Supervisor Richard Elias + TUSD’s Augie Romero = BFFby Pamela Powers Hannley on Jun. 09, 2011, under Arizona, City Council, democracy, Democratic Party, education, Politics, Tucson, TUSD
As the result of the 2010 US Census, Arizona and other states are in the midst of redistricting.
On Monday, the Arizona Daily Star printed a relatively routine article about how little the Pima County supervisors’ districts will likely change in the future– Redistricting likely to shift supervisor areas slightly. If you didn’t read the jump text on this article, you would have missed some interesting facts about voter registration and the county redistricting committee.
The five-member panel tasked with the chore [county-level redistricting] – each member an appointee of one of the sitting supervisors – confronted a choice last week, when it gathered for its second meeting to begin redrawing lines.
The first option: Members could start with a blank slate, essentially using the county’s population center at Park Avenue and 18th Street as a starting point, and continue until the county was sliced into five shapes.
Or they could keep the lines essentially the way they are, with little modification.
On a 3-2 vote, with the Republican appointees on the losing end, they voted to keep the lines the way they are.
Much of the discussion boiled down to race, since, as a consequence of historical discrimination, the U.S. Justice Department has to OK all electoral changes that affect minority voting.
There are two districts currently that have a majority of minority residents. In District 2, represented by Ramón Valadez, minority voters make up 66 percent of its population. In District 5, represented by Richard Elías, minority voters make up 63 percent.
Elías appointee Augustine Romero, the former director of the Tucson Unified School District’s embattled Ethnic Studies program, said it made sense to stick more or less with the current configuration, since the Justice Department already signed off on it. Any redrawing of the lines based on some goal of statistical neutrality, he warned, could have the effect of disempowering minority voters.
But Supervisor Ray Carroll’s Republican appointee, Robert Fee, argued that putting race foremost may violate equal protection, urging his colleagues to instead let the district lines fall as they may. [Emphasis added.]
So, Pima County Supervisor and Mexican American Studies (MAS) Community Advisory Board Member Richard Elias appointed Director of Student Equity and Ethnic Studies Godfather and co-creator Augie Romero to the Pima County redistricting committee.
Elias has been an outspoken supporter of the No Compromise stance on the MAS reorganization plan– showing up at Tucson Unified School Board Meetings and giving fiery pro-MAS speeches like the one he delivered on May Day in Spanish. In turn, Augie Romero votes to protect Elias’ seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors but he made the original motion to keep the boundaries basically the same as they are. I don’t know how this looks to you, but it sure looks like a classic case of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,” and I don’t like it.
The larger question is: Why have a sham Pima County redistricting committee made up of five friends of the five Pima County Supervisors? Obviously, as Mark Evans pointed out a few weeks ago, the committee’s structure has been rigged to secure the incumbents’ seats on the Board of Supervisors. Is democracy being served?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I usually agree with Elias’ politics– especially his pro-union stances– but I have been sorely disappointed with the lack of leadership from him and Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero (also an MAS Community Advisory Board member) on the MAS reorganization debate and the divisive nature of the rhetoric (1, 2) that has been tearing our community apart recently.
I don’t care if Richard Elias and Regina Romero personally support the No Compromise stance. As Latino leaders in this community they should rise above their personal opinions and show some leadership by working to bring all stakeholders to the table for civil discourse– rather than taking sides.