Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Redistricting -- there will be time to complain

Even though the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission appears tangibly, (yet just marginally) closer to developing a draft Congressional map, consternation is rising on all sides. Deliberation this morning began with sparks flying over whether the Everything Bagel map (abbrev. EB) is even a reasonable place from which they should be working. (click on the link to launch a Google Maps file to look at where the lines in this proposal would make a district for you).

Maybe it's a good thing that people on all sides of the political spectrum are alarmed at what has been decided so far. Indecision and then decisions, but nothing is yet set in stone. One point of major contention is whether to include Flagstaff in the western Arizona rural Congressional district or the eastern district.

Yes, it is still disturbing that the five commissioners seem poised to dilute the vote of Arizonans on the border with Mexico (by drawing three CDs along that border). But do we even have a way to quantify how bad that would be?

At this stage, it is important for concerned Arizonans to prepare and organize to make their preferences known. However, regardless of the outcome of the current deliberations, there will still be 30 days, after the AIRC adopts DRAFT maps to, as Comm. Scott Freeman says, "show us the error of our ways."

In the meantime, the Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl also wrote up today's deliberation on the Congressional map.

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A fundamental question all concerned citizens should ask themselves at this point is -- from this day forward, until the end of the upcoming 30-day comment period -- what will compel the five commissioners to be swayed by my testimony or written comments?

Everyone who has been paying attention to the process over the summer knows that the five of them have faced a tremendous amount of pressure, mostly from tea partiers and rabid GOP activists. Some of that pressure has come in the form of hundreds of people reading, with varying degrees of passion and vitriol, from the same or a similar script.

Though they may be reluctant to admit it, is it reasonable to assume that they have all been developing a thick skin over the last three months?  If so, what does that mean?

Thick-skinned variously means,

  • Not easily offended
  • Largely unaffected by the needs and feelings of other people.
  • Insensitive to criticism or hints
  • Not easily upset or affected

As an observer of these five people (along with the staff and consultants working with the Commission), right or wrong, all of those meanings fit to some degree. That's both good and bad. They are all very human, imperfect individuals. But they are also ALL committed to a noble, very difficult task that has taxed them personally, emotionally, financially and intellectually. They are all much more qualified than I am to be in the position they are in.

From the position of citizen, however, a position for which I hope I am as qualified as they, I am still compelled to describe what I see.

They may not have fully anticipated the political pressure they would face. But they are all still on the job. To survive emotionally requires them to withstand the intense criticism. How closely tied to that are the other aspects of a "thick skin?"

They have heard so many things from so many people that they probably can anticipate what some are going to say, before they say it. Some things said by members of the public must, by law, be disregarded. 

But today, in about an hour and a half of public testimony, none of the familiar tea party talking points were repeated, even though a couple of tea partiers testified. The AIRC has also had hundreds of people tell them the importance of drawing competitive districts for the next ten years. But today, several people made that case personally, not by reading someone else's script.  

Today, several members of Flagstaff 40 again attended and testified. Vice-chair Stephanie McKinney eloquently, and even very personally, articulated the significance of competitive districts. Among her points, she cited that only 15 of the 435 seats in the US House of Representative (Congress) are held by Members who ran in competitive districts. I do not, at this point, know her source but do want to find it. 

One natural result of having competitive Congressional districts, according to McKinney, will be to bring considerable national campaign money to Arizona. And that money means jobs.  

Judy Whitehouse, who lives in central Phoenix, talked about how objectionable we all find it when a bully has a head start in a race or advantage in any other kind of competition. Why would we find it acceptable to allow the 35 percent of the voters in our state (registered as Republicans) to bully the rest of us with a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature?

So, the key, for citizens advocating from any position on the political spectrum to reach a receptive ear -- and a consensus vote of the commissioners -- would seem to be to tell them what your point means to you, as a real person. The five citizen-volunteers on the AIRC have not completely turned off their sense of empathy, after all.

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Next Monday is the hearing date for Tom Horne's lawsuit seeking a court order to compel three of the AIRC commissioners to comply with his investigative demand (to be interviewed under oath). The lawsuit the AIRC filed in response to Horne does not yet have a hearing date, but the commission has asked for the two legal actions to be consolidated.  So, stay tuned for more to come on that front.

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There is certainly more involved with the notion of successfully advocating one's desired outcome for redistricting than simply public testimony. ASU social psychology Professor emeritus Robert Cialdini's research and writing on Influence is considered one of the most important works on the subject. Some of the principles are widely known and understood. Reciprocity, for example, is the bottom line in knowing how and why lobbyists giving gifts and favors to lawmakers is abhorrent and counter to the concept of government of, by and for the people.

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Earlier today, I tweeted that Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman had given what I believe is an outstanding example illustrating the concept of communities of interest. I'm not necessarily a Hallman fan and I do not necessarily agree with his overall message. But I appreciate the clarity with which he illustrated the concept of communities of interest. He described how the city of Phoenix owns and operates Sky Harbor International Airport, which borders Tempe. Phoenix builds on and from Sky Harbor in various ways for economic development.  Yet for Tempe residents and businesses, noise pollution from the heavy aircraft traffic can be a genuine nuisance. Hallman suggested that to ask one lawmaker to represent those competing interests presents obvious dilemmas. Tempe and other East Valley cities, therefore, are one type of community of interest distinct from the interests of Phoenix.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Redistricting -- disturbing developments UPDATED

The most recent disturbing development with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is that during today's meeting in Tucson, the streaming video has not been working most of the time today. But yesterday, Mathis proposed a Congressional map she called the "Everything Bagel" around which she hopes to get her fellow commissioners to coalesce.

This new map features two exclusively rural Congressional districts (completely without reaching at all into Pima or Maricopa Counties), three districts along the border with Mexico, and four yet to be determined districts in the Phoenix area. Mathis specified that she believed that would allow for ONE (and only one) competitive Congressional district in the Phoenix area.

From the deliberation during yesterday's meeting, it's clear and obvious that McNulty and Herrera find Mathis' proposal highly problematic. And as has been pointed out previously, the only way to draw three CDs along the Mexican border is to extend those districts far to the north (in order to include enough people to comply with equal population requirements). This dramatically dilutes the voice of voters actually living near the border (including ranchers).  In order to connect with enough voters to get elected (and re-elected) Congressional candidates and representatives would have to reach more voters farther away from the border.

Throughout the summer, Rick Stertz and GOP activists have been calling for this configuration. Throughout the summer, tea party and GOP activists have been verbally attacking Mathis, passionately making false accusations, even if they are not always coherent. So, when the "Everything Bagel" proposal emerged yesterday, it was immediately apparent that this could be an effort to lift the release valve on the pressure cooker.

Consistently, I have been supportive of Mathis' efforts as AIRC chair, even if sometimes surprised (like I was when she advocated for contracting with Strategic Telemetry).

But I cannot and will not support her effort to flip the release valve on the pressure cooker by selling out the entire concept of competitive districts. And that is what I understand the "Everything Bagel" will do. Ever since she voted with Herrera and McNulty to hire Joe Kanefield instead of Lisa Hauser to serve as Republican legal counsel, it has been blatantly apparent that Mathis' single vote would decide any contentious, partisan issue.

Political concession by Mathis today will have long-term ramifications likely to play out in an increasing number of scenarios with marked by extreme partisanship. Need I recite the number of times Arizona has been the focus of national news for divisive politics lately?

How much effort has it taken just to try to push back extremism that has caused such bitter division among neighbors in communities throughout Arizona? One need look no farther than LD18 in Mesa.

It is truly time to Rise UP! Let the AIRC know you demand the fair and competitive districts voters mandated in passing Prop 106 in 2000.

PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; AMENDING ARTICLE IV, PART 2, SECTION 1, CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; RELATING TO ENDING THE PRACTICE OF GERRYMANDERING AND IMPROVING VOTER AND CANDIDATE PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS BY CREATING AN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF BALANCED APPOINTMENTS TO OVERSEE THE MAPPING OF FAIR AND COMPETITIVE CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS.
For Ms. Mathis to capitulate to GOP and tea party demands could undermine the entire process.

Because the streaming video has not been working today, I only found out during the AIRC lunch break that they voted 5-0 to adopt Mathis' "Everything Bagel" map as the working map, after 2-3 votes on two other CD map versions.  In those votes, Mathis sided with Stertz and Freeman.

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Agendas have been posted for AIRC meetings the next three days (Sept. 28, 29 and 30), each of which will be at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center in Tempe with scheduled start times of 9am.

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This morning, the AIRC filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking Injunctive and Special Action Relief.

After declaring the purpose for the lawsuit, namely,
This action seeks a judicial declaration as to whether the IRC is truly independent, free from interference by politics and politicians, except as specifically provided in the [Arizona] Constitution. 
Page 19 of the lawsuit pdf file lists the relief the AIRC seeks from the court. Basically, the commission wants Horne to back off.

We'll see where all of this leads. Stay tuned.

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UPDATE:

The AIRC meeting for Wednesday (tomorrow) September 28 has been CANCELLED.

I'm hoping to be able to listen to today's hearing tomorrow, and hopefully will get more of an idea of what's been going on today.  But I did see Lynne St. Angelo criticize the everything bagel map. It's intriguing, if nothing else, to see her on the same page as others who have reasonable perspectives.

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Also on Monday, when Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin testified before the AIRC, she specifically named GOP taxpayer funded political operative John Mills as the source of her information. Mills knew he was busted and was overheard telling Ms. Martin during the next break/recess to tell people he only provided information to her when he was on his own time. That is, as opposed to when he's on the clock as a Republican legislative/political operative. I wonder why Tom Horne hasn't investigated Mills' time sheets over the last decade.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Redistricting -- every day this week

At noon on Monday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meets in Casa Grande to continue deliberation on Congressional and legislative maps.

Last Friday, the commission met for roughly two hours, listened to a "coalition" presentation by state Rep. Richard Miranda, took public testimony, briefly discussed that the mapping consultant had not been able to work up any new "what if" maps after Thursday's meeting, and decided to adjourn early. The idea was to allow each of the five commissioners the time to work in Maptitude on their own. I provided a link to Arizona citizen public access to Maptitude which is similar but not configured exactly the same as what the commissioners use.

The most notable part of the day, in my view, is that Miranda claimed the commission needs to ensure a 70 percent HVAP (Hispanic voting age population) for compliance with the Voting Rights Act for central and west Phoenix legislative districts. His justification was a traditionally low voter turnout in those districts.  He's right about the low turnout, but he completely missed the mark on cause and effect. In other words, he doesn't realize which came first, the chicken or the egg.  A major factor in the low turnout is the fact that voters in those districts do not feel like their vote matters. If the election races were closer, it's very possible community leaders would find it easier to motivate people to vote.

Miranda also claimed to be representing a coalition. He dropped a long list of names of elected officials and community leaders. Miranda also claimed there had been extensive community outreach to support the maps that he presented. But not one person accompanied him to support his presentation and his claims. NOT ONE. By the way, Miranda also talked about where lawmakers and prospective candidates live.  AIRC legal counsel Mary O'Grady had to interrupt to remind him and the commissioners that they must disregard any such information.

To me, the significance of that scenario is in that throughout the summer, lawmakers and community leaders have told me, off the record, that they do not have a great deal of respect for Richard Miranda. To get any more specific, I would have to have people willing to go on record. However, that not one person showed up to support him provided a stark underpinning of skepticism to his claims. So much so that even Rick Stertz, after Miranda's presentation, asked questions to try to get an idea of what outreach efforts had been made. Miranda indicated there was no website for people (in the community) to go for information about his coalition and their proposals.

Then there was UNFair Trust mouthpiece David Cantelme. He praised Miranda's outreach efforts, even though Miranda presented NOT ONE bit of evidence to support his claims of extensive outreach. How shallow can Cantelme continue to be?  How stupid does he really think the commissioners and the people of Arizona are, to take anything he says before the commission at face value?

On Thursday, DJ Quinlan and Luis Heredia, both of whom work for the Arizona Democratic Party, testified before the commission. One point they both made is that several people who recently addressed the panel, claiming only to be representing themselves, actually have long-standing ties to state and national GOP groups. They apparently struck a nerve. On Friday morning, Lee Miller, general counsel for the Arizona Republican Party attended, testifying that nobody has been speaking, up to that point, on behalf of the AZ GOP.

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On Thursday, a crew from Tucson's KUAT, Channel 6, Arizona Public Media, came to the meeting at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel.  They interviewed Commissioner Scott Freeman as well as legal counsel O'Grady and Ex. Dir. Bladine.  They all did great.  It's worth your time to watch the clips online if you haven't already seen the show, which aired on Friday night in Tucson.

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On Tuesday, the commission meets at 9am in Tucson. If you're planning to drive down from Phoenix that day, plan for heavy morning drive traffic in Tucson, from the I-10 over to Alvernon, unless someone in Tucson can give you tips on how to get around the traffic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Redistricting -- more nitty gritty

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened this morning at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino for further deliberations on Congressional and legislative district maps.

This morning, members of an East Arizona Counties coalition, including Tommie Martin, chair of the Gila County Board of Supervisors and Greenlee County Supervisor Richard Lunt, presented to the commission and called for two rural Arizona Congressional districts.

Two members of the Hispanic Coalition for Good Government called for competitive districts while protecting minority rights pursuant to the Voting Rights Act, specifically saying they like proposed Congressional map version 7a.

Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martyn told commissioners "word on the street" is that support is growing for said version 7a.  Martyn also expressed his concern about a district with a 20 percent advantage in Republican registered voters.  When they got around to map deliberations, Freeman and Stertz latched onto Martyn's point, decrying "packing" Republican voters into a few districts. Since the subject had come up suddenly and both Republican commissioners used the term which normally refers to ways GOP map drawers (in other states, of course) dilute the voice of minorities to have a say in public policy decisions, it sounded to me like a talking point someone had been discussing behind the scenes recently. After the meeting, Stertz denied that was the case and said plenty of other words would describe the same concern.

McNulty caught on to the line of discussion and suggested it wasn't quite the same concern as with Voting Rights Act compliance for minorities.

Discussion turned testy a couple of times today, especially when Stertz claimed he had been harangued by Herrera and McNulty. AP writer Paul Davenport described the situation well today.

At one point this afternoon, Herrera suggested it would be good to get all of the minority groups together in a room at the same time to get them to come to a consensus on a way for the AIRC to comply with the VRA to satisfy them all.

Onita Davis, an Oro Valley resident who has previously said she was a member of Smart Girl Politics (a tea party related social networking website) complained about the version 7a. Davis also had harsh words for the idea mentioned by members of the Intertribal Council last week at the Heard Museum about wanting a district where they could elect a Native American to Congress. Ms. Davis is nothing if not articulate and eloquent.  One of the few tea partiers, in my opinion that makes coherent points at AIRC meetings. Of course, Davis' still may or may not get her druthers on new maps.

The issue of transparency -- disclosure of commissioners' contacts with people seeking to lobby them on district matters -- came up this morning.  Coming as no surprise to me, they came to no decision. After a brief opening statement on the subject by legal counsel, and with Mathis suggesting she would like the commission to adopt a rule requiring the five commissioners to be subject to the same logging requirements as mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry. Nobody explicitly indicated they opposed the requirement but they did express several, potentially legitimate, concerns. Again, Davenport also wrote about this issue.

Strategic Telemetry made a presentation on measuring competitiveness. ASU Prof. Jennifer Steen, who had hoped to speak to the commission on this topic, instead will submit written comments. Because Steen's academic and research interests include political statistics, no doubt she has potentially valuable insight on how to best measure competitiveness for proposed maps. No decision was made today.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, on a couple of key policy decisions today, left much to be desired in terms of quality customer service. Early on, I was told that I was forbidden from keeping my water bottle with me in the meeting. Not long thereafter, needing a snack (a piece of fruit), the two security guys ended up NOT being there to protect the safety of everyone in the meeting but to apparently protect financial interests of the Hotel by forbidding me from having any item that I brought from home to eat. I specifically asked one if his job was to prevent violence/ensure safety or to enforce contract provisions. Apparently one condition for renting the room was to forbid anyone from bringing their own snacks or lunch. This, of course, is totally outrageous.

Hoping to help the Wild Horse Pass management prevent a customer perception issue that could spread bad will, I called trying to get this worked out for tomorrow. No word as I publish this post whether they will get the message.

The commission meets tomorrow at 9am, again at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino (which is a different facility from Wild Horse Pass Resort).

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LD17 (Tempe/S. Scottsdale Democrats) is holding its Second Annual Beer Summit/Social this Saturday, 4-7pm at the Barnes House. Details on the event page on facebook. Be there or be square! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Redistricting -- next meetings

At 9am Thursday morning, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will convene at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino just south of Chandler Blvd. on the east side of Phoenix. Official notice was also given today (Wednesday) for a meeting on Friday, same time and location (but different conference room).

The Arizona Eagletarian will provide live updates via Twitter and if the wi-fi connection is good, also on facebook.

Tomorrow evening, I plan to attend the LD 18 Democrats fundraiser in Mesa.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Redistricting -- nitty gritty time

Last Friday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met in Tempe for more deliberative action getting to the nitty gritty of what to do about Congressional and legislative district maps. As I've noted before, until anything concrete comes out of those deliberations, it will be difficult to tell you how the political climate may change or what any of it will mean to you as individual voters.

That does not mean there is nothing to report. Sparks flew on Friday between two commissioners and attorney David Cantelme, who has spoken frequently -- on the record -- to the AIRC on behalf of the clandestine lobbying group (UN)Fair Trust.

The Yellow Sheet Report reported on it last Friday, saying Cantelme took fire from AIRC Dems on Friday because he has never been willing to disclose who his client, (UN)Fair Trust consists of.  The Yellow Sheet reported that Herrera interrupted Cantelme to object to the fact that Cantelme has never publicly disclosed to the commission exactly who he represents. According to YS, the group includes some of the AZ GOP Congressional delegation and Republican legislative leaders (YS, 6/24).

Cantelme told Herrera, “We’re not going to play this game. We’re not lobbying anyone. This has been settled by the Secretary of State’s office.” (In response to a complaint filed last month against FAIR Trust by Tucson Libertarian activist Jim March, the SoS concluded that state lobbying disclosure laws only pertain to the Legislature.)

Of course, Cantelme’s parsing words when he does that. Nobody in their right mind thinks Cantelme’s doing anything OTHER THAN lobbying the commission when he speaks on the record at AIRC meetings.

McNulty told Cantelme that other people who address the commission do so to represent “real people with real concerns,” and that she views his testimony and advice with skepticism because he won’t disclose his backers. Cantelme responded that he has no hidden agenda.

McNulty wasn’t fooled. Since Cantelme could be “picking and choosing arguments to advance the interests of whoever you represent. The weight of your testimony is very thin because of that.” McNulty also told him that she has listened patiently to all of his comments, and that “the time has come [to address] some of the elephants in the room.”

Cantelme later put on a show, calling for civility. Herrera replied, “Tell me who you are and who you represent, that’s all.” That's the same Cantelme who was far less than civil when he couldn't get me to take his bait at the Public Outreach Hearing in Mesa

However, there's more to the story. Early on in the meeting, Herrera asked Flagstaff lawyer Brandon Kavanagh, a member of Flagstaff 40, to describe the group and its membership. Kavanagh said they cross all political affiliations; are a group of committed business leaders; and want to promote what makes Arizona good, because that will make Flagstaff good. He said his group is concerned about a report showing that Arizona is 49th in the US in economic outlook.  He believes the AIRC redistricting work can impact the state's ability to attract entrepreneurs. As a registered Independent, Kavanagh appreciates the idea of competitive districts.

Herrera thanked Kavanagh for his candor in describing the Flagstaff 40. When Cantelme's turn came to address the commission, Herrera used the Kavanagh's testimony to segue into asking the UNFair Trust mouthpiece to tell them about the group he represents. Ever the consistent one, Cantelme wouldn't tell them. When pressed, he said that weight should be given to his testimony because his points are always logical and intellectually honest. The operative expression there being "he said." Also, despite his protestations, Cantelme's purpose for appearing and speaking to the AIRC clearly is and has been to lobby.

This day he claimed one of his allegedly "logical and intellectually honest" points was that you cannot have competitive districts and still protect minorities pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.  Needless to say, I later took the opportunity to thank Herrera and McNulty on the record and point out that there is already documentation available demonstrating that the two things are not mutually exclusive.

By the way, Cantelme also recently collaborated with AIRC Republican legal counsel Joe Kanefield for an article in Arizona Attorney magazine. Cantelme and Kanefield chat informally also before meetings and during recesses. Cantelme also regularly confers with John Mills, who has been the chief political operative for Arizona House (GOP) Speaker Andy Tobin (and Tobin's predecessors) for more than a decade.



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The AIRC meets next on Thursday at 9am at the Wild Horse Pass Resort.
Tentatively, the commission will also meet:

  • Friday, also at Wild Horse Pass at 9am
  • Monday (9/26) in Casa Grande at noon
  • Tuesday (9/27) in Tucson 9am
  • Wednesday (9/28) in Casa Grande 9am
  • Thursday (9/29) in Casa Grande 9am
  • Friday (9/30) in Casa Grande 9am
Of course, times and locations for tentatively scheduled meetings are subject to change.

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Tonight, at 7pm MST, AIRC mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry will conduct a webinar (online) for people wanting to contribute suggestions on where to draw lines. The training event will cover how to use Maptitude software.  To register, go to the online mapping page on the AIRC website.

Monday, September 19, 2011

LD18 Democrats hold a FUNdraiser this week

A fun gathering is in store for anyone wanting to support LD18 (Mesa) Democrats on Thursday this week.

Arizona's legislative Democratic leaders Chad Campbell, and David Schapira, as well as former Rep. David Lujan; former Congressman Harry Mitchell and former (and hopefully future) Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Dan Saban are all scheduled to appear and speak.

Break bread with friends at an Italian dinner catered by Oreganos!

Details at the LD18 Democrats facebook page.

See you there!

 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Redistricting -- Intertribal Council presentations, competitiveness and urgency

On Thursday, the Intertribal Council of Arizona hosted the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's meeting at the Heard Museum on N. Central Avenue and member tribes made their case for maximizing Congressional and legislative representation for the next ten years.

The most dramatic proposal, presented by Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, calls for a sweeping Congressional district covering a vast area of the north and eastern areas of the state. Both Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic and Paul Davenport of the Associated Press described Gorman's proposal well.

By the time the tribal presentations began, after nearly an hour of discussion by AIRC members on potential adjustments to the Congressional grid maps, nearly sixty people were in attendance. That may have been the most people at an IRC meeting this year other than the Public Outreach Hearings. Some remarked that today's deliberation seemed more substantive and productive than has taken place since adoption of the grid maps. Still, they made no decisions on where lines will be drawn for the DRAFT maps they will present to the public for comment during the second round of hearings.

In Wednesday's meeting in Casa Grande, a couple of commissioners used the expression, "drill down" to reflect the need to analyze demographic data necessary to understand where each would like lines to be drawn.  I don't know that they've succeeded yet in doing any of that drilling. Today, when discussing future meetings, McNulty proposed having today's meeting (scheduled for 10am at the Fiesta Inn in Tempe) instead be a work study session. That became a discussion on cancelling the meeting so commissioners could spend the day independently working in the Maptitude software while looking at the demographic data.

No cancellation was made. Meeting is still on for 10am.

Public testimony of note on Thursday, other than by tribal representatives, included Tucson Libertarian activist Jim March making the case, this time also to the Native Americans in the audience, regarding the prison population issue. He played a PowerPoint presentation and told the audience that unless the method for addressing prisons is changed, it will materially dilute the voice of voters in Arizona's Tribal communities.  March spelled out his concern that a Pinal County superdistrict -- covering the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson -- could become a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the private prison industry.

Granted, the demographic data, primarily the number of prisoners currently incarcerated in federal, state and private prison facilities throughout Arizona taken alone might suggest the problem is not necessarily a big deal. But a realistic scenario, considering several likely very real factors might legitimately support March's fear.

Florence and Eloy, now roughly halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, already have prisons. Gov. Brewer was very recently in Pinal County to promote another prison development project.  Local businesses need local residents (who hold jobs) to spend money.  A steady stream of government spending for the employees (to house and guard those prisoners) would provide an environment ripe for parochial interests in such a superdistrict (or more than one) with strong incentive to enact laws to promote higher prison populations and additional facilities.

To me, March's scenario, in present day Arizona, is realistic and not at all dependent on a "conspiracy theory" type mindset.

Another Tucson activist, Mohur Sarah Sidhwa, gave poignant testimony calling the idea of creating three Congressional districts on the border with Mexico, "ridiculous." She said that to draw three border districts will certainly dilute the voice of voters along the border. Since each district must have more than 700,000 residents, vast majorities in all three would be living far north of the border, including many in Phoenix. Where do politicians go? Where they can find the money and the votes to get elected and re-elected.

Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters Arizona, on Thursday, called on the AIRC to put focus on competitive districts now by developing an objective measure to put it on the front burner in their discussions.

An objective tool called Judge-It, developed by social scientists to crunch multiple sets of voter registration and election results data, happens to be available for no cost for the AIRC to use for competitiveness analysis.  Strategic Telemetry most likely is capable of using Judge-It and performing the necessary calculations.  Certain decisions, about and around which the commission has been "kinda, sorta" discussing already, must be made before it can be done. And likely a social scientist from academia would need to consult on interpreting the results generated by Judge-It.  But these are things that can and should be arranged VERY quickly.  If not, then we run a high risk of missing out on competitive districts for another decade.  THAT would be tragic indeed.

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It's also becoming increasingly obvious that a 5-0 consensus on any given mapping scenario is going to be next to impossible to achieve. Each commissioner will be under the gun -- FIGURATIVELY speaking -- to justify his and her position on a set of DRAFT map proposals. Given that a couple of them have already indicated they want to delay the second round of Public Hearings, time is of the essence.

There are no more procedural justifications for delay. Perhaps it's time for our five redistricting commissioners to s*it or get off the pot. Or they need a swift kick in the pants... or some other way of effectively getting a grasp on the urgency of the situation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Redistricting -- will Competitiveness be an after thought like it was in 2001?

When the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met today in Casa Grande, the bulk, sum and substance of the day was continued work on "what if" scenarios for making adjustments to Congressional and legislative grid maps.

Because I missed Monday's meeting, I asked, before the start, if they had made any progress. Freeman said they only made a little. They did not make much more today. However, looking for things to say to their subscribers, the Yellow Sheet Report decided that a couple of quotes provided adequate basis for an outrageous bit of conjecture.

YS quoted Herrera as saying he did not want competitiveness to be an afterthought like it had been with the first AIRC. No problem with that, as Herrera has consistently declared his intent to advocate along those lines.

The commissioners discussed the relative merits of the Prop 106 criteria as well as the relative merits of various sets of data for deciding how to measure the competitiveness of the maps they adopt. Stertz said, "I’m a huge fan of competitiveness, but I just want to know the data that supports it." That has to be a figure of speech. Anybody that has been following AIRC discussion since March knows Stertz is very much NOT a fan of competitiveness.  He has made a point of indicating that it is the only one of the six criteria that the constitutional language sets limits, "where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals."

The figure of speech "oxymoron" is defined as
A rhetorical figure by which contradictory or incongruous terms are conjoined so as to give point to the statement or expression; an expression, in its superficial or literal meaning self-contradictory or absurd, but involving a point. (Now often loosely or erroneously used as if merely = a contradiction in terms, an incongruous conjunction.)-- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed 
Stertz' comment may or may not actually be an oxymoron, but I do believe he was making a point, rather than just misstating his values and views about the Prop 106 criteria.

During discussion, McNulty said she was “looking to build communities,” a statement that, according to the great minds at YS, "could signal her support for less competitive districts that are more focused on complying with the Voting Rights Act." Frankly, to suggest at all that McNulty will consider compromising on competitiveness is nothing more than a partisan pipe dream.

Further, to suggest that compliance with the VRA is mutually exclusive of the ability to make competitive districts reflects, at this stage, willful ignorance. Demographer and redistricting expert Tony Sissons, more than eight months ago, demonstrated how the two AIRC goals were compatible. Sissons' essay was published in the Arizona Guardian as well as on the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition's website.

When I talked with her about competitiveness today, McNulty reflected on the complicated nature of measuring it, but gave not even the slightest indication she has changed her position on the ultimate goal and intent of the AIRC and her service on it.

By the way, barely a dozen members of the public showed up to observe the proceedings in person. Though the audience was small, there were still people wanting to go on the record with public testimony. For you, I'll highlight that of Linda Green, speaking only on behalf of herself, a Pima County voter (who lives in LD26 and CD8), who did not identify any political affiliation.

Green eloquently commended all five commissioners for the respect they show each other during discussion and deliberation. She also said something that has eluded the entire discussion since these five took the oath of office last winter.  Yes, it was still winter.

Hundreds of Arizona citizens have cited the importance of competitive districts. Many also have tried to minimize the significance and still others have made the suspect claim that over the last decade, Arizona has enjoyed a legitimately competitive political environment based on district lines. Today, when Linda Green spoke, it is the first time I recall anyone pointing out the PURPOSE that was actually spelled out in the official language of Prop 106 in the 2000 general election.

Maybe I was not listening.  Maybe the time just wasn't right for the message to click in my mind if it was said aloud.  But THIS is the OFFICIAL PURPOSE for the language voters approved by a solid majority:
PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; AMENDING ARTICLE IV, PART 2, SECTION 1, CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; RELATING TO ENDING THE PRACTICE OF GERRYMANDERING AND IMPROVING VOTER AND CANDIDATE PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS BY CREATING AN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF BALANCED APPOINTMENTS TO OVERSEE THE MAPPING OF FAIR AND COMPETITIVE CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS.
The all caps was in the original, other emphasis is mine.

Regardless of the fact that the maps drawn by the 2001 AIRC were denied preclearance by the Bush Administration's Department of Justice the first time they were submitted; despite the fact that the maps were subject to litigation that was not finished until 2009, there is clear and ample evidence that the 2001 AIRC failed in the charge cited above.

The next challenge facing the AIRC in its current quest to fulfill the voter mandate is to figure out how to legitimately measure the degree of competitiveness of proposed districts.  There are tools available to assist them in this task.

I will write about them, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

In the meantime, the next meeting is Thursday noon at the Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. (at Encanto, halfway between McDowell and Thomas Roads).  Friday, they meet at 10am at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center, Broadway and Priest Roads in Tempe.  Next week, meetings are tentatively scheduled for Thursday and Friday.  Locations to be determined. Agendas here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Redistricting -- wish I knew -- UPDATED

Since the agenda for today's meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is essentially the same as it has been for the previous several meetings, I suspect the commission is making slow progress on decisions for adjustments to grid maps.

The reason "I suspect" it is because I decided to stay home and watch online -- but the online streaming video is not working today. Drat!

The second meeting for today, to discuss and take action on whether commissioners will have to disclose their telephone records/contacts with people seeking to influence them on district line decisions, was cancelled. Tentatively, that will be added to the agenda for Thursday's meeting which they expect to conduct at the Heard Museum near Downtown Phoenix.

Meanwhile, AIRC staff is also working on arrangements for the three commissioners subject to AG Horne's investigative demand to have legal representation. Each will have an attorney separate from counsel currently representing the commission itself.

Since my last post, I've read some of the depositions Horne released in his Trial By Media strategy on Friday. Horne has claimed that his investigation was "not a fishing expedition" and not a partisan witchhunt. Both of those claims are dubious, at best. From Texas Lawyer:
Parties often cite the 1989 Texas Supreme Court case Loftin v. Martin with their "fishing expedition" objections. In Loftin , three document requests were at issue, one of which drew a fishing expedition argument: "all notes, records, memoranda, documents and communications made [to support your allegations]." The court noted that the request was so vague, ambiguous and overbroad that it did not identify any particular class or type of documents but rather a request to peruse everything in its adversary's files.
This, of course, describes incredibly well the public records requests that Andy Biggs and Proud Terri, members of our illustrious Arizona Legislature previously had sent to the AIRC. However, Texas Lawyer isn't talking about public records or FOIA requests. Tom Horne, on the other hand, in his investigative demands, and in the transcripts of the interviews with Freeman and Stertz, did reveal he was on a fishing expedition.

Horne and his asst AG Mark Wilson, posed to both of them the question, "is there anything else I should have asked you that is relevant..." to this investigation. That question, in and of itself, and the answers the two commissioners offered, are tremendously illuminating. Freeman, being a lawyer, seemed to know better than to offer to expand the scope of the questioning.

Stertz, on the other hand, apparently wanting the opportunity to advance his own personal agenda, offered his editorial comments on the whole matter in reply.  In doing so, Stertz showed a remarkable lack of humility which may also be illustrative of his brand of Christianity. From his deposition:

I believe that giving everybody a clear and precise and concise understanding of what is right and what is wrong is part of what my personal DNA has evolved to over my life. And when I get concerned about how certain things become -- instead of being result oriented become -- the determination is made prior to, I get concerned, and that's not what the intent of this commission was. 
I don't think that that's -- what the crafters had written in 1999 when this was put together. I don't believe that that's what the State of Arizona voted on, and I don't -- so from my perspective as we move forward, it is incumbent upon this commission to become as clear and as transparent and as participatory and as fair knowing that there is no way that somebody isn't going to like the outcome of our work product, but at least if everybody doesn't -- doesn't like it then the job that we did was fair. 
Evangelicals often say that they view Christianity not as a religion, but rather as a relationship.
Christianity is not really a religion; it is a relationship with God. It is trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross for you (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), not on what you can do for yourself (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christianity is not about ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, or traditional rituals. Christianity is about truly accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Okay, it's not about ornate buildings. But is Christianity about anointing followers of Christ as the arbiters of what is Right and Wrong in the world and in politics in Arizona? I'm not so sure.

Borrowing another phrase from contemporary Christianity, "What would Jesus do?"

I recall a couple of references in the Gospels (and elsewhere in the New Testament) about Jesus dealing with political questions. On taxes?  Render unto Ceasar, right? Check out Matthew 22:15-21. What about social services and good works?  Check out James 1:22-27.

What about what Jesus had to say about judging others?

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.   3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.


Rick Stertz was very candid about his views and his ideas in his deposition with Tom Horne. Could Jesus have been talking to people just like Stertz?


Last week, after learning that the Arizona Democratic Party had filed a complaint with the Atty Gen and with two county attorneys, Stertz was stoic and had considerably less to say about those complaints.  Might Rick Stertz be in position for the kind of moment King David had when confronted in the Old Testament by the prophet Nathan? Check out II Samuel 12.
1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

Christians, of course, sometimes feel persecuted for asserting their faith. In the first century after Christ, they literally WERE persecuted. I can't say how Rick Stertz views the things he's having to deal with now, but it is obvious he is facing some pressure situations. Perhaps he might reflect on I Peter 2:19-20:
For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 
I'm confident that every one of us humans actually do judge others, myself included. But am I so full of hubris as to declare that I am the final arbiter of Right and Wrong?

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UPDATE

I learned this morning that during yesterday's meeting in Casa Grande, the AIRC revisited the vote from Friday night on authorization to pay for individual legal counsel for Mathis, McNulty and Herrera. Freeman decided to vote in favor of the motion and apparently Stertz followed suit, so to speak. That changes the authorization to a 5-0 vote instead of 3-0 (as previously, Freeman and Stertz had abstained).

I haven't spoken with either Republican commissioner since the meeting yesterday, so I am not able to offer any insight on Freeman's change of heart. I do know that Capitol reporters Mary Jo Pitzl and Howie Fischer on Friday, during Horizon's Journalists' Roundtable, gave Horne some harsh criticism for the investigation.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Redistricting -- the plot thickens

Starting its meeting just after 3pm today in Tucson, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met for nearly five hours, and accomplished little except adding to the open discussion/deliberation time over adjustments to Congressional and legislative Grid Maps. The AIRC made no decisions today on where to put lines for DRAFT maps.

Yet, more drama occurred after the commission went into executive session for an update from legal counsel on the Attorney General investigation. Earlier in the day, AG Tom Horne released transcripts of depositions given by Commissioners Freeman and Stertz.  

Generally, the Call to the Public is handled after every agenda item except for the update from counsel.  Tonight was no different, so everyone had gone home except commissioners and staff. Therefore, the only others observing were in front of their computers for the live streaming video.

Mathis called for a motion to approve what they had discussed in executive session. McNulty and Herrera moved and seconded -- to authorize the AIRC to pay for legal counsel to represent Mathis, Herrera and McNulty individually in the legal action Horne filed in court this week. In discussion on the motion, Freeman expressed his regret that the situation has gotten to where it has.

Just as the stress of the verbal attacks made by the bus loads of tea partiers in Tucson at the end of June showed on his face and in his voice, it was clear, not simply by the words he chose, that he genuinely does feel that regret. He also said he supports the three members who are now under the gun, and that he would not oppose the motion. But he decided to abstain from voting anyway. Stertz, on the other hand, simply said that he would abstain from voting on the motion.

-----

At the beginning of today's meeting, Mathis wanted to take up the agenda items that had been tabled from the Thursday's meeting. However, Mary O'Grady advised that if the items in question were not on today's agenda, they could not be addressed today. If, instead, last night's meeting had been recessed until today, rather than adjourning, they could have resumed addressing the yesterday's agenda.

Therefore, at 4:50pm today, a second agenda for Monday (in Casa Grande) was posted to take up the matter of disclosure of outside contacts with commissioners and staff.  What this means is that the matter cannot be addressed by the commission before 4:50pm on Monday, to fulfill the 48 hour notice requirement. Sunday's do not count for calculating that time frame.

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Reflecting on Horne's performance on Horizon on Wednesday, and what I've been able to glean from his filings and press releases thus far, it seems to me that Horne protested too much when questioned by Ted Simons.  Horne, with a straight face, claimed he was not doing this for political purposes.  However, he personally attended the deposition interviews given by Freeman and Stertz.  If he's busy running his agency and making major agency decisions, why is he personally involved in those interviews.

Any claim he makes that his motives are pure are complete baloney.

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On Saturday morning, I will be speaking to San Tan Valley Democrats about redistricting at 9:30am.  Location is the SRP building, about a mile west of Ironwood on Combs Rd.  Combs is about five miles south of US 60.

Pearce recall -- incumbent dirty tricks campaign

We do not know that Russell Pearce was directly involved in this, but we do know that paid petition circulators told people that helping candidate Olivia Cortes get on the ballot would help Pearce survive the recall in November.

The Arizona Republic and the Phoenix New Times both carried stories on this situation on Thursday evening. A friend sent me an MP3 file of a recording between a circulator and a potential petition signer.  As soon as I figure out how to post it to this blog, I will do so (sometime today/Friday).

Download the audio recording here. If you have an MP3 player (like Windows Media Player) on your computer, you can then listen to it.

Redistricting -- mapping discussions continue UPDATED

Because most of the preliminaries are behind us, Arizona's newspapers are showing more interest in what's going on with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.  Well, not really. Yes, more reporters showed up for Thursday afternoon/evening's meeting.  But it's probably because Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has turned up the political tension a few notches this week.

On Wednesday, Horne filed an enforcement action in Maricopa County Superior Court to compel AIRC Commissioners Mathis, Herrera and McNulty to meet with AG investigators to answer questions about allegations of violations of Arizona's Open Meeting law. When I receive copies of his filing, I will post them for the Arizona Eagletarian readers to examine.

In the meantime, Horne's interview on Wednesday's (KAET Channel 8) Horizon is available online. There are several discrepancies in what Horne says in the interview trying to deny the political nature of his "investigation." Underscoring the irony of his denial is that he was scheduled to speak on Thursday evening to a GOP group at a Scottsdale public library about Arizona's redistricting process this year.  Because the AIRC meeting in Tempe was still in session, I don't know how Horne's talk went.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find out and report on it today.

In the meantime, the Arizona Capitol Times ran an AP story on the controversy.

-----

During Thursday's meeting, legal counsel Joe Kanefield and Bruce Adelson made recommendation for treatment of prison populations. They said that the safest option is to count prisoners as living in the physical location of the facility but to not count them in the HVAP (Hispanic Voting Age Population). To show that proposed maps neither intend nor actually cause the voting strength of Arizona Hispanic voters to be diluted, excluding prisoners from HVAP will increase the likelihood of approval by DOJ on the first try.

The AIRC made no decisions Thursday on where lines would be drawn for DRAFT maps that will be presented to Arizona voters for comment later this month.

Herrera in mapping deliberation, again stated his concern that while he knows Voting Rights Act considerations are top priority, he is still concerned that they do not allow maps to be drawn that would constitute packing of minority voters at the expense of competitive districts.

Freeman attended the meeting by telephone, as he was in California on business yesterday. Through the distance, however, the sparks between him and Herrera were still easy to detect. In response to Herrera's statements on competitiveness, Freeman pointed out that "significant detriment" is not license to ignore the other five criteria. Significant detriment, of course, being a subjective qualifier when considering competitiveness.

Expect the tension between the two, Freeman and Herrera, to continue throughout the rest of the process. Though intriguing, that tension is not a bad thing. As the deliberations play out, this tension will serve to raise the level of discussion by causing each of the commissioners to be vigilent and assertive on key details and aspects necessary to a quality outcome.

Later today, the commission meets again in Tucson (3pm) and will continue deliberations. A couple of items from Thursday's meeting were also tabled to be taken up today also, including discussion and action on having commissioners disclose contact with people wanting to lobby them on district lines.

UPDATE

The court documents filed by AG Tom Horne are available for you to read at the Arizona Capitol Times website here and here. AIRC Exec. Dir. Bladine told me that commission counsel has been instructed to file responses to Horne's petition.  Hopefully, those will be filed (and made available to the public) within the next couple of weeks.  At this time, I understand a hearing has been scheduled for early October.  I will keep you posted as I receive more information.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Redistricting -- shredded wheat, er, documents? UPDATED

Yesterday, the Arizona Capitol Times reported that Attorney General Tom Horne said Arizona Independent Redistricting Commissioner Rick Stertz told investigators "the commission’s chairwoman destroyed documents used to score mapping firms during a closed-door meeting."

In the executive session meetings in question, state procurement administrator Jean Clark provided guidance on which documents should be preserved.

This morning, AIRC ex. dir. Ray Bladine told the Arizona Eagletarian that no documents which, according to the Arizona Procurement Code, should be preserved were destroyed.  In other words, all documents, including notes, that must be preserved, were preserved.

This situation appears to parallel another recent hubbub caused when Stertz told a reporter that the contract under which Strategic Telemetry was working for the commission was invalid because Bladine had not been given authority to execute the contract.  Subsequent review of minutes, recordings and transcripts of the meetings in question revealed that Bladine indeed had properly delegated authority to execute the contract.

So, giving Stertz the benefit of the doubt in this situation, it could simply have been that he forgot the guidance provided by Ms. Clark. Otherwise, Stertz' statement raises disturbing questions about his conduct during and outside of commission meetings.

The Associated Press reported today:
Gov. Jan Brewer has authority to remove commission members with concurrence of the state Senate, and a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer said Brewer so far has not seen "concrete evidence" that would warrant action. "She's following closely what's going on. She's aware of the investigation that the attorney general has launched," spokesman Matthew Benson said. 

Today, the AIRC is scheduled to meet at 2:30pm at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center, located at Broadway and Priest in Tempe.

-----

UPDATE

The AIRC decided this afternoon to take no action on prison populations, based on the advice of counsel, including former DOJ atty Bruce Adelson, who indicated any change would require separate application to DOJ for preclearance.

In other, but related news this afternoon, the Arizona Democratic Party's executive director, Luis Heredia, filed a complaint with the Arizona Atty General as well as the Pima and Maricopa County Attys citing AIRC Commissioner Rick Stertz' false statements on his sworn application to become a commissioner. The complaint cites more specifics than those previously reported on by the Arizona Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Redistricting -- transparency, racially polarized voting and smelling blood!

Tomorrow at 2:30pm, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will convene at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center in Tempe to discuss mapping issues, including options on how to treat prison populations.

Today, however, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne followed through on his threat to whine in court about AIRC commissioners exercising their lawful legislative privilege. Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl writes:
The commission's chairwoman, Colleen Coyle Mathis, as well as commissioners José Herrera and Linda McNulty, have balked at Horne's investigation. In an Aug. 29 letter to Horne, the commission's attorney said the commissioners are willing to cooperate, but said they need to understand the reasons for which Horne launched his probe in July, as well as the types of remedies he would seek.
Given the partisanship permeating this investigation, what is wrong with suggesting Horne should prove he's conducting HIMSELF lawfully?

Do you remember former AG Terry Goddard taking issue with Horne breaking protocol to discuss details of his investigation?
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.
Now Horne is saying:
...the Republicans told his investigators that Mathis, a registered independent, called them ahead of the meeting to formally select the consultant to line up the votes for Strategic Telemetry. More to the point, Horne said, she told the Republicans she wanted a unanimous vote.
“If their votes would have given her a 5-0 vote, that indicates she had also lined up the votes of the other two members,” Horne said, both Democrats. 
It's unclear from the Ahwatukee Foothills News article whether Horne put that in the court filing or told Howie Fischer in an interview. Either way, Horne is wrong. Logically speaking, you cannot determine solely from what is quoted that Mathis "lined up the votes of the other two members." Perhaps the other two told her how they would be voting? Could there be other possibilities? 

Fischer's story also illuminates Horne's motives that this is a partisan attack on the commission.

-----

Tea partiers, in light of the fact that Horne is responding to their urging, have been roused and encouraged. This afternoon, one tea party group distributed the following message in a blast email:
A message to all members of Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots

We have been challenged to take action and not be a social club.  Tomorrow is your chance to prove that we are still hard at work overseeing out of control government and holding their feet to the fire.  There is another public meeting with the Arizona Not-so-Independent Redistricting Commission, where they will unveil their most recent maps to change your legislative and congressional districts.  By everything they have done so far, we expect a heavily-biased and racially gerrymandered map tomorrow.  It is not too late to show up and let your voice be heard. 
Come support Attorney General Tom Horne, who is demanding compliance with the three progressive liberal councilmembers in his investigation of their alleged violation of open meeting laws.

Check the front page of our website for more shocking information on the AIRC.  Go here for more details on the meeting tomorrow:
http://phoenixteaparty.ning.com/events/urgent-redistricting-commission-meeting
FOLKS, PLEASE MAKE AN EFFORT TO COME TO ONE OF THE UPCOMING MEETINGS. WE ARE MAKING AN IMPACT, LET IT BE THE FULL IMPACT WE ARE CAPABLE OF!
The email also included a recitation of the talking points we've heard since June.  Clearly, they smell blood and intend to exploit the latest developments.

The Arizona Capitol Times' Evan Wyloge this evening posted:

“Stertz said the chairwoman (Colleen Mathis) destroyed a set of records,” Horne said. “It was the vote score sheets, where they put down the points.”
This appears to also explain where the rumors that formed the basis for the tea party talking points came from.  Since discussion of prospective mapping consultants was apparently only done in executive session, this also raises the question of the extent to which Stertz violated his responsibility to keep those matters confidential.  And why would he be interested in investing so much time as a redistricting commissioner only to undermine the process by leaking this information as soon as Strategic Telemetry was selected.

-----


Tea partier Wes Harris has suggested, in public testimony before the AIRC, on more than one occasion, that temporary residents of college towns in Arizona present the same potential for gerrymandering as prison populations. Harris has also posted to Proud Terri's facebook page suggesting others take his lead and put this concern on the record at as many meetings as it takes to get them to take action. Otherwise, he suggests having it on record that the commission is stonewalling regarding his concern.

Clearly, Harris sees Tempe, Flagstaff and Tucson as more Democratic, in voter registration numbers, than he'd like and if the AIRC can be persuaded to ignore college students, maybe it will make things more favorable to the GOP. But is there any precedent?

A quick, simplistic Google search suggests there is NO precedent for claiming college or university populations conflate redistricting or "inflate the political power of residents in prison [university] districts, and deflates the power of residents everywhere else."  This is likely due primarily to contrasting attributes of the two distinct populations. University students do vote, prison populations do not. University students use municipal services and local infrastructure. They also often hold at least part-time jobs in the community.

This issue is likely to come up during the meeting tomorrow.

-----

On Friday, the commission will meet in Tucson at 3pm at the Viscount Suites Hotel in Tucson. Two additional agenda items for Friday include training for public use of Maptitude online software and discussion and possible action to hire a consultant regarding racially polarized voting issues.

The Viscount Suites Hotel is very near the Pima Community College District office (which was the location of the June 30th meeting of the AIRC) on East Broadway in Tucson.

Over the Labor Day weekend, Terri Proud posted the NYTimes article on her facebook page.  In a comment to that post, Republican state Rep. Brenda Barton said:
How about the fact that now the Commission has to hire a sub-contractor because Strategic Telemetry doesn't have the expertise or ability to do what they originally promised they knew how to do!
This was a reference to the discussion the other day about hiring a consultant to advise on Racially Polarized Voting matters. This has become the latest GOP talking point in the effort to undermine the AIRC.  Barton made other questionable statements, including that Jose Herrera is not qualified to be a redistricting commissioner, this IRC is a violation of the Arizona Constitution and that "the Tucson Citizen that needs to take a civics class and learn why a democracy is such a foul word to many of us."

But I digress, back to the issue of racially polarized voting and hiring an additional consultant.

Strategic Telemetry president Ken Strasma today explained to me that his firm IS doing the number crunching/data analysis for this issue.  However, ST does not provide legal advice. Even National Demographics Corp proposed to provide a subcontractor, Dr. Lisa Hadley as an add-on cost in the event an expert on the subject would be desired by the AIRC.  AIRC ex. dir. Bladine corroborated that understanding.  Further, the 2001 AIRC only procured expert analysis on racially polarized voting AFTER the DOJ declined to preclear the original maps submitted in 2002.

-----

Even though it seemed as if the firestorm of controversy had died done over the last two months, GOP interests have not given up on the effort to undermine the entire voter mandated process.

Your voice is needed at tomorrow's and subsequent meetings of the Arizona INDEPENDENT Redistricting Commission.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Redistricting -- transparency, prison populations and more

Rather than Casa Grande, Thursday's meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will take place at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center in Tempe at 2:30pm and may last into the evening.

The agenda includes a briefing and discussion on ways to deal with prison populations, as well as taking up the notion of the five commissioners having to disclose who is contacting them to lobby about map drawing issues.

-----

Last Saturday, the New York Times ran a story rehashing the controversy surrounding the AIRC. The only bit of new information, which was also news to the members and staff of the AIRC at that time, is that Horne intends to "file a motion" to compel cooperation by AIRC commissioners Mathis, McNulty and Herrera.  Today, Arizona Capitol Times writer Evan Wyloge reported that Horne intends to file a special action in superior court this week for that purpose.

To get a judge to order the AIRC commissioners to cooperate, Horne would have to demonstrate the reasonableness of the investigation and that they are refusing to cooperate.  AIRC counsel can argue, and probably will, both that the commissioners are subject to legislative privilege and that Horne has a conflict of interest in the matter.

There can be little doubt that this will again inflame hardcore GOP and tea party interests. Perhaps this exercise will help those groups understand what actually constitutes a conflict of interest.  While the AIRC is meeting on Thursday, Horne is apparently scheduled to speak to LD8 Republicans at Scottsdale's Civic Center Library. The meeting begins at 6:30pm.

-----

Over the weekend, LD26's own Proud Terri posted the NYTimes story on facebook along with the following comment:
Please don't stay complacent on this issue- our State is being handed over to Obama on a silver platter in the hands of the progressive. Keep fighting this battle - it's not over yet.
Another wingnut GOP lawmaker, Brenda Barton added her two cents worth:
The best we can hope for is that the Constitutionality of the IRC is successfully challenged ... 
Fellow blogger Craig McDermott reflected on Proud and Barton.  Barton responded:
Just some friendly notes to your blog re: my FB comments...

I invite you to read the *entire* state Constitution, especially those portions written at the time of statehood.

Just because an initiative has been entered into the Constitution by a popular vote does not mean that the said provision has been found Constitutional by the Courts.

Consider Clean Elections; approved by popular vote and parts of it now held Un-Constitutional by the Supreme Court. As of this time, Arizona's IRC has not been challenged on constitutional grounds and, there is no ruling by the higher courts.
 
Folks, them's fightin words.  To her credit, Barton asks her minions to attend AIRC meetings and be polite.  However, she does encourage them to be loud.  On Friday, the tea partiers were loud.


Wes Harris, tea partier who has testified at several AIRC meetings, posted the following to Proud's facebook page regarding the NYTimes story :
Sorry but open meeting rules prohibit them answering any questions from the public. The best we can hope is that they will agree to put something we raise on the agenda for discussion as they did on Saturday adding the Libertarian suggestion of how to deal with the prison population. They have not seen fit to add my suggestions regarding a similar problem with Universities. We just have to keep raising the same questions until they do address them or we  have a record that they have refused to do so by 'stone walling'.
Harris' does not yet make the connection that issues he has raised in his comments lack grounding in any related matter of law.  Jim March, the Libertarian activist to whom he refers, actually made sense with his comments on prison populations.  Harris, as I've pointed out previously, ignores the realities of how college students, though potentially temporary residents in an area, participate in local commerce and cultural activities of communities like Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff.


Given what we already know (as well as the significance of what we do not yet know, including how much money is involved), Barton's statement could be either wishful thinking or disclosure of plans in the works by UNfair Trust.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Redistricting -- watching paint dry?

As the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission discussed and deliberated on potential changes to the Grid Maps, more than one member of the audience today was left wondering if watching paint dry might be as exciting.

While certainly not anyone's idea of adventure, this deliberation is still of the utmost importance for the future of public policy, good government and whether or not the will of the people of Arizona will prevail over the next decade.  Comments offered during the Call to the Public reflect a bit of frustration people have wishing there was even just one map on which to express approval or disapproval. Staff of the AIRC would like to be able to accommodate the wishes of those citizens, but really until the five commissioners adopt DRAFT legislative and Congressional maps, that will be difficult.

Instead, the best strategy for people to take might be to either tell the commission, in their own words, where they want lines to be drawn, or continue stressing what they want to be considered as priority criteria as the deliberations continue. As an observer, I can relate to the frustrations, but also understand and am encouraged the AIRC is doing the deliberation openly.  It would be SO much easier for them to confer privately and just make changes from there.  These five individuals are all committed to working it out publicly.

As a reminder, on the AIRC website, to study any map that has been posted, all one needs to do is click on the link for the map you'd like to look at.  For those familiar with Google Maps, the files posted in the KMZ format will open on your computer and look just like the ones on Google, without having to download any additional software.

The most notable mapping item discussed had to do with Rick Stertz' apparently favored three border Congressional districts map. He seems to really favor that concept. I can't say the idea is completely unworkable, but there are several potential problems it can pose. The first and one of the most blatant is that it would put central Phoenix in at least one of those districts. Very likely, neither people in Phoenix nor those in rural southern Arizona would find such a scenario acceptable.

A less obvious ramification could involve splitting Tucson such that it takes the SE Arizona district, now represented by Gabby Giffords, and removes Giffords from it. Regardless of whether she decides to run in 2012, the implications for making that area more Republican and less competitive are significant.

After explaining -- to one person expressing frustration over not having maps on which to comment -- that the five commissioners had left Friday's meeting with a box containing more than 1,500 public comments and 138 maps submitted by the public as suggestions, that person seemed to appreciate more the predicament AIRC staff faces when considering which maps to produce (on paper) to handout at meetings to the public.

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Again today, the dates mentioned for the start of the second round of Public Outreach Hearings is Sept. 26 or 27.  Staff is planning to arrange for 23 or 24 hearings around the state.

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Familiar faces again today came to testify during the Call to the Public.  Wes Harris, founder and chairman of the Original North Phoenix Tea Party showed up to resume where he left off yesterday when his four minutes was up. Today he called for the AIRC to terminate the contract with Strategic Telemetry.

Harris also expounded on student populations at Arizona's universities.  He claims students distort the electorate in the same way as prison populations.  What Harris fails to consider, it seems, is that while convicted felons cannot use the infrastructure and municipal services of the community surrounding the prison, university students can and do.  Students spend money, drive cars, ride bikes and often hold jobs in the community.  Again, while he might have some legitimate issues for which to advocate, Harris presents narrow and short-sighted arguments.

On the other hand, Jim March, a Tucson Libertarian activist, presented a succinct list of four options he understands as possible ways for the AIRC to treat prison populations. Because commission legal counsel will be making a presentation on legally available options (maybe as early as the next meeting, on Thursday), I will not go into detail. It's important to note, however, that March's comments reveal an openness to the notion that he doesn't know all there is to know about the subject. That's a significant factor that reflects what I believe is a more intellectually honest approach to advocacy. Be clear on this -- March is not a Democrat and certainly not a Liberal or Progressive. But he is, in my opinion, more intellectually honest than the people who have made a habit of attacking the commission.

And speaking of attacking the commission, Lynne St. Angelo spoke again. It's striking to me that for several consecutive meetings, her cell phone has gone off (or rang) during the meeting. And it's not like she has it where she can immediately hit the silence button. She lets it ring for a while, interrupting the meeting.  If it only happened once or twice, it would not be a big deal. But this has been a consistent recurrence.

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Chris Rossiter read the letter below for the record at Saturday's meeting, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party.



This was in response to the following letter that had been hand delivered to the commission on August 17th.



The August 17 letter was signed by fifteen individuals with significant experience in civic affairs and public policy, including four former GOP state lawmakers, former ASU president Lattie Coor, the chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, a former mayor of Phoenix and two GOP members of the commission that screened the applicants for this year's AIRC.

Rossiter's letter, on the other hand, while incredibly eloquent, remains as misguided as any of the rest of the attacks and criticisms tea partiers have aimed at the commission.  He accuses the fifteen signers of the other letter of demagoguery.
a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes.
One has to wonder if the writers of Rossiter's letter were actually looking in the mirror instead of reading the letter the other group sent to Gov. Brewer.

Does to say the other letter "reeks of demagoguery" not itself constitute an impassioned appeal to emotions and fears?

As sincere as the Greater Phoenix Tea Party might be, the claim -- that these "so-called 'partisans' who are supposedly opposed to an independent and fair process'" helped uncover a potential conflict of interest that was not disclosed (referring to Colleen Mathis' application) -- reflects an ongoing lack of curiosity.

Groups like this really could learn what constitutes a genuine conflict of interest if they genuinely wanted to know.  It's been more than two months since Strategic Telemetry was hired and the controversy erupted. Why are they still repeating things that clearly untrue?

There are several other deficiencies in Rossiter's letter. It does, however, serve as an indication that sincerity coupled with a naive lack of understanding of politics and law keeps them from effectively advocating.  As such, all it can really accomplish is to further frustrate tea partiers who seem unable to grasp the reasons why they cannot be taken seriously.

To be taken seriously, tea partiers must learn to clearly state their legitimate interests, and even if doing so with passionate appeals, they must remain open to explanation and instruction regarding the concepts over which they currently find themselves confused.  Then they would be empowered to advocate effectively for things like more fiscally sound public policy and other legitimate ideas they may have.