criteria itself, incumbents, parties, or whatever.
Now, this is an occasion of a cross process using a very different perspective. How does the Commission resolve possible conflicts or prioritization of standards?
We suggest in this Power Point some resolutions for problems that we have described. Let me begin with a rehearsal of the Proposition 106 criteria, the federal mandates, and the grid adjustments. No doubt as you read Proposition 106, it unequivocally requires equal population standards. There is the same kind of unequivocality as to the Voting Rights Act Amendments. But then we come to the Proposition 106 criteria as listed in Section 14 C, D, E, and F. And the question that I posed in the first presentation was how is the Commission to apply these criteria? 

Which criteria should have priority? 

What happens when a particular area, when you are examining a particular line of districting, what about competition among these criteria and how should that competition be resolved? We think that the Commission, because it is involved in a very different process from legislative redistricting, needs a principal method of prioritizing these criteria. And we think that this method is found in the process set up by Proposition 106 itself and in arguments made on behalf of Proposition 106 at the time of its passage.

The transcript excerpts show clearly that NDC and Alan Heslop suggested the AIRC use the language of Prop 106, which he believed puts competitiveness as the lowest priority criterion, as the guide in the process.

The Arizona Supreme Court, finally in 2009, declared that methodology to be flawed and inappropriate.

Fast forward to 2011. The same interests that found convenient methods for sidestepping the wishes of the voting public are fighting like drowning swimmers to find a way to preserve the status quo.  Most of them are conducting their survival fight behind the scenes.  Others, like Frank Antenori and Terri Proud, prefer the brash, in-your-face approach.  And Proud Terri keeps right on rolling along, this week getting the Arizona Daily Star to publish her mindless drivel and Tucson radio personality Bill Buckmaster to let her rant on the airwaves.

In the meantime, the press is failing tremendously at getting to the essence of this story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Redistricting -- Open Meeting issues? -- UPDATED

This morning, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened in Casa Grande to receive an update from legal counsel on Attorney General Horne's investigation into possible Open Meeting and procurement violations, to receive legal advice and to give direction to counsel.

Four of the five commissioners attended.  Because of a previously identified, unavoidable schedule conflict, Commissioner Rick Stertz was absent.  He will be briefed on the situation seperately.

AIRC Counsel Mary O'Grady reported in open session that the AG had received reports of potential violations and had sent an "investigative demand" to interview all five commissioners.  The demand also said certain related documents must turned over to him.  In addition to the demands, pursuant to a request from AIRC counsel, the AG sent copies to O'Grady of complaints Horne had received.

McNulty asked if the documents (citizen reports of possible violations) received from the AG were public. O'Grady said her understanding is that yes, they are public records.

When asked what the reports consisted of, O'Grady said one made reference to how the Commission had "spent a lot of time in executive session during the procurement process." Others included general reference to allegations of Open Meeting Law violations, but nothing specific. Some reports alleged conflicts of interest and express concern about Strategic Telemetry's work for Democrats in the past.  McNulty asked if they were essentially the same as what we've seen in emails and comments we've heard in public meetings.  O'Grady replied in the affirmative.

Freeman asked for clarification of the purpose of the executive session. He understood it was for a question and answer interaction between Commissioners and counsel.  O'Grady indicated that based on the agenda items, the executive session could also include discussion of the issues, but that no action, other than giving direction to counsel would be taken.

After nearly two hours, the AIRC reconvened in public session.  McNulty made a motion to authorize counsel to proceed, pursuant to ARS § 38-431.07 B. That statute states:
A public body shall not expend public monies to employ or retain legal counsel to provide legal services or representation to the public body or any of its officers in any legal action commenced pursuant to any provisions of this article, unless the public body has authority to make such expenditure pursuant to other provisions of law and takes a legal action at a properly noticed open meeting approving such expenditure prior to incurring any such obligation or indebtedness.
Herrera seconded the motion.  In discussion on the motion, Freeman expressed his concern that this motion not be considered carte blanche approval in the event other, thus far unforeseen, situations arise.  The motion was amended to narrow the scope to this preliminary investigation as indicated in the AG's initial press release, but NOT to relate to any potential future enforcement action. Other discussion on it suggested they believed the motion was not necessary but "just in case," they would be covered.

Freeman said he does NOT support this decision today because it appeared the AIRC was authorizing counsel to act if the AG does initiate enforcement action.  He mentioned that it could entail substantial expenditure of funds if that happens, and if it comes to that, he wants to be able to consider proposed budgets on potential legal action.

Herrera suggested Freeman could make his own motion, if he doesn't like the one that was being discussed.  Freeman, saying that the discussion was on the motion that had been made and seconded, did not address Herrera's suggestion. After the 3-1 vote (Freeman voting "nay"), Herrera again posed the question to Freeman as to how differently the motion could have been made to garner Freeman's support.  Again deflecting the question, Freeman stated that he preferred to have the Chair run the meeting.

When I asked him about his concerns, after the meeting adjourned, Freeman said he might have been overly cautious.  It appears to me, however, that he wants time to figure out what his position will be if that eventuality occurs. 

-----

This afternoon, the AIRC published notice and an agenda for a second meeting to take place Wednesday afternoon. This is the only agenda item:

Report, legal advice and direction to counsel regarding Attorney General Inquiry.
The Commission may vote to go into executive session, which will not be open to the
public, for the purpose of obtaining legal advice (A.R.S. §38-431.03 (A) (3) and (4)).

-----

Because the reports from the AG are public records, I have requested copies.  When I receive them, I plan to post them for your review also.

-----

And SPEAKING of potential Open Meeting Law violations, the 2001 AIRC, though not necessarily caught in the act, and certainly not causing the kind of stir the current AIRC faces, clearly knew it had committed at least SEVEN violations.   I'm working on that for another post, hopefully within a day or two.

In the meantime, make your voices heard.  The tea party people, as INcredible as their claims are (and the claims ARE without credibility), are speaking up loud and... well, even though it's been quite a cacophony, the highly partisan AG Tom Horne has listened to them.

-----

Speaking of cacophony, the complaints His Partisanship, Tom Horne, bases his investigation on is embedded below.  Incidentally, in a previous post, I mentioned I had been told that unflattering information would be made public shortly after the Phoenix hearing. It appears that the Yellow Sheet is where those things were discussed.  But apparently, the largest newspapers in the state did not find the documents significant enough to report.  However, since the primary readership of the Yellow Sheet is made up of lobbyists and other paid subscribers (like state government agencies and officials... hint, GOP lawmakers like Andy(s) Tobin and Biggs), Tom Horne thinks the political GOSSIP sheet is grounds for an investigation.  As a practicing attorney, one would think that Horne would have a better idea what constitutes evidence, or even grounds for an investigation.  I'm not an attorney and even I can tell that partisan whining falls short of being reasonable grounds.

The documents upon which Horne initiated his partisan witchhunt can be found here.

If that still doesn't work and you'd still like to view the documents, send me an email at ArizonaEagletarian (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll see about sending it to you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Redistricting -- Voting Rights Act

In a previous post, I raised the issue of how Voting Rights Act considerations can be a two-edged sword, figuratively speaking.  It was enacted in the 1960s to address a long history of suppressing the voice of minority voters by way of redistricting.  On the flip side, it can be overdone to pack so many covered voters into so few districts that, in Arizona for example, the GOP supermajority in the state legislature is guaranteed for another decade.

A new story in the Los Angeles Times explores this concern as the Obama administration's Dept. of Justice prepares to review, for preclearance, redistricting plans for several states.

Because the growth of the Latino voting age population has grown dramatically in Arizona, this is a major consideration for the AIRC.

I expect to explore the issue further and hope to interview key stakeholders in the very near future. So, stay tuned!




Redistricting -- Proposed Grid Maps posted UPDATED

This morning, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission posted two sets of proposed Grid Maps for consideration. Ray Bladine told me this afternoon that explanation and a likely vote on which set to adopt will be put on the agenda for Wednesday's Thursday's meeting, tentatively scheduled for Casa Grande. [UPDATE: AIRC indicated more detailed Grid Maps will be posted on Monday]

Notice went out this morning for the Wednesday business meeting which, besides opening with retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor addressing the Commission, includes discussion and possible action on procurement of online services; briefing on Open Meeting law; mapping definitions; second round public hearing issues; approval of minutes from prior meetings and more.

So far, meetings are already scheduled for Monday in Casa Grande and Wednesday at the Phoenix City Council Chambers. The AIRC plans to hold meetings Thursday and several days after that.  As soon as I have more details, I'll let you know.

----

This morning, I spoke at a meeting of Northern Pinal Democrats in Gold Canyon to provide an update on legislative and Congressional redistricting.  I met several wonderful people.  Thanks to Dave Coward for the invitation.  Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn provided an update on county supervisorial redistricting.