Friday, June 03, 2011

Board Gets Testy Thursday Afternoon Trying to Set Border Between Matsu and Anchorage

[This one was supposed to go up late last night, but I apparently didn't hit the publish button, sorry.]

The Alaska Redistricting Board, after approving conceptually, districts for the rest of the state, is now getting down to Anchorage.  Board Member Bob Brody had tried to get the board to work on Anchorage sooner on the grounds that, "We've spent 90% of our time doing 25% of the state and we aren't going to have enough time to get Anchorage right."  But the others on the board all agreed that because of the Voting Rights Act requirements, it was critical to work on the Native districts first and get them set.  Then they could work on the urban areas knowing where the borders needed to be to get the Native districts right and avoid getting the plan thrown out by the courts.  Brody suggested back then that we could get the urban areas set and that would just as equally set the parameters for the Native districts.  [While I think the Native districts had a lot more factors that had to be balanced, and the density of Anchorage means it's easier to make equal districts, it also meant that if left to the last minute, as happened in the draft plan stage, the public would not know the district lines until after the board approved them.  It would be an easy way to gerrymander the districts.  That's not to say they would do that, but, if they were, that would be a good way to do that.]

Well, they say they are going to be done with the plan by Saturday or Sunday.  (It's almost Friday as I type here.)

Today, they spent about three hours trying to figure out the border between Anchorage and Matsu and how to deal with the impact on Matsu district and the Valdez district. But there were a lot of other issues below the surface which came up in the discussion.  I'll try to outline them and then I'll put up my notes of the discussion.

1.  Where exactly should the border between Anchorage and Matsu be?
They had decided it should be Peters Creek.  But in as they began drawing the Anchorage lines - using the MOA map and the AFFR map - they had problems because the MOA (pretty much the AFFER map) and AFFR map used a different boundary between Anchorage and Matsu.  They'd made the maps before Peters Creek had been decided.  But the Board saw the two maps - from politically divergent players - were pretty similar, including having two Eagle River districts.  In AFFR's case two Eagle River districts that kept Eagle River together.  There was a white chunk of nothing on the two maps because of the different borders. 

So the Chair asked Taylor Bickford to play with the boundaries and see what he could do.  Bob Brody also had a map to show.    The two map makers, when they came back for the afternoon session had split the white chunk in two different ways.

The green is a Matsu district and the pink an Anchorage district.  The dividing line is basically Peters Creek, except for the part that sticks out.  As I understand it, that was the white chunk in the AFFR and MOA maps.  The green part that sticks into the pink (yellow on the inserted map) was the part that Bob Brody had given back to Matsu and Valdez.  The red in the insert is the part that Taylor Bickford had given back. 

2.  Making two wholly Eagle River districts.  Or not. (This is spelled out in more detail in the previous post with Bickford explaining it on video.)
Taylor Bickford offered two options:
A.  Make two wholly Eagle River districts - but with higher deviation (I think about 1.8%)
B.  Give part of Eagle River to another district which includes Muldoon - with lower deviation.

3.  Lt. Governor Treadwell had sent a letter to the board asking it to keep the military bases separate from the civilian population as much as possible, because security needs meant civilians couldn't vote on base.  Thus military would have to go off base where a precinct overlapped, raising another obstacle to military voting.  Thus, the Eagle River area was caught between the bases and the mountains without much wiggle room.  (I'm not sure it really has to be either/or for the bases, but that's how the board was reading it.)  [UPDATE Friday, June 3:  After seeing Bob Brody's map of Anchorage with the bases split, but with Fort Rich in his proposed Eagle River district 18 and with Elmendorf in district 20, I clearly didn't understand the issue here.  I'll check to get clarification.]

4.  Deviation - (This too is explained in detail in the previous post.)  Urban areas, board attorney White has been telling the board since the beginning, should have the lowest deviation - below 1% if possible.  Board member Holm questioned, today, why urban areas should have lower deviation than the rest of the state.  White has explained this several times.  In rural areas with low density population and the various requirements to get 9 Native districts to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act means that it is harder to achieve ideal deviations there.  But urban populations, with their denser populations, make it much easier to achieve compact districts with little or no deviation.

5.  Should Eagle River get a higher deviation so they can stay together?  All the testimony at the public hearings - from both Eagle River and Muldoon - said, resoundingly, yes.  But attorney White, citing the Supreme Court in the last Alaska redistricting case, said that all parts of a single borough were considered to be socio-economically integrated, and that Eagle River is not a separate city, it is part of Anchorage, and so it shouldn't get special treatment.  That urban districts should have below 1% deviation.  Board members PeggyAnn McConnochie and Bob Brody argued that the residents of Eagle River had strongly stated their preference to not share a district with Muldoon and meeting their needs was also important.

6.  This all seems to negate what they did in Matsu.  At one point, Chair Torgerson said there was a third option.  ". . .leave Matsu and let Anchorage absorb the extras."  Bickford calculated how that would affect Anchorage deviations:   2400 people divided by 16 districts is close to 1%.  But, Bickford continued,  that raising the deviation in Matsu and Anchorage negated the whole reason they were not making five whole districts in Matsu. (Matsu has enough population for five whole districts within Matsu's boundaries.  But because of Native districts needing more population, they'd agreed, and the mayor of Wasilla (I think it was the mayor) had agreed they could share part of a district with some of the northern Anchorage suburbs, leaving them 4.5 districts instead of 5.  

7.  Why Muldoon and Eagle River?  At one point, Chair Torgerson, a bit testy as were others by then late in the afternoon, said something like, " It’s gone from a boundary to a Muldoon issue."  And the vote they took was specifically NOT about the possible Eagle River districts.  It was only about what the Matsu/Anchorage border would be.  When the first draft plan came out - the maps had, contrary to what was requested in the testimony, added even more Muldoon into Eagle River.  Just enough to put two Democratic incumbents (Pete Petersen and Bill Wielechoski) into a more conservative districts where they would have much more trouble getting elected.  Are any of the people who are arguing for the Eagle River - Muldoon district, still thinking about Petersen and Wielechoski?

So, you can see there are a lot of undercurrents flowing above and below the surface.

Below are my notes from the afternoon. As always, be warned! These are quick and dirty rough notes.  They can give you a sense of the discussion, but there are errors and gaps.

June 2 Afternoon Session:

Look at Boundary of Peters Creek v Chugiak

Two Taylor approaches and one Brody approach

Taylor Bickford:

Peters Creek boundary and chunk here. Started by looking at Matsu districts. added their deviations together - 450 people short about.
Valdez district - 12 - about 350 people short so that’s about 800 people
How far can we bring it beyond that? about .4 deviation and 2% for Valdez. With those combined. Took it to zero and ??? - that’s the amount I decided to take - the distance I decided to go across the PC boundary - about 1000 people. The maximum you could take out without messing up Matsu and Valdez. Reluctant to move Matsu to over 1.5% because we worked hard to keep them down to make Peter’s Creek boundary.

So what do you do with 19? Because boxed in by military base and the mountains.
1. (didn’t make Valley adjustments on the computer yet, but the numbers will work out.)
1. Share between the two or
2. Move it down this way and what you push down gets shared with all the districts.

I took SFork Community Council. Don’t know if this is considered ER, you have 3 ER community councils. Least likely chance to be considered purely ER. Moved that SW. You get a lot of unpopulated mountains. So it looks like it goes all over, but there are no people there. Deviations for 19 and 20 are <.4% basically ideal. The downside is you moved this SFork area and combined it with Muldoon and Basher. Different what we heard in our public testimony. There we heard about a small chunk of Muldoon into ER. Here we have small chunk of ER (about 800 or 1000) and moved it to Muldoon and S Anchorage.
Working off MOA map - which included this whole area. It is so densely populated, you’d have to take this chunk off. This was MOA district 21. If you wanted to recreated this district, you’d keep Muldoon together.
White: taking excess partly to Matsu - bar is keeping Matsu districts ideal and Valdez under 4?%.
Brody: I think the numbers aren’t right. - add 645 and 580 you get net +389
Taylor Bickford: I don’t understand. I did the math, the numbers worked. I didn’t smooth out the districts . . .
Brody: You end up with 389 people surplus is Matsu and Valdez
D. 17 585, D16 - plus a negative = surplus of 389 people
Taylor Bickford This isn’t starting, I’ve already taken the excess
Brody: Isn’t that reflected?
Taylor Bickford: Then you spread it across everything. When you start, you start with a minus before. . .
Brody: Is that already in.
Taylor Bickford: Numbers I’m describing what was already there.
Brody: Those numbers there, are they reflected on the map? yes My point is. Matsu was at what %? You said Valdez at 2% and Matsu and .2 or .5.
I don’t think you’ve taken enough people because when you add up the plus and minuses you have 389.
Torgerson: Numbers had Valdez at .57. You said you didn’t spread any population in Valdez. You started with wrong baseline. That’s the wrong map.
Taylor Bickford: We didn’t add anything to that district so it doesn’t matter.
Torgerson: We did to 12. We wanted to see something that showed how the population went through all the districts.
Taylor Bickford: If I had four hours I could have done that.
Torgerson: Well, maybe we’ll have to give you four hours.
Taylor Bickford: Bob, I was walking you through and you’re looking at the numbers at the end, not at the beginning.
Brody: ARe those end numbers?
Taylor Bickford: yes.
Brody: OK
Torgerson: We’re only looking conceptually at 19 and 20
Taylor Bickford: Only impact is taking SFork and moving it this way.
Brody: Amount in that unclaimed zone - had exactly two districts in that area. Didn’t have to take Basher in.
Taylor Bickford: But only took half. You have to do something with the leftover.
Torgerson: You’re splitting the unclaimed zone? Half went North and the other half is going South and that’s why you’re doing this with SFork.
Taylor Bickford: Only reason why you don’t see the same numbers as this morning is I didn’t have time.
Brody: Not talking about numbers, Just the total.
Torgerson: OK, let’s look at option 2.
White: Can you take all of them and spread them south?
Torgerson: He’s trying to spread 2000 people in 8 districts instead of 5. This is what I was talking about earlier. .57. You have a little room.
Taylor Bickford: You have about 3.5% you’re spreading among these districts - Matsu under 2%, Valdez. . .?
I came along the right side of the highway, seemed logical and exact number of people I needed to move to Matsu. Here you are keeping SFork area that we moved in Option 1, here would stay in ER area. Only thing that changes is boundary between the two ER districts.
District 19 about +4% and 20 split the difference. Advantage = keeping area unified, not taking SFork out, disadvantage = higher deviation - about 2% in ER and a little higher in Anchorage.
Torgerson: If you had more time could you get 19 and 20 down to zero deviation?
Taylor Bickford: No, I guess you could take 22 . . .no that’s on the base.

PeggyAnn McConnochie: Can we see the line in ER where they separate.
Torgerson: Looks the same as it was.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: I like this better than the first one. Basically the two districts. Makes more sense to have the two ER districts together.

Torgerson: Let’s get Bob’s loaded up. Need a break? 15 minutes.



Bob: This is the deadzone. We identified this from the two maps and came up with @ 2400 people. Divided among five Matsu, Valdez, and 2 ER = 200 each. Took 600 people out and built two ER districts. Got these two as slightly under - took 300 more, about 900 total. That leaves about 1500 to spread among the other six.
Left the ER intact as it was. 18 and 19 can be split in half however convenient for ER people. Now it contains the Base and all these people here. Kept the Muldoon border with Anchorage clean, and less than 1%. Original ER district. If we want to split that the way the others did, we could do that.
Then came down with Elmendorf. This is Muldoon, came down here. Others close. Take the roads off?

Worked ourselves into classic corner. We have four hours to do 16 districts.
400 and 300 census districts - hard to tune that district. Scrambling to balance 30-31-32.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: Go back to ER.
Brody: All we have to do is agree how many to move and then we can do all the others.
Torgerson: Can you overlay Taylor’s over this one? All I want to do today is fix the Peters Creek boundary. Then tomorrow we can focus on Anchorage districts.
[He took the opposite half of what Taylor Bickford took from the Chugiak chunk]

Taylor Bickford: Your 12 doesn’t reflect Jim’s 12?
Brody: No, I didn’t have that on my computer.
Torgerson: We made those corrections this morning.
Brody to Eric: Did you import that into my computer?

Taylor’s writing on the board

Now divide that by 17755. comes out to 17 - about 1.09% change. that’s if we take Bob’s. Spreading . Sorry, I can’t keep up with this.

Taylor Bickford : Bob, your 18 and 19 are ideal. I’m not sure how your numbers and the AFFR/MOA numbers can match each other.

Torgerson: It seems we either come down the right or left side of the road. Try that calculation.

Second Version


PeggyAnn McConnochie: The largest city in the state should have the smallest deviation.
Torgerson: You have more options to draw the boundaries to keep it smaller.
Holm: The more people per district, the more diluted your districts. Why?
White: Last time they said urban areas but only dealt with Anchorage. Prior, anything under 10% was ok. but our court said not a safe harbor, especially in urban areas, it should be lower.
Higher % of deviation in Anchorage, the more likely to be attacked.
Taylor Bickford: The trade off was taking ER that way.
Torgerson: That was the trade off because that’s how you drew it. If we move 1400 out, you have tighter deviation by 500 people.
Brody: .6% for Matsu and Valdez. Take a few more people from Matsu and Valdez, we can make them closer.
Torgerson: If we do any more, it stops what you did.
Holm; My question is, counsel can tell us, how do you argue it is more appropriate to do some areas than others. It’s ok to overpopulate Wasilla, but not Anchorage. Over 1% in Wasilla but not Anchorage. How does that make sense?
White: If you drew 1% in Matsu, the fact that Matsu is overpopulated, you are well within your bounds. Matsu is faster growing area. No dispute. actually taking population out.
Holm: This is not Matsu, it’s ER.
White: You’ve taken Anchorage population to Matsu. Carved out for Valdez, that was necessitated by Voting RA, we had to do that to Matsu for that.
Holm: That’s a fine justification. Trying to get my arms around why you’d do that.
Torgerson: You’re only raising the deviation of two districts - I take your word for it - because there is no place to push them off to - military bases and mountains. Spreading them over 16 is easier pill to swallow. Can we spread them over 16.
Taylor Bickford: Yes
Brody: But spreading them, you end up with more awkward ER. Into Muldoon.
Taylor Bickford: Not mutually exclusive. ONly difference they lost 1000 people on South end.
Torgerson: Spending too much time from our issue. Do we want right side or left side of the road.
4:11pm: Recess to get new battery for recorder.

Break: Torgerson: Too many deviations

Back on record:

PeggyAnn McConnochie: Show me the ‘white area’. OK, What is the population of the area you took.
Brody: I took 900 and Taylor took 900. We took the same amount.

Taylor: Bob”s version as 1500 out and my version has 1000.
Torgerson: Bob, do you agree?
Taylor: If you take the bigger number out - 1400 - from Anchorage to Matsu, then on your option, the impact is 1% over in Matsu.
Option 2: If you take 900 out.
2 OPtions:
1. Leave ER whole - don’t remove any ER and combine with other part of Anchorage. Have a 1.5% deviation in two ER and .6% in Matsu
2. Remove a portion of ER - 1000 - that results in 0% deviation in ER. Instead of 1% deviation in Matsu you have a .6% deviation in Matsu.
We’re at this point now because we did a whole process of lets combine an Anchorage/Matsu district. If we go this way and bring Matsu districts up, then what’s our justification.

Torgerson: Third option is leave Matsu and let Anchorage absorb the extras. 2400/16 is close to 1%. My only point is if we raise deviation in Matsu or Anchorage, then we’re back at square one to make Matsu 5 districts.
Brody: We can leave ER as it is and have deviation at 1%. Make a decision - 1% or less.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: or 3rd option, keep the Peter’s Creek option
Brody: That’s defeats what we like about having the two districts in ER. We’ve talked ourself into a box.
Taylor Bickford: Once you’ve crossed that bridge, you taken away the reason that you drew 4.5 districts in Matsu. We could have left Matsu at five. But we wanted to bring the deviations closer by combining a Matsu district with Anchorage. But if we raise the Matsu districts from 0 to 1%, then why are we doing this. Lose our proportionality argument.
Brody: Valdez people need how many people? 4000? If we’re going to make Matsu whole, take the people from Chugiak. Same people going to a different place.
Torgerson: We’re changing the record of why we adopted other districts. Let’s play the tape back then we’ll all know. We’re being careful about proportionality. We have 2400 people. We pushed 4000 into Matsu earlier. We don’t have a .5 deviation. We have .07 if do whole Matsu.
Taylor Bickford: No, higher - ???
Torgerson: Anchorage has 4400 excess.
White: No, 8000.
Torgerson: Really?
Brody: I move we use Peters Creek as our boundary and move people to Matsu, where Peter’s Creek meets the highway.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: You’re saying Peter’s creek boundary, . . . Our plan is the only one that follows PC boundary.
Brody: I want to have it include 1500 people out of ER area . . .
PeggyAnn McConnochie: That’s Chugiak.
Torgerson: Doesn’t adopt a boundary, but takes 1500. We have six people doing maps tonight. As long as they take 1500, it doesn’t matter where. Base in Matsu is 1.09%
Brody: I think you’re wrong only because, the 1500 are already added in. When you add what is excess int hat area, it comes to 1%.
Torgerson: Instead of making it the base, it will be blended. Taylor’s is before us. Spread it in Matsu or spread it in Anchorage. A while ago we said right side or left side. Left side takes more people. Bob’s option.
White: Difficult conceptually to follow. You can’t look at what you like unless you see the complete map drawn Each person draw how they want it and a third person come up with another plan.
Taylor Bickford: Mike, I think the problem, my intention is the boundary. I don’t have a plan in mind that goes with this.
Torgerson: I appreciate you said that. Not trying to get into a district issue.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: I understand, but here’s the thing. I’ve drawn enough maps. It’s not about taking 1500 people and just throw them somewhere.
Torgerson: I understand, Bob knows what I mean.
Holm: The boundary we’ve already established. We’re going to take 1500 people and keep the boundary conceptually at PC.
Torgerson: This whole exercise changes that. Whichever side of the road we take, it’s all this side of PC, so you do change the boundary.
Holm: yes
Brody: We can take the 900 or 1500. Eric can give us the discrete description of what it looks like, but it will give the numbers. I like this because it gives us the 1% everywhere. Maybe .8 or .2??? Everyone can start at the same drawing point.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: I need to know what I need to do, what Anchorage and Matsu looks like. I need to know exactly what the outcome will be. Not five districts, but actually looks like in each district.

Torgerson: Motion to move 1500 people out of ER into D15
Torgerson No, PeggyAnn McConnochie No Greene: No Brody Yes; Holm: Yes

[Lot of long pauses before voting.]

Torgerson: reason I voted no because this ??? doesn’t give us a boundary, just says 1500 people??? not sure if that’s what he said.]

PeggyAnn McConnochie: Taking look at numbers.
Taylor Bickford: Losing a part of ER
Brody: Combines with Muldoon.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: That’s how it is now right?
Taylor Bickford: it’s all in the borough
White: You can do any lines you want as long as it’s compact.
Eric: Boundaries - Knik Arm, Glen Highway, streets on the bottom.
Taylor has: Knik Arm, Glen Highway, PC, Bob connects through a couple streets here, the one taylor showed connects through Parks Creek? Both have fairly identifiable boundaries.
Torgerson: How long will it take to print off a map of that area.
Eric: 10 minutes
Torgerson: it’s 20 minutes to five. Recess until ten to five.

Eric: My Autobound has fallen apart.
Torgerson: No longer webinaring? What does that mean?
Eric: The plan I was working on, I put on hard map and now it won’t let me reopen. We’ll have everything. Bob goes south on Parks Highway - [I’ll post the map]

Anchorage population south of Peters Creek is 286,127/ 16 - 17,886, about 130people over per district.

Brody: I move we retain PC boundary and remove 900 people from Anchorage and put into Matsu area.

Problems with the audio conference, Bob came in.
Holm: Should we wait?
Torgerson: I don’t think it matters.
Holm: for discussion I’ll second.
Brody: The reason we did this
Torgerson walked out. Brody stopped talking
Whole point of our exercise
Torgerson: That you Brian? Hello? Too big an echo. Have them dial back in we’re getting a huge echo. Go ahead Bob.
Brody: We’re all tired and running out of patience. We like the map drawn by MOA and AFFR:
LIA called into for audio stream.
Brody: It treats the people
More interference from phone
Brody: of ER nicely. Keeps two discrete district there. Keeps all our deviations within 1%. If we adopt the PC boundary, we have to take the discrete Anchorage people and stick them in ER. We had a lot of testimony that they don’t like that. We can treat the people of Alaska more fairly to do that.
Torgerson: OK, but you don’t know where the 900 is coming from.
Brody: We seemed to have trouble describing that exactly - inland from Glen Highway up parks creek to voting block border north near Hollow street, east to Little Peter’s creek til it intersects with Peter’s Creek. Is that specific enough.
Torgerson: You wouldn’t take it all the way over
Brody: Amend it to , , ,
Holm: Essentially what Taylor did, right?
Taylor Bickford: So everyone knows what they are voting on. 2% deviation in ER.
Holm: If we don’t how much.
Taylor Bickford: If 900, it will be 1.8%, but if you take that small part to Muldoon, it will go to zero percent. Not trying to make it more difficult, just want people to know. There’s that small trade off taking that chunk out or higher deviation.
White: If you do that, then different options can be drawn in Anchorage. Your motion is to keep the district as they are.
Brody: To keep ER discreet. I think with 1500, we could do it with low deviation, but that was voted down. So now I made it 900.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: more comfortable with 900 or 1000 than 1500. More realistic split than other side.

Torgerson: I don’t understand why the trade off. If leave as it is .07. If we take 900 out, we’re . . . It’s gone from a boundary to a Muldoon issue.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: We can argue, but ER is Anchorage.
Torgerson: It gives us more options. We could spread over Anchorage. Just saying a district we could use. We aren’t adopting an ER plan now.
PAM: We’re just saying this is our intent so we can redraw Matsu and Anchorage.
Torgerson: I’m going to vote yes. We were supposed to have deviation in Matsu of -1%, only reason I’m supporting this because we aren’t setting ER and Muldoon. Should give us better options on redrawing the other 16.

Motion is to: Oh Man - adopt right side of glenn highway parks creek intersecting with little peter’s creek as described.
5-0 yes, board has adopted that description of Northern boundaries of Anchorage. Anything else for tonight? Anything else to show us?
Tonight we can all start drawing Anchorage again. Changing our maps. See where we’re at tomorrow at 10? You’ll be calling in tomorrow? [Holm: Have to meet payroll. Thanks Bob] OK, it’s all about Anchorage at this point. Have to run that 900 people in Matsu.
Adjourn: 5:14, reconvene tomorrow at 10.

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