Saturday, December 17, 2011

Redistricting -- Friday Night Lights

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met on Friday evening in Tempe to resume deliberations on making adjustments to the Congressional and legislative draft maps. Four Commissioners attended in person. Stertz phoned in for part of the meeting. The audience, at its peak, had barely a dozen individuals present. By the time the meeting wound down -- after 9pm -- only three or four remained.

Freeman got the discussion started on proposed changes to the Congressional draft map. An AP report described the discussion:

The commissioners commented a day after Republican Rick Stertz offered a compromise. It includes a Democratic-backed new competitive district in the Phoenix area and a Republican proposal to have a Tucson-centered district extended into southern Pinal County.
Republican Scott Freeman criticized the idea of a compromise. He said the commission should just apply constitutional mapping criteria, and he called the Phoenix-area competitive district contrived.
Democrat Linda McNulty said having only one competitive district in the Phoenix area was a compromise. She also said Stertz's proposal fails to reduce the size of a predominantly rural district in northern and eastern Arizona.
While the AP report is accurate as far as it goes, Freeman set the tone for the evening by saying he was not there to defend Stertz' so-called compromise map and would have preferred having Stertz attend to do so himself. Freeman expounded on what he means by "just applying constitutional mapping criteria" and letting the chips fall where they may. He said that his view is to draw lines without regard for the political implications at all. He took a few swipes at competitiveness in the process, and CD9 in particular. CD9 is the competitive Congressional district in the Phoenix area on the draft and working maps.

Freeman claims CD9 is not compact and that the notion of a Community of Interest centered on the Light Rail line cannot be justified. Stertz offered -- in direct contrast to his comments on Thursday regarding the compromise plan he offered -- that he believes justification for such a Community of Interest is "thin." Freeman went so far as to claim that in order to benefit from the Light Rail, one must live within walking distance from a terminal. Neither of the two cited ANY data whatsoever to justify their claims.

McNulty responded to them by saying she had some things she needed to put on the record about CD9. She read from her notes on the subject for close to ten minutes.

During the Call to the Public at the end of the meeting, I took the opportunity to rebut the specious claims made about CD9 by Freeman and Stertz. The essence of my comments was to indicate that as someone who lives about three miles from the Light Rail, I can and do either "park and ride" or ride my bicycle to catch the train. I do so to participate in various cultural events/activities in Phoenix and to go to the VA Medical Center for appointments.

What I did not think to say then, but recall now, is that when there are major cultural and sporting events in downtown Phoenix, MANY people "park and ride" the Light Rail.

Further, I mentioned my surprise that Stertz would suggest the rationale for a Community of Interest along the Light Rail line is "thin," given his back ground in architecture and real estate development. ALL along the rail line, from Mesa to ChrisTown in Phoenix, economic development and redevelopment of real estate is taking place. To me, the failure to cite any data (and there is plenty of data available, but it does not necessarily support their claim) emphasizes the partisanship that underscores the comments by Freeman and Stertz.

The bottom line, as Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jeremy Duda tweeted,
This sounds ominous: Stertz says "we will have a lively discussion" about Mathis' proposed CD combo map at Monday's meeting.
I'm not sure I agree that Stertz' declaration sounded ominous. But it did seem like a veiled threat. To what degree there can be anything more than the bitchiness we observed last Monday, I don't know.


With former DOJ attorney Bruce Adelson in attendance last night, the AIRC responded to the previous day's public testimony about which legislative district in which to put the heavily minority populated Guadalupe. Previously, the Commission had -- on Adelson's recommendation to improve the minority demographics in the East Valley districts -- drawn Guadalupe with LD26 (mostly Tempe).

However, on Thursday, several people (including lawmakers) attended and spoke to implore the AIRC to keep Guadalupe with South Phoenix. The two areas have been in the same district (LD16) for the last decade. On Thursday, someone even made specific threats to file a complaint with DOJ if the request to stay with South Phoenix was not honored.

Friday's discussion on the issue explored multiple ways to shore up the Voting Rights Act numbers for LD26 if Guadalupe is put back with South Phoenix (in the new LD27). No decision was made but mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry will work up change reports based on a couple of those options. When the Commission reconvenes on Monday morning (9:30am, Fiesta Resort in Tempe), this discussion will again be taken up.


From the start of Friday's meeting, it was clear that Freeman was "cranky." He took a few cheap shots at Herrera. For his part, Herrera did a good job of just letting those shots slide. A friend last night posited that Freeman's mood could have to do with personal stresses. Obviously, we do not know, but I still wish him the best in managing his career and family (with a three week old baby and other preschool children) and hope he has a robust personal support system.

Also yesterday, a reader sent me some feedback (by email) to the previous day's post where I had given Stertz credit for approaching deliberations (specifically that day) in good faith. This reader, however, took issue (beginning with a quote from my post):

Another indication of Stertz' intent to legitimately negotiate is that he probed (openly) for which districts and changes to districts proposed by McNulty and Herrera that those two feel most strongly about.

You seem to be convinced of Stertz’ genuineness.  I can understand why someone accustomed to the weasly, guilty behavior of the Republican leadership would be captivated by someone like Stertz who presents as someone with nothing to hide, someone with a clear conscience.  But the man _has_ no conscience.  He perjured himself in an orchestrated attempt to bring down the Commission, and would do so again in a heartbeat, if there were any law enforcement personnel left that would take him seriously.   If he is copping an attitude of negotiation, it is only because he hasn’t any alternatives left.  
Well, more than being convinced, I was hopeful. I am aware of Stertz' role in the turmoil experienced from June through November of this year. That Stertz views this strategy as a last resort in having any additional influence on the final maps does seem apparent. 


Exec. director Ray Bladine mentioned, on the record, last night that he is working on scheduling post-Christmas meetings and needs to get availability information from each of the commissioners for the week between Christmas and New Year. If the AIRC does not get final maps approved for Professor King to perform the racial analysis by the end of Tuesday's meeting, they will need to meet after Christmas and as long as it takes thereafter. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    Thanks for your summary of the Friday meeting. I was watching for the first part of the session, but then had other things I had to do for the rest of the time.

    I've also got conflicts so can't come up for the meetings on Mon. & Tues. I'll watch the live feed as much as possible.