County Caught Pulling New Redistricting Scam

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Too little, maybe too late. That sums up the possibility that the Gila County Board of Supervisors may fix an outrageous effort to manipulate the redistricting process.

The three supervisors recently appointed constituents to the committee that will draw up new district boundary lines for the board of supervisors, Gila Community College and other special districts.

The districts of supervisors Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor both contain many north county voters, but all six of the people they put on the nine-member committee come from south county. They ignored the parts of northern Gila County that elected them to represent their interests.

Apparently, they hope they can quietly manipulate district boundaries to ensure that south county continues to control the board of supervisors and the GCC governing board — despite the steady shift of the center of population to the north.

That’s simply unacceptable — and ultimately unconstitutional.

Faced with predictable outrage, the Board of Supervisors is being asked to expand membership on the redistricting committee to 12.

Now, that’s kind of like catching a horse thief with a herd of your horses and having him grin sheepishly and offer to give you back three of them — no charge.

Even if all three of the proposed new committee members live in north county, that still gives south county two thirds of the seats, but less than half the population.

Of course, we hope the members of the redistricting committee will do their best to draw fair and representative district lines — no matter where they live.

And perhaps we’re being paranoid, thinking that Dawson and Pastor are deliberately trying to stack the deck to make sure the district lines continue to favor the south — and the political power bases that elected them.

But we have been living with the current, skewed district lines for the past decade. We have seen the consequences played out repeatedly, with most county facilities and funding reserved for south county — like as not financed with the property taxes paid by folks in north county. Call us paranoid. Call us cynical. Or just call us observant. Call us whatever you want — just don’t think we will stand here with our hands in our pockets watching it happen again.

Granted, they got away with fixing the game 10 years ago. But that don’t mean the swindle will work again. This clumsy, bald-faced attempt to pack the redistricting committee looks like they figure they can just saddle up the horses they stole on the last visit and replenish their herd.

Don’t bet on it. That sound you hear — that’s the posse coming.

Payson campus survives another legislative threat

An ill-conceived bill that would have upended the system for financing the state’s universities looks like it will die in the Senate Rules Committee.

SB 1115 would have deranged the current system for governing and funding the state’s three public universities. Arizona State University’s proposed Payson campus would have surely died in the crossfire, like an innocent bystander in a gang shootout.

Senate President Pro-Tem Sen. Sylvia Allen confirmed this week that SB 1115 will die quietly in the Senate Rules Committee, with the consent of its mercurial, hip-shooting author — Sen. Andy Biggs.

The quiet death of a bad bill will remove the latest threat to Payson’s effort to strike a deal with ASU to build a high-tech campus for up to 6,000 students, which will charge half the tuition as the state’s existing universities.

People who initially supported the bill hoped that getting rid of the Board of Regents and funding student vouchers might free the universities to compete for students and given students more control over the flow of state money.

However, the Appropriations Committee adopted the measure in the dead of the night as a strike-all bill, which means no one had a chance to think through the real impact of its radical restructuring. In the end, it would have spawned chaos rather than reform — and replaced the authority of the Board of Regents with a far more political and haphazard process in the Legislature.

Sen. Allen said she voted for it in committee to show support for Biggs, but she later played a key role in the reconsideration of its provisions which led to its welcome burial in the Rules Committee.

Fortunately, ASU officials have said they hope to proceed with the Payson campus despite those cuts, depending on the outcome of a marketing study.

So the visionary plans for the Payson campus have survived one more plot twist in this nerve-wracking cliffhanger. Can’t wait to read the next chapter.

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