by Jim Nintzel
Most of the citizens who turned out to comment at today’s Independent Redistricting Commission meeting expressed their concerns over keeping communities of interest together in new congressional and legislative districts or creating more competition between the Democratic and Republican parties.
But state Rep. Terri Proud used her time addressing the commission to launch a blistering attack on the IRC itself.
“The voters wanted to depoliticize this process,” Proud said. “However, you have made it one of the most partisan, underhanded and expensive processes in state history.”
Proud, who has called on her fellow lawmakers to ask voters to pass a new ballot proposition to give state legislators the power to draw their own boundaries, criticized IRC member Jose Herrera (who was not present) for saying earlier this week that he would not cooperate into an investigation into alleged IRC open-meeting law violations by Attorney General Tom Horne. She suggested that both Herrera and commission chair Colleen Mathis should resign from the commission.
Proud comments elicited both cheers and boos from the audience and, later in the meeting, a retort from fellow Republican Pete Hershberger, who represented Legislative District 26 in the Arizona House of Representatives for eight years.
“I believe in civil discourse and I’m deeply disappointed in the vicious, partisan attacks on the commission and on the chair,” Hershberger said, gathering his own share of applause from members of the crowd. “These politics of intimidation should be rejected by the citizens of Arizona. The IRC should remain independent and free from such blatant partisanship.”
Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican who defeated Hershberger in a GOP primary for the LD26 Senate seat in 2008, sat with a broad smirk on his face while Hershberger talked about civility in politics.
Melvin himself addressed the commission to urge them to keep Legislative District 26 as “intact as possible as it exists today” in the redistricting process.
Melvin said that the current residents of Saddlebrooke, where he resides, “look to the south” in Oro Valley and Marana when residents shop, seek medical attention and volunteer.
“This truly is a classic community of interest,” Melvin said.
Sally Ann Gonzales, a Democrat who represents Legislative District 27, had a similar message for the members of the IRC.
“I’m here to speak, also asking the commission to keep westside District 27 as intact as possible, including the University of Arizona,” Gonzales said.
But state Sen. Paula Aboud urged commissioners to make her midtown Tucson Legislative District 28 more competitive.
Aboud also offered a rebuke to Proud’s suggestion that the IRC was engaging in too much back-room dealing.
“I think politics today have become unseemly and too uncivil, and that is what has made it so difficult to serve in the Arizona Legislature,” Aboud said. “When we talk about transparency and partisanship—when a budget is created in the Arizona Legislature behind closed doors, year after year after year, and it’s called partisan and underhanded and non-transparent, nobody complains hugely about it, so it’s a little difficult to understand those who come here and say that what you’re doing is something other than what is being done by the majority party.”
The five members of the IRC have the task of drawing up new political boundaries for the state’s congressional and legislative seats in the wake of the 2010 Census. Among the challenges: Carving up the existing congressional districts so that the growing state can add a ninth seat.
We’ll have more on the meeting in the next week’s print edition.