Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Redistricting -- procedural curveballs

This morning, when the IRC met for what was billed as an executive session only meeting, a few people showed up from Tucson wanting to put their comments on the record.

Lynne St. Angelo, a Tucson political activist (a quick google search shows that St. Angelo was a volunteer for and financial contributor to 2010 Tea Party Congressional candidate Jesse Kelly), brought one or maybe both of the people who gave those comments.  They complained about two things, the fact that Lisa Hauser was not given one of the legal services contracts and that posted (draft) minutes of the previous IRC meeting in Tucson were not detailed enough to suit them.

Additionally, the IRC discussed publicly the mapping consultant RFP apparently in general terms prior to going into executive session to discuss specifics on rating criteria.  Not having finished that discussion, they will reconvene at 3:30pm today hoping to issue guidance to the State Procurement Office for amendments to the RFP.  While they expect that meeting to only be in executive session, it is possible there may be a portion of it done publicly.

A recording of this morning's public session will be posted for anyone to review, possibly this afternoon, but tomorrow morning afternoon at the latest.


UPDATE 9pm Tuesday

The IRC did meet this afternoon, briefly in public session and also in executive session, to finish its discussion (and answers to) legal questions posed by mapping consultant RFP responders. 

The closing date for that RFP was extended to June 9th at 3pm.  State Purchasing Officers expect to issue an amendment to the RFP in the morning, to answer those legal questions.  After I review the amendment and the recording of this morning's public session, I'll post to this blog about it.


UPDATE 5pm Wednesday

The recording of yesterday's IRC meeting (public portion) has not yet been posted.  Hopefully tomorrow.  Computer issues at the IRC office.  And the mapping consultant RFP amendment (along with closing date/time extension) has not been posted to the State Procurement Office website yet.  Will check again in the morning.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Redistricting -- more reflections on Hauser's records request

Thinking about last night's post, a couple of things occurred to me.

Hauser's letter, regarding executive sessions involving discussion of the legal services RFP and awarding of the contract, observes -- in addition to and contrast from the purposes stated on the pertinent IRC agendas --  "it appears that candidates were evaluated and qualifications debated." 

I wonder, did she know or did she guess about what was discussed in those meetings?  If Hauser actually knew (knows) what was discussed during that time, how would she know?  Arizona Revised Statutes §38-431.03 makes it very clear that all persons who were in the executive sessions are required to keep the transcripts and discussions confidential. The only people in those executive sessions were the five commissioners, Ray Bladine and a court reporter.

The following Monday morning a reporter called me saying he had heard that Hauser was telling people she was stabbed in the back, or double crossed, or something like that.  Of course, I knew nothing about anything that had been discussed in those executive sessions and told him so.  But that furthers my curiosity as to what Hauser may have known about the confidential discussions.  

The other thing that occurs to me is that Hauser will be the obvious choice to represent Russell Pearce and Ken Kendrick (and whoever else) when they decide to challenge the maps the IRC will eventually issue.   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Redistricting update -- May 27

Answers to legal questions posed by mapping consultant bidders have not yet been released, according to IRC executive director Ray Bladine.  He said that would likely necessitate extending the closing date of the RFP (now set for June 2) again.  Which also means they are no closer to setting a date for the next IRC public meeting.

The other simmering issue revolves around Lisa Hauser's angst over losing out on the legal services contract.

On May 19, Hauser sent a letter to Bladine requesting transcripts of IRC meetings held on May 10, 12 and 13.  Apparently, she believes she is entitled to examine confidential information from executive sessions held on those days because she was one of the bidders under consideration.

Aside from the fact that she requested access to that confidential information, her letter can be fairly characterized as lecturing Bladine, and apparently the IRC as a whole.  She cited portions of Arizona Revised Statutes about public records and open meetings (as well as when and for what reasons the IRC may go into executive session). 

I could editorialize for several paragraphs on what I think about Hauser's request.  Beyond that, however, I will say that she obviously knows that the Commission has the right to hire whichever law firms it chooses.  She also most certainly knows access to executive session transcripts would be denied.  And it was, in fact, denied. So, WHY do this?

Hauser likely would NOT try to sue the IRC about awarding a contract to Ballard Spahr.  BUT, state statutes allow a person denied access to public records to file a special action in Superior Court (not the state Supreme Court).  And if the court rules the denial of access was wrongful, Hauser would have a cause of action (may sue) for damages. 

There is your potential litigation to burn through the $3 Million appropriation, which could bring financial pressure to bear on the Commission. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Redistricting update -- May 26

Answers to legal questions posed by mapping consultant prospects (RFP responders) are being finalized and should be issued by the State Procurement Office (SPO) as an addendum to the RFP no later than tomorrow (Friday, May 27).  If not tomorrow, then it would have to be Tuesday (May 31).  And if Tuesday, that leaves very little time to finalize RFP responses prior to the June 2 closing.

As to Lisa Hauser's records requests, Bladine indicates transcripts of public meetings have been sent to her.  But that's not all she asked for.  The decision on whether records from executive sessions will be turned over to Hauser is subject to review by legal counsel (Asst. AG Jim Barton by the IRC and perhaps another attorney by SPO) and is still pending.

UPDATE -- 5pm:

The IRC will meet, in executive session, on Tuesday, May 31, at 9:30am to discuss issues related to the mapping consultant RFP (i.e. rating criteria).  No public items are on the agenda.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Redistricting update May 25th

The mapping consultant RFP closing date has been extended to June 2nd, which pushes the next IRC meeting to sometime in the second week of June, according to executive director Ray Bladine.

The initial closing date was scheduled for today, May 25.  However, bidders have posed legal questions to the State Procurement Office, which IRC legal counsel (Mary O'Grady and Joe Kanefield) are working to address.  When that guidance is provided to the bidders, it will be made public, along with the questions.  I'll post on the Arizona Eagletarian when I get the information.

In the meantime, equipment purchased to provide online broadcast (live streaming video and audio) of Commission meetings has arrived and should be enabled in time for the next open meeting.  And if readers would like notices by email from the Commission on meetings and other news, sign up is available on the contact page by clicking on the newsletter subscription button at the IRC website.

Besides deliberation on the mapping consultant, at the next meeting, Ken Clark co-chair of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition will make a presentation about the group's public mapping contest. Bladine will also present a staffing plan.  He is hoping to (soon) be authorized to hire an administrative assistant and a public information officer.

The Commission may also have to consider action to take in the event Lisa Hauser files a protest or lawsuit over the legal services procurement process.  Recall that Ballard Spahr (Joe Kanefield) was awarded the contract to represent the Republican perspective.  While others I have spoken with do not see how, given the leeway the Arizona Constitution provides to deviate from the Procurement Code, she would have any legitimate grounds to challenge Ballard Spahr's appointment, nobody is willing to underestimate her either.

Consider that Russell Pearce and others had met with Arizona Diamondbacks general partner Ken Kendrick a couple of months ago to discuss fundraising for litigation to challenge the final product (maps). I can easily imagine a scenario where financial pressure is applied to burn through the $3 million IRC appropriation quickly.

Who better to administer that pressure than the attorney who knows the ins and outs of the process better than any other current player? Who better than the only attorney to have offered, during her public interview, advice on how to minimize competitiveness in favor of communities of interest?

If the IRC has to make hasty decisions on the final maps, what is likely to happen?

Monday, May 23, 2011


The next open meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, previously scheduled for May 26, will almost certainly be postponed until after Memorial Day to allow members time to review responses to the mapping RFP before they meet. Ken Clark, co-chair of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, will also make a presentation at the next public meeting.

Today, Mary O'Grady and Joe Kanefield and their teams met with IRC staff for initial briefings on the Voting Rights Act.  They will make presentations in open meetings soon so the five commissioners and the eventual mapping contractor are brought up to speed on what needs to be done to ensure compliance with federal law.  Ray Bladine and Kristina Gomez also met today with the Intertribal Council and will begin reaching out to other likely stakeholder groups in the very near future.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Redistricting -- oh what a fuss!

One week ago today, Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission voted to hire two law firms to advise on the mapping process and assist in any related litigation.  And there will be litigation. 

However, we may see the IRC in court far sooner than previously anticipated.  Given the ambiguity of the "communities of interest" criteria and increasing public demand for competitive districts, the maps issued in the fall will certainly be challenged by somebody.

Of course, the process has already been subject to one court challenge. Months ago, Arizona's Republican legislative leaders notably injected themselves into the process -- before it was their turn.  Upset that ASU law prof. Paul Bender, believed to be a staunch Liberal, might have been chosen to chair the Commission, the Senate President and former House Speaker sued, hoping to get Bender disqualified by the Arizona Supreme Court.  It did not work.  Regardless, Bender was not chosen.

Back to the present.  It seems we may not have heard the last of Lisa Hauser's consternation over losing to Ballard Spahr last week. When I asked Ray Bladine about the situation today, he told me that Hauser requested access to records concerning that procurement process.  He wouldn't speculate as to what she might do with what she learns. It's clear to me she's not yet ready to throw in the towel.

I then called John Mills, Republican staffer for the Arizona House of Representatives, to ask what he thought about the Ballard Spahr hiring.  He told me, "I don't want to be rude, but I am just not going to speak to you about this."  

So, before a mapping consultant is even chosen, should we expect Hauser to throw a (legal) wrench or two into the process?  What about the veiled threat that emerged back in February about legislative leadership putting a financial squeeze on the Commission?  Though a total of $3 million has already been appropriated to the IRC, given the likelihood of litigation, how quickly will they burn through the money?

Between the mapping process (including public outreach/hearings and defending the maps in court), the 2001 IRC spent more than $6 million.  Costs for legal services have gone up in the last ten years... but by how much?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Andrew Thomas' day of reckoning

After years of controversy and months after he could have become Arizona's Attorney General, disciplinary hearings for former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are now scheduled for September and October 2011.

The hearings will also consider the professional fate of his former deputies, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander.

All three face sanction and at least two of them could be disbarred as a result of overly aggressive pursuit of what many perceived to be political vendettas.

Local media outlets petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for permission to provide live broadcast video of the hearings, which are expected to take at least 25 days.  Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander all responded by asking the court to deny that request.  The court said, "Let the Sun shine in!"

If the three attorneys now wish to avoid that public spectacle, they may agree to settle their case(s).  A settlement conference deadline of June 30th has been set.  Will they face the music willingly or face extended media coverage of their fight to continue the practice of law?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Redistricting -- legal counsel chosen

Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission voted 3-2 to contract for Democratic counsel with Osborne Maledon whose team will be headed up by former state Solicitor General Mary O'Grady; and for Republican counsel with Ballard Spahr LLP, lead by former chief counsel to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Joe Kanefield.

The commissioners discussed the candidates for about an hour in executive session yesterday and for another hour or so after reconvening late this afternoon.  When the public session resumed, Chairwoman Mathis asked for a motion to approve hiring the two firms eventually chosen.  However, Freeman quickly objected. Stertz offered an amended motion to hire Gammage and Burnham, Lisa Hauser's firm as well as Michael Mandell for Democratic counsel.  The amended motion failed 2-3, with Freeman and Stertz the only aye votes  The original motion then passed with Freeman and Stertz the only nay votes.

I was not terribly surprised by Russell Pearce appointee Stertz wanting the hyper-partisan Lisa Hauser.  However, the other Republican, Scott Freeman did surprise me.  All three of the Republican counsel candidates were highly qualified, but the only one with serious partisan baggage was Lisa Hauser.  And as I mentioned in this morning's post (about yesterday's interviews), Hauser was the only candidate that spoke disparagingly of any of the other candidates.

Hauser was also the only lawyer interviewed that offered advice on how to justify a diminished role for the competitiveness criteria when drawing the new Congressional and legislative district maps.

The only other noteworthy tidbit from the evening's meeting is that a couple of individuals drove up from Tucson to attend the meeting this evening.  One of those people was Lynne St. Angelo, who offered public comments during Tuesday's meeting in Tucson.  Her comments that day established her as a constituent for her Community of Interest, Oro Valley, an affluent suburb of Tucson. Ms. St. Angelo's  Linked in profile lists her as a Political Organization Professional. She and another person drove away from this evening's meeting in an SUV with a bumper sticker that proclaimed the owner's support of SB1070.

Redistricting -- Blogger back in service

Wow, how frustrating is it to have something to say and not be able to reach one's readers!  Blogger (the host website for this blog) was down when I got home last evening after the IRC meeting -- until almost 10am this morning (MST).

As I noted last night on facebook, the IRC succeeded in getting all six scheduled legal services interviews accomplished yesterday.  They also spent a fair chunk of time in executive session obtaining insight and advice from state purchasing officials on the issue of hiring attorneys.

Because the Commission was not able to finish reviewing the candidates, they have thus far not taken action to approve hiring of legal counsel.  Yesterday's meeting was recessed (not adjourned).  That lawfully allows them to reconvene within 24 hours to resume the meeting for items on the current agenda.

Of the firms interviewed, three were (or lean) Democrat and three Republican.  There were obvious strengths apparent with several of the firms. I am reluctant to fully discuss here all of the candidates.  However, only one of the interviewees raised "red flags" in my mind.  Because I put my concerns on the record during public comment after the interviews, I will also mention them here.

Former IRC Republican counsel Lisa Hauser was frank about the public perception that she is extremely partisan.  She tried to obviate that objection in her opening statement and answers to questions from commissioners.  She also emphatically (and somewhat ironically) made the point that public perception regarding partisanship and openness on the part of the Commission is very important.

Notably, however, she was the only candidate of the six who, when asked to reflect on the other applicants, criticized any of them.  She claimed Ballard Spahr LLP (principle, Joe Kanefield) is not really a Republican candidate for two reasons.  First,  Ballard Spahr subcontractor, Bruce Adelson (specialty in federal compliance consulting) is a Democrat with ties to the Obama administration's DOJ (Dept. of Justice, or Attorney General's office).  Secondly, Hauser pointed out, former Democratic Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is a Ballard Spahr partner.  Of course, not all of the partners at her law firm, Gammage and Burnham, are Republicans either.  But she did not mention that fact.

On the other hand, when asked about the other attorneys, Kanefield had the most positive things to say about former Solicitor General Mary O'Grady.  And Ms. O'Grady seemed to be the most thorough, yet succinct, Democrat applicant. 

Most of the questions asked of one candidate were asked of all.  Candidate answers to questions on legal issues were, for the most part, consistent.  Therefore, while it appeared that each of the candidates was reasonably qualified for the project at hand, much of what the commissioners looked (and listened) for was HOW each communicate, thoroughness, succinctness and such.

Based both on 2001 IRC history and on recent news coverage,  most lobbying/advocacy this commission expects to hear will relate to competitiveness and communities of interest.  Stertz rightly noted that there is no legal definition of "communities of interest," but "competitiveness" is measurable.  He asked each of the candidates to expound on issues related to balance or conflict between the two map drawing criteria.

Hauser's response to Stertz's question stood out for me. She was the only one who indicated that communities of interest (STILL) can trump competitiveness.  She suggested that as long as the Commission adequately documents (justifies) their reasons, they could, in fact, subordinate competitiveness this time.  This in spite of the Arizona Supreme Court ruling that competitiveness must be considered equally to the other criteria.

In my mind, for these reasons (and more), hiring Lisa Hauser would completely jeopardize the public confidence in this year's Independent Redistricting process.

The IRC will reconvene at 4pm today at the IRC offices in the Evans House, 1100 W Washington, Phoenix.  Commissioners Freeman and Herrera, who live in Phoenix, will be physically present at that meeting. Commissioners Mathis, McNulty and Stertz, who hail from Pima County, will meet together in Tucson and participate by way of video teleconference.  They will resume the executive session to discuss the candidates.  After that, they will almost certainly vote on (in public session) hiring a Republican and a Democrat law firm.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AZ Redistricting -- short list for legal counsel

In Tucson at the University of Arizona today,  Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission took public comment, approved language for the mapping services RFP and decided on which firms to interview for providing legal counsel to the Commission.

Executive director Bladine reported that move in to offices at the Evans House has been completed and phones have been activated.  The phone number will be is now posted tomorrow on the website. It's 602-542-5221 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            602-542-5221     . end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Bladine also mentioned his interest in hiring a Public Information Officer and an Administrative Assistant as soon as possible.  He will have a staffing plan ready to submit at the public meeting on Thursday.  However, if official approval is required, it will not happen then (it's not on the agenda, which must be posted 48 hours prior to the meeting). 

IRC computer guy Buck Forst said equipment to broadcast commission meetings live online is due for delivery this Friday.  He hopes to have the system set up and ready to go for the next public meeting afterwards (May 26th).  Right now the plan is to use a website like Ustream for as many people to watch as would like.  If you are unfamiliar with Ustream, check out this live video feed of a camera trained 24/7 on an eagle's nest in Iowa (yes, even at night).

During public comment today, Tucson Democratic activist Mohur Sidhwa told the Commission to place competitiveness high on the list of priorities when drawing maps.  Another person, Lynn St. Angelo advocated for her Community of Interest in Oro Valley (currently in LD26).

Attorney David Braun said he is concerned that if the Commission enters into an Interagency Service Agreement (ISA) with the Attorney General's office, the appearance of impartiality will be at risk because Tom Horne is a highly partisan AG.

During public comment, I also read the first part of my blog post on the Open Meeting Law into the record and provided a hard copy to the court reporter working today's meeting.

Next on the agenda, Solicitor General David Cole addressed the Commission regarding two proposals his office submitted for consideration.  Cole also spoke to Braun's concern over partisanship, explaining that lawyers are lawyers first and Republican or Democrat after that. He also mentioned how he (a Republican and former prosecutor) brought many criminal cases against both Democrats and Republicans and never asked defendants about their politics.

Cole and interim IRC legal counsel Jim Barton (a Democrat) explained that the two proposals differ in scope of services offered.  One proposal is to provide advice on open meetings, records and inter-agency coordination only.  The second proposal also includes providing legal advice on the map drawing the Commission must do. Commissioners gave no indication today on how much consideration they will give to the AG proposals.

We also found out today that the Rose Law Group (RLG), represented by Tim LaSota, is the additional legal services bidder (see agenda item V.). RLG had submitted a bid in Microsoft Word format but the State Procurement Office (SPO) wanted it in PDF format.  The original package was submitted timely, but did not have a signature.

Procurement rules provide that if the subsequent bid is materially identical to the first bid and the corrected package was late because of something the SPO could be responsible for, the bid can be considered timely. So, SPO recommended and the IRC approved considering RLG's proposal.

Last week, the Arizona Eagletarian posted the list of law firms that responded to the RFP to provide legal services (except for RLG).  This afternoon, after reviewing the proposals, the Commission decided to invite six bidders to interview and make presentations on Thursday (May 12) at the public meeting in Phoenix. The invited firms (in alphabetical order, also the likely interview order) are:
  • Ballard Spahr LLP (soon to be former counsel to Gov. Brewer, Joseph Kanefield is expected join this firm this month)
  • A. David Braun, Attorney at Law (sole practitioner)
  • Gammage & Burnham (Lisa Hauser, former IRC Republican counsel)
  • Mandell Law Firm (Michael Mandell, counsel to state Senate Democratic Caucus)
  • Osborne & Maledon PA (Mary O'Grady, former state Solicitor General)
  • Rose Law Group (Tim LaSota)
Thursday's meeting starts at 9:30am in the first floor auditorium at the Industrial Commission building in Phoenix.  Interviews/presentations are scheduled to be 40 minutes each.

The agenda calls for public comment before the interviews.  As I sat down to write this blog post, it occurred to me that public comment would be better AFTER the interviews.  The public would then have the opportunity to reflect on the prospective counsel candidates. I called Bladine and he agreed (and believes the commissioners will too).

The IRC expects the RFP for mapping services to be released publicly tomorrow morning on Procure AZ.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where did the AZ Redistricting Commission website go? UPDATED 9pm MST

I just heard from Ray Bladine.  When he got my message, he got on the phone and renewed the registration for the IRCs website.  He was told it could take 24-48 hours for the site to be back online.


Have you tried to follow links in Arizona Eagletarian posts to the IRC website today?  If so, and you've gotten something that looks like register.com wants you to buy the website name, there's an explanation.  It's not a bad link.  You didn't miskey or enter a typo.

The registration for the Commission's website -- http://azredistricting.org -- expired on Cinco de Mayo.

I left messages for Commission Executive Director Bladine.

This should have no impact on scheduled meetings for Tuesday in Tucson and Thursday in Phoenix.

Check back for updates.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Arizona Redistricting update

Clear as mud, as they say.  On the agenda for this afternoon's IRC executive session only meeting, this sentence seemed a little awkward -- "Discussion and consultation with the Commission's designated representatives regarding negotiations associated with responses to the RFPs."

Bladine said interim legal counsel Jim Barton advised the sentence means the Commission expects to consult with someone from the State Procurement Office about the legal services RFPs.

So, in this afternoon's meeting, the Commission will try to agree on language to finalize the mapping services RFP and will discuss the legal services RFP.  At the next public meeting, they will get information on two more legal services bidders.

According to the May 10 public meeting agenda State Procurement officials will recommend consideration of another law firm.  There was a question as to whether the additional bidder had submitted a complete response before the deadline. 

In addition to the additional bidder, state Solicitor General David Cole, a former Maricopa County Superior Court judge and professor at the Phoenix College of Law, is on the agenda to make a presentation in hopes

The Arizona Eagletarian has learned the names of the firms currently under consideration to provide legal services to the Commission.  They are:
  • Calderon Law Offices, PLC (notably, Ernest Calderon, member, Arizona Board of Regents)
  • Osborne Maledon PA (former AZ Solicitor General Mary O'Grady now is a member of this firm)
  • Dimilante Clark LLP
  • Gammage & Burnham (Lisa Hauser, who served as Republican counsel to the first IRC is a member of this firm)
  • A. David Braun, Attorney at Law (a Democrat who, in 2001 sued the first IRC regarding Congressional district boundaries)
  • Mandell Law Firm (Michael Mandell, counsel to the Arizona Senate Democratic caucus).
  • Gordon & Rees LLP  (Republican former state Rep. Steve Tully is managing partner in the Phoenix office.  A few months ago, Tully sued the panel screening IRC commissioner applicants on behalf of Arizona's Republican Congressional delegation seeking to disqualify Paul Bender from consideration for the fifth commissioner position)
  • Snell & Wilmer
  • Ballard Spahr LLP  (Joe Kanefield, former asst AG, former counsel to the Arizona Secretary of State and currently counsel to Gov. Brewer will go to work for Ballard Spahr this month) 
The question of whether to hire two firms (one Democrat and one Republican) or only one is still unresolved. 
    In other news, Deputy Exec. Dir. Kristina Gomez started with the IRC this week; and today the Commission begins moving into its Evans House offices. Phones should be activated and staff up and running at the new location within days.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Friday evening at the IRC

    Next up -- executive session of the IRC on Friday, by telephone, at 4pm.  The agenda calls for "discussion and consideration of confidential documents associated with the RFP for mapping services and of responses to legal services RFP."  This is all well and good and necessary before the commission can do the real work it needs to do.

    However, the next sentence, about negotiations and designated representatives is unclear.  So, I called Ray Bladine.  He said one thing the commission hopes to accomplish on Friday is to finalize the mapping RFP to issue after the next public meeting. 

    Bladine said he needs to research further to figure out what they can do Friday about responses to the legal services RFP.  I expect to get an update from him tomorrow and will post then.

    In other news, Commissioner Scott Freeman, according to the Yellow Sheet, is "fairly impressed with the [Redistrict America online mapping tool] software and is interested in seeing how people end up using it to draw maps."  Freeman participated in last week's webinar sponsored by the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Open Meeting Law be damned?

    Why does it really matter that Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission seems to be getting comfortable making decisions behind closed doors?  

    Before the IRC meeting began today, one gentleman reflected to me that it seemed like the commission was moving painstakingly slow. He asked me for my thoughts on the subject.  I told him I was more interested in this commission getting the job done right.

    Back in February and early March, the first four IRC commissioners deliberated in executive session with Asst. Atty. Gen. Jim Barton and Secretary of State Ken Bennett over the question of whom to select for the fifth and final commissioner position.  More than one attorney suggested to me then that the process should have been done openly, allowing the public to observe.  

    As that was the first official action taken by the newly reconstituted commission, I chalked it up to the learning curve.

    Then, last week, an agenda item popped up unexpectedly for the executive session only meeting on April 27th.  I asked Executive Director Ray Bladine about it.  He explained he wanted to hire a deputy executive director and he had a specific candidate (Kristina C. Gomez) already in mind.  He wanted to pose the idea to the commission at the earliest possible time and no decision would be made until the next public meeting.

    Today’s agenda item IV called for “discussion and possible action on retaining a Deputy Executive Director.”  During the meeting, but very distinctly before any motion was made (any action taken in accordance with Open Meeting Law on this item), Commissioner Herrera posed a question that shed important light on the situation.  

    Herrera asked when Ms. Gomez would be starting her job as the new Deputy Executive Director. Additionally, Bladine reported that the Dept. of Administration already approved necessary changes to the position to facilitate her hiring. 

    To what degree is the process of citizen driven redistricting endangered when substantive negotiation is carried on outside of public scrutiny?    Will they justify again circumventing Open Meeting Law by saying these two examples show that the right decision was reached even though it was done privately? 

    Or is it more likely they will rationalize it based on the certain crescendo of concern they will hear from county elections officials wanting enough time to properly prepare for the 2012 elections?   

    Or both?

    Make no mistake; I am not criticizing Herrera (or any one commissioner).  On the contrary, Herrera has more frequently spoken out -- on the record -- in favor of conducting commission business publicly than any of the other commissioners.  


    Other news from today's IRC meeting:

    Exec. Dir. Bladine gave his first report. He noted Buck Forst's first priority, when he begins his new job as the IRC computer support guy, next Monday will be to make streaming video available for all commission meetings.  He is not sure when this will be accomplished, as they do not yet have the equipment, but it will be the first priority.

    Phone numbers have been assigned and plans are in the works, but there is no specific move in date yet for offices at the Evans House. And therefore, the phone lines are not yet activated.  Bladine has had discussions with the previous executive director, Adolfo Echeveste to get his insights on how things went ten years ago and what he thinks can be done differently.

    The problems with accuracy of meeting minutes were not all resolved today. One change was made to (previously approved) minutes from the April 14th meeting.  Public comments this blogger made at that April meeting had been drastically mischaracterized.  One word -- "not" -- was added which then properly conveyed the message I had intended at that time.

    The commission went into executive session at about 10:30am (properly so) for two agenda items.  First they worked on the language for the mapping consultant RFP (which is still not finalized).  They then spent several hours reviewing proposals from prospective legal consultants.  They brought in lunch and only took very brief breaks.  Emerging from executive session at 3:45pm, no action (not even to invite any of the prospects to interview or make presentations) was taken on the issue legal consultants today.

    By 2:30pm, I was the only person left waiting for the end of the executive session.  And I'm glad I did.

    For the record, the commission made a motion for McNulty to aggregate all of the comments made by commissioners in exec. session about the mapping RFP, have her send the comments to Freeman for review, who will send it on to Bladine, who will then forward them to all five commissioners.  The motion carried with no objection.

    They then set meetings as follows:
    • Friday, May 6 a telephonic meeting for executive session only to discuss the mapping RFP.  The time is yet to be determined.
    • Tuesday, May 10, 9am in Tucson, public session at a location to be determined.
    • Thursday, May 12 (morning, I think 9am) in Phoenix.  This is a change.  Earlier, they had said the May 12 meeting would be in Tucson.
    • Thursday, May 26, in Phoenix.
    Among the items for May 10th, they understand the Arizona solicitor general (who reports to Atty. Gen. Tom Horne) wants to make a presentation in hopes of being selected to provide legal consultation services to the commission.  It should also be noted that interim counsel, Asst. AG Jim Barton was not present for the portion of the executive session dealing with the legal consultant RFP responses.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Redistrict Arizona is LIVE!

    After months of hard work put in by several people, Redistrict Arizona is up and running.  The online mapping tool will empower Arizona citizens to propose the new Congressional and legislative district lines and demographic make-up.

    The public contest to determine the best way to incorporate all six criteria required by the Arizona Constitution (as amended by voters in 2000) opened yesterday and runs through June 6.

    News outlets, including the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Capitol Times have written about this dynamic way to increase participation in the redistricting process.

    Be sure to catch Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition co-chairs Ken Clark and Roberta Voss this evening at 7pm on local PBS current affairs program, Horizon.  They will discuss their vision for citizen involvement in the redistricting process, the online mapping tool and the public contest.  Horizon airs on Channel 8 in Phoenix.  The interview will also be available to watch online sometime after the over-the-air broadcast.