County Poised To Rip Off Rim Country

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Speaking of the Panama Canal, Sen. Sam Hayakawa once commented: “It’s ours. We stole it fair and square.”

The Gila County Board of Supervisors seems to have the same attitude toward redistricting.

The incumbents have made a shameless attempt to stack the deck of the supposedly independent redistricting commission, charged with drawing the new lines for the county supervisorial districts. The list of redistricting committee members includes three residents of northern Gila County and six residents from southern Gila County.

Apparently, the two south-county oriented supervisors think they can get away with gerrymandering the county once again so they can swindle residents in the north county out of their constitutional right to equal representation.

Now, we haven’t yet seen the population figures from the 2010 census for each town in the county. But we suspect we’ll discover northern Gila County now has a decisive majority of the county’s population — since Payson alone should have nearly 30 percent of the county population.

A decade ago, adroit gerrymandering compounded by federal restrictions on splitting the San Carlos Apache Reservation between two supervisorial districts gave the south county area two votes on the three-vote board. Even a decade ago, those district lines failed to reflect population patterns and warped county politics.

As a result, for the past decade, southern Gila County has reaped disproportionate benefits and north county voters have footed the bill.

The makeup of the redistricting committee suggests Supervisors Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor think they can perpetuate this grave injustice for another decade — despite the continuing shift in population.

The case seems especially egregious when it comes to the appointments made by Shirley Dawson, whose shamelessly gerrymandered district includes Star Valley — the helpless tail on a shaggy dog. But instead of recommending the appointment of people from the north county portion of her district — she packed the jury with three residents of Globe.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has declared publicly that the town will file a lawsuit before it lets the supervisors disenfranchise north county residents once again.

We’re glad.

Alas, it’s probably time to call the lawyers — based on the disregard of simple fairness reflected in the redistricting committee’s membership.

No doubt — south county stole power last time around — maybe not fair and square, but certainly very skillfully.

This time, we’ll suggest a different cliché: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Legislature losing its grip

Near as we can tell, they’re having a nervous breakdown beneath the copper dome.

Alas, even our own normally conservative and sensible Sen. Sylvia Allen appears affected.

Witness the radical, half-baked overhaul of university funding that has escaped the Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s a gooey, doughy, indigestible mess. Unaccountably, District 5 Sen. Allen, who is also president pro tem of the Senate, voted for this awful idea.

Now, the idea behind the bill almost makes sense. Let’s interject some competition into higher education and make cost-effective, responsive colleges and universities compete for students.

So the bill eliminates the board of regents, sets ups four independently governed universities and shifts to a voucher system — so state funding will follow the students rather than flow to the institutions based loosely on enrollment.

Such an approach would only make sense if you worked out the details. Instead, the Appropriations Committee seems to have thrown the SB 1115 up into the air, admired the flutter of papers and sent it onto the Senate floor. They just left blanks when it came to determining the size of the vouchers and didn’t decide whether to offer the same voucher for a community college student as for a medical school student.

Absurd. Incomprehensible. Foolish.

If it advances, the proposal will spawn such profound chaos that it would most certainly doom the nearly completed deal between Payson and Arizona State University to build exactly the sort of low-cost college the state so desperately needs. SB 1115 would likely have the same effect as removing a runner’s skeleton before a marathon hoping it will make him more flexible.

At the minimum, the appropriations committee should have launched a deep study of the ideas the bill contains and worked out the devilishly important details.

Instead, Sen. Allen said she voted for the bill to “further the debate.” Amazing. We don’t know what to make of such an addled attitude.

Unless they’re just having a mental breakdown downtown.

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