The Gila County Board of Supervisors has started down a long, winding and rough road to redistrict the county.
The supervisors took the first steps on that long road at a work session Dec. 7.
With the completion of the 2010 census, state law requires county redistricting. The process of redistricting includes meeting mandates for close scrutiny created when the state entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in November 1972 due to prior discriminatory voting practices. However, the decree also allowed for counties to “bail out” of some of the more expensive and time-consuming requirements, so long as the alternatives are within certain guidelines. The county must file an application with the DOJ to proceed with “bail out” alternatives.
Working with a consulting team the board and the election department are focusing on multiple fronts to begin the redistricting process. One is making the application to bail out; another is creating guidelines for the selection of members and their appointment to a redistricting committee.
The supervisors will consider adoption of a resolution to formally begin creating the guidelines Dec. 14 at a meeting at the county maintenance yard east of Star Valley.
But even the guidelines for selecting a redistricting committee are under under outside scrutiny.
District One Supervisor Tommie Martin told the Roundup that state and federal officials recommend that no elected person be allowed to serve on a redistricting committee, however, she is hoping to modify that and limit the restriction to just those elected officials seated in partisan races. She said not allowing people serving on school and fire boards, etc. to be appointed severely reduces the choice of appointees from an already small pool of candidates with an interest and willingness to participate.
The Dec. 7 work session also included a discussion of how to use the $430,000 to $480,000 rural schools grant funds. The money must be used to benefit resources on federal land, not schools.
The county plans to use the money for a road project. Martin said seven or eight road projects were under consideration, but it is likely only one will be funded.
Among the projects on the initial list were paving the Control Road, building a vented crossing at the 2nd Crossing on Houston Mesa Road. Martin said both of these were dropped because of the work the Forest Service is already doing in that area and the county didn’t want to further restrict traffic with additional roadwork.
Remaining projects on the list are in Gisela, Tonto Basin, Christopher Creek and Globe. The topic was only discussed Dec. 7, no action was taken.
The supervisors will host District 5 State Senator Sylvia Allen at the Dec. 14 meeting in the Rim Country. The meeting starts at 10 a.m.
Allen will provide information and discuss Gila County issues in regard to the upcoming Legislative session.