New College District’S Plan Might Shift Power To North

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The county-appointed redistricting committee this week quickly agreed on several new maps that would craft new Gila Community College District boundaries, in sharp contrast to the extended wrangling about new boundaries for the board of supervisors.

Any of the three new district maps seem likely to shift the center of political gravity on the conflict-ridden board to the north, in line with the population changes of the past decade.

Consultants hired by Gila County said none of the proposed district maps for the five-member community college board faced the racial complications that have bedeviled the effort to redraw the three county supervisor districts.

“All three of these maps look very fair and reasonable,” said GCC board member Larry Stephenson, who attended the Tuesday committee meeting to get a first look at the proposed college district maps.

The committee decided to forward three proposed college district maps to the Gila County Board of Supervisors, which will choose among the alternatives next month.

The committee’s No. 1 choice would produce two districts based entirely in North County, two districts in the south and one huge swing district centered on Tonto Basin, with the bulk of its population in North County.

Currently, the college board is bitterly split between two North County board members and three South County members.

The board members have been divided on tuition, class offerings, the district’s contract with Eastern Arizona College, the benefits of seeking independence and the most galling details of running meetings and setting agendas.

However, even if the new district lines shift political power to the north, the college board with its six-year terms won’t have an election based on the new districts until 2014.

Long before that election takes place, the district will have to decide whether to move strongly toward independence, renegotiate its accreditation and management contract with EAC and work out the details of the college’s relationship with the proposed Arizona State University campus.

None of the proposed maps seemed to create problems with protecting the voting rights of the Hispanic and Native American residents.

That stands in sharp contrast to the dominant role of race in adjusting the boundaries of the three supervisorial districts. The consultants on Tuesday reviewed a slew of maps and said only a map that kept the current boundaries almost unchanged would likely win the approval of the Justice Department.

That conclusion stemmed in large measure from a determination of a “racially polarized” voting pattern in the three districts.

However, the last-minute submission of a map proposed by the Tonto Apache Tribe prompted the committee — and the consultants — to tinker with four of the maps submitted before settling on specific maps to recommend to the supervisors.

By contrast, the discussion of the community college district maps went smoothly. In part, that reflected the much greater flexibility of breaking the county into five districts instead of three. In addition, the community college district lines had to change dramatically, since the largest district had 25 percent more people than the smallest district. Court cases suggest all the district should be within 5 percent of the average.

The leading map would produce two south-county districts dominated by minority voters. District 5 would include the San Carlos Apache Reservation and 60 percent of the voters would be Native American.

District 4 would include Globe, Winkleman and Hayden. The population would be 38 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Native American and 54 percent white.

District 3 would stretch all the way from the outskirts of Globe, across the Tonto Basin and Young to finally pick up a bit of Payson and Star Valley. That district would end up 74 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic and 3 percent Native American.

District Two would shift south slightly and include Star Valley, bits of Payson, and various unincorporated communities, like Tonto Village, Kohl’s Ranch and others.

That district would be 88 percent white, 9 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Native American.

District One would remain relatively unchanged and would include most of Payson, Pine and Strawberry.

It would have 89 percent whites, 8 percent Hispanics and 2 percent Native American.

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