PROPOSED REDISTRICTING MAP GIVES DAY MOST OF NORTHWEST - Tucson Local Media: Import

PROPOSED REDISTRICTING MAP GIVES DAY MOST OF NORTHWEST

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001 12:00 am | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

A proposed map on which a redistricting of Pima County Board of Supervisor boundaries would be based has been drawing considerable fire during recent public presentations.

At a Nov. 19 meeting in Oro Valley, it seemed no one knew where the map came from, how the rationale for proposed changes came about, whether the data on which the map is based are accurate, and why no alternative proposals were discussed by the five-member Pima County Redistricting Committee before it voted Nov. 9 to recommend the map to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

There were also questions as to whether, if the supervisors vote on the map as planned at its Dec. 4 meeting, such an action would be legal.

The proposed map would have Republican District 1 Supervisor Ann Day representing county residents in all of the Northwest between Interstate 10 and the Catalina Mountains and all of the Foothills from the Rillito River to the Coronado National Forest line. Day would lose voters in central Tucson, but pick up Catalina, Tortolita, all of Casas Adobes and the western portion of Marana.

Democratic District 2 Supervisor Dan Eckstrom would retain a portion of Sahuarita, lose some precincts in the southeast, but gain areas areas north and in central Tucson.

Sharon Bronson, Democratic Supervisor in District 3, would pick up more of north and central Tucson and the Tucson Mountains foothills and lose half of Marana, half of Casas Adobes and all of Catalina and Tortolita.

District 4 Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll would lose a handful of precincts in the East River and North Craycroft roads area but gain a larger portion of Sahuarita.

Raul Grijalva, Democratic Supervisor in District 5, would lose a portion of west Tucson in the Tucson Mountains and gain more of central and southwest Tucson.

In terms of population, Bronson would lose between 25,000 and 30,000 residents, Eckstrom would gain between 12,000 and 15,000, and Grijalva would gain about 20,000 to reach the desired 168,000 residents per district goal, based on recent estimates.

Tom Bowen, chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said he believes the Board of Supervisors will be violating state statutes if it votes on the map as planned.

Under state legislation, every county in Arizona was required to complete redistricting by no later than April, Bowen said. Pima County took the position that it couldn't be done by then and was able to get the deadline changed to Dec. 1, putting the supervisors at risk of violating the law with a Dec. 4 vote, he said.

The steering committee had been meeting for several months without any resolution of its goal to finalize a redistricting plan by the state's deadline date. After taking a break, the panel met again in August , but still was unable to come up with a redistricting map.

The panel was asked to examine alternatives, but refused, Bowen said, at which time he presented his map for consideration with the idea of minimizing the impact on voters in Pima County, equalizing populations, and establishing a starting point to to get the panel on track toward developing possible alternatives.

The panel refused to even consider his proposed map and the current map mysteriously appeared for the first time at the Nov. 9 Redistricting Committee meeting where it was approved on a 3-2 vote along party lines, Bowen said.

"The map was just sprung on us," said Supervisor Day. "I didn't like the process. There was no compromise, no give and take. It was not fair and was done behind closed doors. I guess that's politics."

Day said that while she is uncomfortable with the process as far as the proposed redistricting map, she's comfortable with its result because in taking away population south of River Road, it would make District One more solidly Republican and create a district very similar to her old Legislative District 12, which she represented in the state Senate for more than a decade.

Others at a recent meeting in Oro Valley loudly decried the Redistricting Committee process and its likely impact.

"It smells of gerrymandering," Peter Davis, Republican Legislative District 9 chairman, said.

Davis accused Bronson of "cherry picking" precincts to get rid of the Hispanic vote on the west side of Tucson and shifting those voters to Democratic Supervisor Raul Grijalva in District 5, and ridding herself of 7,000 Republican votes in the Sahuarita and Foothills area by having those voters distributed among Grijalva, Day and Eckstrom.

Davis said he had no idea of who drew up the map, but referred to whoever it was as "Bronson's re-election committee."

He said no member of the steering committee has yet to take credit for the map which simply appeared "from out of the blue" at a Redistricting Committee meeting the Friday before the Veteran's Day holiday.

If the proposed map is approved, Davis said, one rural district would be entirely eliminated and the county would be left with just one rural district and four urban districts.

"The rights of citizens are being violated to address the needs of the people responsible for the map," Davis said.

Davis and others also were angry that there were no representatives of the Redistricting Committee at the county election division's meeting in Oro Valley where the map was discussed.

"There was no one there on the Redistricting Committee to hear any suggestions for changes, so it looks like the map is going to go to the Board of Supervisors without any changes, " Davis said.

The redistricting committee is "operating under the color of law to appear legal" by having these meetings without any representation from the Redistricting Committee, he said, adding "the only way we'll get redress is to sue or go to the Justice Department. This is a slam dunk Democratic approach to redistricting."

Leslie Nixon, executive assistant to Supervisor Bronson, said the origins of the proposed map shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Nixon said the map was the product of deliberations involving her, Bronson and Linda Barter of Sahuarita, Bronson's appointee to the Redistricting Committee.

Nixon said that Bronson for the past year has been interested in a redistricting plan that would include rural representation in all districts, equalize populations and have the least impact on incumbents.

The map, Nixon said, is based on the idea of having approximately 168,000 residents in each of the five supervisor's districts, or about one-fifth of total county population, with a variance of no more than 2 percent from district to district, and rural representation by supervisors in all districts

Nixon said Redistricting Committee members were directed to bring in maps reflecting other proposals for boundary changes. Apparently only Bowen, Supervisor Carroll's appointee did. There was no explanation given either at the Nov. 19 meeting in Oro Valley or in subsequent interviews with supervisors or their representatives as to why the Bowen map received such short shrift.

Supervisor Eckstrom said he hadn't seen the proposed map as yet, but will be examining it as the date for its presentation to the Board of Supervisors draws closer. "It's too soon for me to cry," Eckstrom said, adding that he saw the current proposal as no more than a planning tool that may not end up as drawn.

Supervisor Grijalva could not be reached for comment.

Bowen is demanding that his map be introduced before the Board of Supervisors as a map of record. "This is an alternative solution and the public has a right to see it," he said.

Nixon suggested that the fuss over the map now being proposed stems from Supervisor Carroll's disappointment over the loss of precincts in the Craycroft-River roads area and said she was puzzled by Bowen's statement that he didn't know who the map was formulated by.

"Tom knows where it came from," Nixon said of Bowen.

Opponents of the proposed map allege that Bronson, in attempting to pick up Democratic votes in central Tucson and get rid of the Hispanic vote on the west side of Tucson, transferring that vote to Grijalva, appears to be trying to pack minorities into a few strongholds, thus maximizing the number of seats her party could win in the next election.

Another speaker at the Oro Valley meeting characterized the process as political "chicanery," manipulative gerrymandering reflective of the kind of power politics that allows politicians to take bond money away from one project approved by voters and shift it to another.

Barbara Hein, Legislative District 12 chairwoman, said that while she doesn't have the data to support her contention, "It appears as if the three Democratic supervisors have set up their districts in such a way that there will be no swing vote districts in the entire county so they will be able to maintain their Democratic majority on the board for the next 10 years."

Hein said the proposed redistricting map gives Bronson more urban votes, enhancing her strength and practically eliminating any need to campaign in rural areas of the district.

Hein said this creates a less competitive district and puts less pressure on Bronson to represent a broader mix of interests.

Bronson, who represents a 7,400 square-mile region stretching from Marana to the Mexican border, had a narrow victory in last year's primary election when she defeated Richard Pacheco, a retired state legislator and mining company supervisor, by 52 to 44 percent even though Pacheco was out of state for most of the campaign. She also narrowly beat Republican Barney Brenner by about 1,300 votes in the general election.

Many saw that as an indication of voter dissatisfaction.

Supervisor Carroll said the proposed redistricting format would shift nearly 7,000 Republican voters and about 1,000 Democrats out of Bronson's district, thereby strengthening Bronson's hold in the district in part by by packing other areas with Hispanic voters.

Carroll asked at the Oro Valley meeting whether county elections officials had done any analysis of the impact the proposed mapping would have so voters could weigh what was won or lost in the process. He was told such an analysis is currently being conducted.

He said he felt the map was done in haste, questioned estimates made related to that mapping and wondered why no one ever took the time to verify the numbers attached to the mapping.

Supervisors, for the most part , seemed not to be worried about voting on the map at a Dec. 4 meeting, three days after the deadline they were given, since that meeting will be their first in December.

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