Marana and Oro Valley town officials have some concerns with the congressional and legislative maps approved by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission last week.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission adopted the tentative congressional and legislative maps Tuesday night in a 3-2 vote for each.
In the vote to approve the congressional map, Chairwoman Colleen Mathis voted yes, along with Vice Chairman Jose Herrera and Commissioner Linda McNulty.
Vice Chairman Scott Freeman and Commissioner Richard Stertz voted against the proposed congressional district boundaries.
The legislative map was approved by Mathis, McNulty and Stertz, but rejected by Freeman and Herrera.
“This is a significant step toward fulfilling our mission,” said Mathis. “We’ve spent four weeks improving the draft maps, incorporating many of the suggestions we received during our second round of public hearings, as well as comments submitted to us in writing. We worked very hard to reach consensus on the map where possible, and it was also our consensus that it was time to move the process along.”
Marana Mayor Ed Honea, and Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath are in agreement that the new congressional lines put the Northwest region in a tough position because of how far north it extends.
The way the approved maps are drawn, SaddleBrooke, Marana and Oro Valley are part of a district that extends to the Indian Reservation, Camp Verde and Sedona, through Flagstaff and up to the Utah border.
“We have more of a geographic tie to the Tucson region than we do with Flagstaff ,” said Hiremath. “While I think it’s great we are getting more representation, we do have our concerns.”
Honea agreed, saying that in his tenure as mayor, he has never even met Congress Paul Gosar, who represents District 1. Yet, under the new congressional boundaries, Gosar will now be the representative Marana residents will look to.
“Having your Congressman in Flagstaff is going to make it tough,” Honea said. “I’m just trying to figure it out. Maybe they’ll put an office here in Marana for us.”
Gosar’s office is currently located in Flagstaff, an estimated 238.59 miles from Marana, or more than a three-hour drive.
Prior to the redistricting commission approving the maps, Honea spoke at the public hearings, saying the proposed boundary lines do not follow the requirements set forth in the State Constitution that districts be compact and contiguous.
Outside of Marana, Honea said it appears one Congressional district takes of 40 percent of the state.
“We probably have one congressional district that is bigger than some states,” he said.
Hiremath said he is also concerned that the state’s legislative boundaries will also cause problems down the road.
While the Town is currently under one legislative district, if the Oro Valley is successful with planned annexations, they will fall under two separate legislative districts.
“The concept of more representation is good, but it is difficult if we are going to be in two legislative districts.”
As a whole, both Honea and Hiremath said they are not happy with how the maps were produced.
“As a whole, I am not thrilled, but for Marana in particular, I think we did better than others,” said Honea. “I would rather see the state chopped up into equal districts.”
Honea said he is also disappointed that in several cases Republican incumbents were placed inside the same district as other Republicans. District 30 is an example where Senator Frank Antenori will face Republican Senator Gail Griffin in District 25.
Hiremath said the politics and controversy made it tough to have a voice and get more involved in the process.
“Too long, and too often it was more political than it was about sitting down and drawing fair lines,” he said.
At the center of the controversy, was commission chairwoman Mathis. Gov. Jan Brewer and the State Senate voted to remove Mathis from her position with charges of “gross misconduct.”
The vote was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court.
Mathis was later returned to her position.
Many of the state’s Republican leaders have disagreed with having a five-member commission led by an Independent make important decisions on how the state’s congressional boundaries and legislative districts are arranged.
Senator Al Melvin and Rep. Vic Williams have said the important decisions shouldn’t come down to the opinion of one person, referring to Mathis. Instead, many Republicans believe the decisions should be made by the 90 lawmakers in Phoenix.
A voter-approved initiative approved in 2000 made it where a commission comprised of two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent representative would create district boundaries.
The new maps are required after the 2010 Census showed Arizona grew in population enough to warrant an additional congressional seat. In 2012, the state will have nine congressional seats in Washington.
The state legislature will still have 30 districts, but the boundaries have been redrawn.
The maps recently approved by the redistricting commission must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice before they can become official.