Monday, April 04, 2011

Is the Alaska Redistricting Board Hiding?

[UPDATE April 4, 2011:  The staff was still nice to me after this post and they've corrected just about everything I've pointed out.  They've just been really busy and only needed someone to say something and they got right on it.]

How would a member of the public find out that there was an Alaska Redistricting Board meeting Monday, April 4, at 10am at their office at 411 Fourth Avenue Suite 302?

You could look on their website.  Here's what I found on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 10pm.  On their home page, labeled News and Updates:

double click to enlarge and make clear

The last update was March 18 and it's about the public hearings they held around the state March 20-30.  It does not include the March 31 teleconferenced hearing from Anchorage.

Let's check press releases:
double click to enlarge and make clear
Last press release is dated March 8, 2011.

How about public notices?

The most recent one is March 18, 2011 which takes you to the State of Alaska Public Notice Page notice of the Statewide hearings March 20-31. (Yes, this one includes the March 31 meeting.)  But nothing about the Monday meeting.

 How about the Calendar page?

Nothing is scheduled except the draft report being due on April 14.

The Photo page says, "coming soon."  The Frequently Asked Questions page is coming soon too.  If you are in the Calendar page (and only in the Calendar page) and you click on Media - the drop down window shows  Social Media as the fifth option. (It doesn't show from any other window besides the Calendar window.)  It looks like this:

But you do have an option to link to their Facebook page.  (And you can see from some of the other screenshots, you can get to Facebook from those too.)  If you go to the Facebook page, you get this:

Nothing here either.  Their FB Info page has the Board's address, Constitutional requirements for the Board,  and list of Board members.

Their Future Events page looks like this:

Their past events page lists all the various meetings they had around the state.

So, given the absence of anything on their website to tell the public that there is a meeting tomorrow, how could a member of the public know?

You could be subscribed to their email service as I am, but I haven't received an email about the Monday event.

If you were in the room when it was announced at the beginning and end of a seven hour meeting on Thursday, March 31, you could know.

Or if you asked the Chair as I did on video on March 20, you would know that announcements are on the State of Alaska Public Notice website.  But even if you know that, you have to find it.

I knew about the site and I knew about the meeting and I'm relatively google savvy, but it still took a few tries.

The first one is for Workplace Alaska, so I skipped it. (It turned out to be the best link.)  I skipped the court one for the same reason. (It turned out to be only for the Court system just as I thought Workplace Alaska would only be for Workplace Alaska.)  If the Governor's page had it, I didn't find it.  The Home, State of Alaska has a tab on top for notices.  If you click on that, and fill in the search window right, you get this:

And if you click on the dim Alaska Redistricting Board Meetings April 4-10, 2011 below the second yellow line you finally get this information:

Alaska Redistricting Board Meetings April 4-10, 2011

Category: Agency MeetingsDepartment: Redistricting Board
Publish Date: 03/31/2011
Event/Deadline Date:
Location: Statewide
Coastal District: N/A

Body of Notice:

Public Notice
Alaska Redistricting Board
Board Meetings
April 4-10, 2011

Alaska Redistricting Board Offices
411 West 4th Avenue
Suite 302
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

The Alaska Redistricting Board announces it will hold Board meetings daily during the period April 4-10, 2011 in the Board Offices at 411 West 4th Avenue, Suite 302, Anchorage, Alaska 99501 to provide progress reports on the Board’s efforts in drawing legislative district boundaries following the 2010 U.S. census. The start times for each daily meeting appear below. All times are ADT.

The Board may also consider administrative and legal matters at the daily Board meetings. Discussions of legal matters may require executive sessions.

The Board meetings are public meetings and anyone needing special accommodations is requested to call (907) 269-7402.

Date Time

April 4, 2011 10:00 AM
April 5, 2011 2:00 PM
April 6, 2011 2:00 PM
April 7, 2011 2:00 PM
April 8, 2011 2:00 PM
April 9, 2011 2:00 PM
April 10, 2011 2:00 PM
Revision History:
03/31/2011 01:14:11 PM by schaight/01/State/Alaska/US
03/31/2011 01:16:27 PM by schaight/01/State/Alaska/US

$$WebClient [Anon]

Could It Be More Difficult?

I'm not sure that they could make it more difficult to find out that this meeting is happening and still be in compliance with the Public Notice Law.

If you simply go to the Alaska Redistricting Board's website there is no notice.

Worse, the website suggests there is no meeting.  The Calendar for April is blank.  The public notice page only takes you to a notice for last Thursday's meeting.  The Facebook future events page says "You have no upcoming events."

The last Board email I got (you can subscribe to get email notices from the Board) was dated March 31 and announced the March 31 meeting in Anchorage.

The board spent eleven days in a row - with one day off - traveling around the state holding seven hour meetings each day.  That means on some days, they had to get up at 4am to be at the airport in time to catch planes that got them to their hearings and then they caught planes back after the end of their meetings (7pm).  They've had a busy schedule.  I don't think they are trying to hide.  Furthermore, this is a very new, temporary organization that has to figure out how to do everything and then close shop in 90 days.

The staff members have been more than nice to me, getting me handouts, answering questions, etc.

But whatever the reason, if there is only the most obscure notice of meetings, the idea of public meetings is a sham.

Given the very political nature of this activity - that the outcome will affect who gets elected to the State Legislature for the next ten years, it behooves the board to make sure the public knows when it's meeting.  Yes, those groups that have a vested interest and a budget will find out when the Board is meeting.  And there's no assurance that public members would show up at any meetings even if there was an ad in the Anchorage Daily News each day.  But as it stands, the website gives every indication there are no meetings scheduled. 

When all this is done, I hope that someone assesses the things that fell through the cracks because of their high pressure schedule and in ten years when this is repeated, that the next group gets some advice on how to avoid falling into the same traps.  A key purpose of this post - and the others on the Board - is to help keep track so the next team has a record of what happened - not just from the Board's perspective, but from an outsider perspective.

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