County Sorts Through Best Laid Plans

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Updated copies of the three redistricting plans recently submitted to the Gila County Board of Supervisors are now available.

Minor adjustments have been made to each of the plans to bring them closer to the ideal 17,112 residents per district, according to Elections Director Dixie Mundy. Federal law requires electoral districts to be reapportioned to within 10 percent of one another to reflect population shifts reported in the 2000 census.

Those results indicate that District 1, which encompasses most of the Rim country, now has 21,844 residents. Districts 2 and 3 to the south have 13,778 and 15,713 residents respectively.

"We have 8.5 x 11 color maps of the three alternatives, and then two blowups for each alternative so that they can see the Globe and Payson areas and how each plan affects redistricting," Mundy said.

The three plans submitted to the supervisors by the redistricting committee on Oct. 23 are:

Plan 1

Submitted by Payson Mayor Ray Schum, this plan would create two "urbanized" districts the Payson and Globe areas and a third rural district made up of the rest of the county. When presented to the supervisors, the committee designated this plan "least preferred."

Plans 2 and 3

These plans, ranked by the committee above Schum's, are almost identical. Both separate the Tonto Apache Reservation and Star Valley from Payson by placing them in District 3. They also separate Payson's Precinct 2 by placing it in District 2, which, Schum points out, "ends in the Miami area, about 85 miles away."

Anthony Sissons of Phoenix-based Research Advisory Services, a company hired to assist in the preparation and actual drawing of the boundaries, calls Plan 2 the "minimalist plan," with the least amount of change from existing boundaries. Plan 3, he says, does the best job of maintaining racial balances.

While Schum argues that his plan is the only one that gives northern Gila County a chance at fair representation, Sissons counters that "the two preferred plans propose bringing District 2 and District 3 up into the neighborhood of Payson, which in theory could mean three candidates who live a block apart could run for those three seats."

According to Mundy, all three plans have been altered slightly from those presented at a series of public hearings.

"Prior to the supervisors' meeting, Mr. Sissons refined each plan to bring each district into a smaller deviation," she said. "But the theme of each plan is the same."

Schum disagrees that the alterations made to his plan are slight. Those changes include taking much of Payson Precinct 1 and Star Valley out of District 1 and placing them in District 2.

While Schum says he can still support the new version of his plan, "the changes they have made are pretty major."

The mayor is encouraging Rim country residents to express their concern about the other two plans the ones preferred by the redistricting committee by calling the three supervisors.

"This is really important to our area, and the people need to be heard on this issue," Schum said.

"The deadline to adopt a final plan is Dec. 1," Mundy said. The matter is expected to be on the agenda of the Nov. 20 meeting. At that time, the supervisors can make a decision or ask for refinements or other changes and make a decision the following week.

Mundy emphasized that the overriding concern is supervisory boundaries, and that precinct changes can be made later. Copies of the revised plans are available at Payson Town Hall, or you can receive a copy by mail by calling the elections office at 1-800-304-4452, extension 8708 or 8709.

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