Friday, May 13, 2011

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.

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