The board's attorney, Michael White, sounded fairly confident at last Monday's meeting that the case would be consolidated (the two Fairbanks challenges and the Petersburg challenge) and was hoping the trial would be in Anchorage. When I talked to him after the meeting Monday he said he was hoping a decision to move to Anchorage would come before the Friday hearing in Fairbanks. In the memo to the board on the lawsuits he concluded with:
We recently filed a Motion to Consolidate and Change Venue of City of Petersburg, et al. v. State of Alaska, Alaska Redistricting Board, to move the case to Anchorage. The Petersburg plaintiffs do not oppose this motion. Plaintiffs in both Fairbanks cases oppose changing venue to Anchorage. The motion also requests the court consolidate the Fairbanks proceedings with the Petersburg case in Anchorage. We asked for expedited consolidation of this motion requesting a decision by Thursday, July 21. [bold emphasis added]But based on the FNM article, the judge is going to hear the case in Fairbanks in January.
A judge said this morning he’ll consolidate challenges to state redistricting plans and plans to hold a January trial in Fairbanks.
Three parties, including the Fairbanks North Star Borough, are suing over the Alaska Redistricting Board’s map of tentative state House and Senate districts.
Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy met today for the first time with attorneys for all three parties. The state, after any appeals to the Alaska Supreme Court, will need final jurisdictional maps in place by early summer to guide residents interested in running for public office.
Having a Fairbanks jury that understands the neighborhoods involved does mean that the deliberations will be made by well informed jurors which would not be the case in Anchorage. As much as I listened and watched, I simply could not absorb what was said about Fairbanks the way I could about what was said about Anchorage. It's just the way the human brain works.
In fact, only one board member was from Fairbanks (none were from Anchorage).
In the final plan, Ester and Goldstream were still amputated from the rest of Fairbanks and put into a district (38) that stretches out to the Aleutians, creating a district that combines surban Fairbanks residents who live a short drive from shopping malls and the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, to Native villages off the road system, like Hooper Bay, where people use 'honey buckets' instead of sewers. Below is a video tape made by local resident Jacqueline Agnew in 2004 and 2005 showing the how they empty the honey buckets and offering a tour of Hooper Bay.
In the video, she discusses a future water and wastewater system, so I checked online to see if it is complete. I found this state budget item. You can see the yourself it's not scheduled for completion until 2016. And this is a only budget request. Let me check if it was funded.
I checked the FY 2011 budget and the only item listed for Hooper Bay was for Boat Harbor and Barge Loading Reconnaissance for $300,000. The FY 2012 budget doesn't seem to have it either. Just more Boat Harbor funding for Hooper Bay. Since I had a video for Hooper Bay, I decided to see what I could find on Ester. This is audio over slides of the Fourth of July parade in 2009.
I believe that we humans have a lot more in common with other human beings who live in different cultures than we generally think. Surely living in a remote Thai province for two years helped me come to this conclusion. And as I look at the videos, while it is clear that residents of Ester and Hooper Bay live in very different worlds and have very different needs from their legislators, they also have some very human similarities. But the state constitution says the districts should be socio-economically integrated and clearly that is not the case here. The question before the court will be whether there was any way to follow the Voting rights Act which requires keeping the nine Native districts without creating a district that is so clearly in violation of the Alaska Constitution. I guess I should also note that while it appears district 38 is the focus of the Fairbanks' challenges there are other issues and, of course, Petersburg's challenge is totally different.