IRC Glendale Meeting – The Price for Not Paying Attention

August 3, 2011, 6 pm, a Public Hearing, City of Glendale Council Chambers.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) has been holding public hearings across Arizona since July 21, 2011. All Arizona citizens have been invited to speak out about which criteria are most important to them. The last public hearing was held on 8/6.

Now, the IRC has retired to generate their grid maps. After this, there will be another round of public hearings that will last at least 30 days.

On August 3, I traveled with Ann Heins (Tempe resident, TEA Party activist, and Major thorn-in-the-Side-of-the-IRC) to Glendale to speak out on behalf of Gilbert. Ann and I sat in the front row next to the Angry Rightwing Housewife, who taped the entire meeting.

I spoke out to remind the IRC that they are required to honor the criteria for redistricting as set forth in the Arizona Constitution (Article 4. Part 2. Section 1).

You wouldn’t think it would be necessary to point out the obvious to members of the IRC, whose mission is “to administer the fair and balanced redistricting of the Congressional and Legislative Districts for the state of Arizona.”

However, if they respected the Arizona Constitution and if they adhered to their own stated mission, the IRC would have selected a non-partisan, unbiased, disinterested third party to do the mapping.

There is nothing unbiased about this IRC, which hired Ken Strasma’s Strategic Telemetry (ST) as their mapping consultant. ST was a Liberal-Progressive strategist for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns, and a progressive lobbyist group. Ken Strasma once headed an organization that claimed to be “one of the most influential political organizations having helped elect hundreds of progressive candidates to congress.”

How do you feel about a leftist, Washington, DC-based progressive firm slicing and dicing our Republican community?

In fact, at the Glendale hearing, only one commissioner, Scott Freeman (R), stated that he was duty bound to uphold the Arizona Constitution. (Commissioners McNulty and Stertz were not at this meeting.)

Jose Herrera (D) was not so respectful. He has refused to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation of possible violations of open meeting and procurement laws, and he stated very clearly at the Glendale meeting that he didn’t think that “competitiveness” was subordinate to the other 5 criteria. Competitiveness was the only criterion he championed, ignoring all others.

The only other Gilbert resident to speak out was Gil Fidler, who stated that Democrats didn’t lose the last election because the Legislative Districts didn’t have the same number of Democrats and Republicans. They lost because voters didn’t like their message.

The biggest danger to Republicans is that this left-leaning IRC will divide us into political units that give special advantages to Democrats over Republicans. This could happen if the IRC draws district lines that favor “competitiveness” over districts being geographically compact and contiguous, and over communities of interest remaining together, and over obvious geographic features, city and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts.

Here is how it could affect Gilbert. What if, in the interest of “competitive districts,” we were split into 4 Legislative districts. Each quarter was pulled apart to meld into Mesa, or Mesa and Chandler, or Apache Junction. How would that affect our unity to elect conservative Republicans for any office whatsoever?

Would the people in these four legislative districts share common goals and values?

Far-fetched? Ann Heins advised me that Gilbert was singled out in the first 3 public hearings as “needing to be more competitive.”

The Glendale meeting was dominated by citizens lobbying for “competitive” redistricting, unless you were a member of a Hispanic community. That’s different. They are a protected minority. Their desire to retain their communities of interest must be respected and their natural boundaries be honored.

Republican Gilbert, however, receives no such respect. We should be bifurcated and chopped up into little pieces, in the name of “competitive districts.”

Here’s a champion of communities of interest..for Latinos: Raul Grivalda.

I quickly learned that the speakers who fell all over themselves congratulating the left-leaning IRC on their “fairness” were Democrats. I learned that many speakers were from the AFL-CIO. Others were from, the League of Women Voters, the Arizona Competitive Coalition, Guadalupe Hispanic Association, etc, etc. These speakers also submitted MAPS to the IRC, to help them draw lines more favorable to their interests.

In a crowd of more than 50 speakers, Ann Heins was selected by the IRC to be almost dead last, when most people had left. I’m guessing that it was because she accused them of corruption.

When she was finally given the microphone, Ann didn’t mince words. She stated that the IRC had destroyed documents which are subject to public records request, in violation of open meeting laws. She accused Commissioner Herrera of bid rigging, because he intentionally scored Strategic Telemetry high, even though ST did not meet RFP requirements. She accused Chair Mathis of vote trading. She stated that the State Procurement Officer walked out and submitted a letter stating that the selection process for Strategic Telemetry was in violation of state procurement operations.

Ann Heins went on to say that Prop 106 was passed to keep deals out of the backrooms of legislators (who answer to the voters), yet the IRC has conducted more than half of their meetings out of sight of the public. She pointed out that the taxpayers are funding the IRC to the tune of $3.5 million, and these 5 people are totally unaccountable to anyone.

Here’s your opportunity to speak up: