Monday, January 09, 2012

Redistricting Court Challenge: Plaintiffs Trying To Show Political Gerrymandering

In this portion Senator Paskvan was cross-examined by defense attorney Michael White who was pretty aggressive and with a clear antagonistic tone.  "Are you aware..." is how he started most questions, though he seemed to have been moving around because sometimes he was audible and other times it seemed like he had strayed from the mike.  He was going after Paskvan's characterization of a great difference between representing the City of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough.  When White asked Paskvan if he was aware that the City was actually in the Borough and that Paskvan was, in fact, a resident of the Borough as well as the City, Paskvan sounded genuinely surprised at this idea and said, he'd never considered that, because he always thought of himself as a city boy.  I'd say that while White was emphasizing legal distinctions, Paskvan clearly represented the mental maps that people really have about their identity.

Then Senator Joe Stevens took the stand and the questioning has been along the same lines.

With both Senators (Paskvan earlier, covered in the previous post) there were questions about how the maps were drawn which raised questions about gerrymandering.  Paskvan pointed to the
  1. the splitting up of the City of Fairbanks into two different Senate districts even though there are two adjacent house districts that pretty much make up the city of Fairbanks.  Instead each of those districts (1 and 4) are paired with districts that are mainly outside of the City.  Much of his testimony was about why the city and borough have many competing interests in the legislature and how this splits the loyalty of the representative
  2. Click to enlarge - red circle shows were districts 3&4 touch
  3. how the final map has the two house districts in Senate District B contiguous by what he described as a matter of feet, while the two City districts (1 and 4) were contiguous for miles. 
  4. The fact that two Democratic Senators were paired even though this left an open seat with no incumbents adjacent to them.
  5. That getting rid of just one Democrat would tip the balance of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the state Senate which would result in a Republican majority that would be much more likely to reduce oil taxes - the key issue for the governor.  
Sen. Thomas' testimony was pretty much along the same lines, though he added the fact that in the original proposed redistricting plan, there appeared to be an attempt to move just his house on Summit Drive (I think) out of the district leaving all the other houses in-tact.  He explained that this couldn't have been an accident because his house was the only 800 numbered house in a block of 900s and all the other 800s were somewhere else.

Below are my rough, running notes as I could catch things off the phone.  The Board's attorney, Michael White was hard to hear as he seemed to move in and out of mic range and he also spoke very quickly. 

White (attorney for the Board):  You know that the maps that showed where Fairbanks was came from the Census data and not the Board?  [Paskvan had mentioned that part of the City of Fairbanks had been misidentified on the maps.]

Sen. P:  Yes, but I would have assumed that the Board representative from Fairbanks would have caught this. 

White:  You are aware that Marie Greene was on the board and is a Democrat? And she voted for this.

Sen. P:  I was not aware.

Do you think Brodie was scheming againt you? [Missed stuff here, not sure what his point was, Brodie is a Republican as I understand it.]

Would you agree - hard to understand, not close enough to the mike?

Sen. P:  Not my job to judge.

White:  Would you agree that the city of FB is entirely in the NSFB borough?  Yes
And all residents of FB are also residents of NSRB?  I guess, never thought of that.  Think of myself as a Fairbanks boy?
Aware there is no socioeconomic distinction?  A: There must be consideration of government boundaries.  To the extent that it fractures the city of Fairbanks, it fractures the socioeconomic integration of the city.
White:  You are aware?  that the Borough by law ???
Sen P:  I believe that when people vote to belong as something, they have common beliefs  When the people in NSB voted to create themselves they were identifying as a group.
White:  ARe you aware that by law . . .  A:  People voted [for political subdivision] to say that they were similar.
White:  Mentioned, Paskvans have long illustrious history, you'd agree that Fairbanks is hub for rural Alaskans?  Certainly.
Fairbanks are connected to people around the state?  Yes.
Aware of a bill - you voted for it?   Yes to preserve rural native vote statewide

White seems to be moving around so that he gets away from the mike and it's hard to hear.  Judge jsut asked him to take the Diana Ross microphone.  Still hard.

He's talking in a very aggressive and hostile style.
Sen P:  Concerned that native voice would be drowned out.
White:  Alaska Native community tends to vote Democratic?  Yes.
You have not filed for reelction?  Correct.
You don't intend to file?  Not, I haven't made up my mind.
White:  ????  A:  We've been targeted.
White:  You mentioned Kookesh, Stevens, Stedman.  ARe you aware. . .
Sen P:  I understand that because of population loss in SE Alaska, there would be a need to adjust both Kookesh and Stedman's districts, so the questions discussed was whether that would be a pairing.  Both are in the bi-partisan working group.
White:  Are you aware . . ..??
Sen P:  I don't know, Don't pay attention to those kind of details?
White:  Have you seen the ??plan the plaintiffs are offering?  No
White:  Should you run in district B, you would be able to represent your constituents?   You won't ignore constituents because theya re in the city or borough.
Sen P:  It comes up with issues like annexation when there is a conflict between the City and Borough's interests.  I don't like to use the term ignore, but it raises issues that are conflicted in the ability to represent two conflicting interests fairly  Trying to be allegiant to two entities at the same time.
White:  ????
Sen P:  I said I try to do the best that I could do, but it creates conflicts with how one represents the City's interests while also trying to represent the Borough's interests, where the conclusion one would reach are incompatible.
White: ????
Sen. P:  My testimony, is that it's wrong to put any Sen into a position, that the integrity of the FB city limits should be maintained,
White:???  lots of fast talk, but can't undertand.
Sen P:  Talking about FB my home town.  That's my district.
White:  Kookesh has bigger district and has to balance different interests right?
Sen P:  I assume Sen. Kookesh does what he can do.  I believe he works hard.
White:  As one of 20 Senators in the state, rep your district and ??
Sen P:  yes.
White:  Inerior delegats work together right for best representation, right?
Sen P:  We hear from groups at the same time about the interest of those groups - 7am every other groups, social groups and chamber of commerce, get updates from Interior delegation, as a cohesive entity.
White:  ???
Sen P:  FMATS are capital dollars used on road projects.  There are dollars used outside the city limits of FB as I said earlier.
White:  ???
Sen P:  The logic is there.
White:  One more question.  You agree the areas Ester and Goldstream are Democratic areas of Borough?
Sen P:  Yes.

Wallerie followup?  No

12:04pm Sen. Excused. 

Another witness.  Man with a camera, who are you with?  ????

Joseph James Thomas the 2nd.
Wallerie (attorney for plaintiffs)  What is your district?
Sen Thomas:  District B
Wallerie ??
Sen T:  This yellow area here
Wallerie:  Different districts?  This area here that runs off the map to Cantwell.
How long in legislature?  Elected 2006 and took office in 2007.
Wallerie:  Municipal govts in your district?
Sen T:  No.  FNSB.  In district 8 Healy and Cantwell and Anderson.  Denali Borough
Communities - Two Rivers, Fox, Ester, Goldstream, areas that have a definition.
Wallerie:  What languages spoken?
Sen. T:  Predominantly English.
Judge - we're doing things here that have nothing to do with you, just answer.
Wallerie:  How is the Sen. organized?
Sen T:  You mean the bi-partisan coalition?  Six Republicans and ten Democrats.  Need a certain number to have a majority, people who more or less see eye to eye.
Wallerie:  We'll move along and refere to Sen Paskvan's testimony.
Does it make a difference if you are in the majority or not?
SEn. P:  Refere to a member who is not in the majority talks about me and Paskvan:  These are the guys you need to talk to if you want to get anything done.
Wallerie?  Does it affect committee assginments?
Sen. T:  Absolutely.
Wallerie:  Whats the Bush Caucus?
Sen. T:  Members from the Bush who talk about their issues?
Wallerie:  ARe you a member?  no  Are they all native?  No
Are there issues that might divide the Bush Caucus from the Interior Caucus?  Yes,  But they also work together?  Yes
Wallerie:  Aware of opposition to Sen Coalition?
Sen. T:  Yes.  Mainly related to the oil taxation.  The house passed a bill last session in a few short meetings.  But the senate slowed that down.  We aren't giving back $2 billion without some discussion.  Chamber of Commerce graded us on the oil issue.  Low grades to the Sen. majority and high grades to the minority which has no power and accomplished nothing.  Leaders - Stevens and Stedman - given F's and removed from the Republican party website.  I skated by, somehow, with a C.  Major motivation to changing redistricting that is taking place.
Wallerie:  Here's a map of Fairbanks.
Sen. T:  As relates to me.  The inclusion of this area Chena Hot Springs Road to CH - this was in a different district.  District 7.  Changed drmatically.  38 all the way from the coast all the way to this area.  HD 7 and 8  now ...  changed dramatically.  Now running because of a connection here connecting 3B and 4B and pitting two Democratic Senators pitted against each other.  Good opportunity to eliminate one.
White:  Objections -
Judge:  All your objections raised work here too.
Wallerie:  How many in current senate structure how many Dems (10) and REp(10).
So you couldn't voe on party lines because no majority.
So pairing of senators who happen to be members of the bi-partisan working group.  Get ride of two Dems, then it would be 12-8 and I'm sure the Republicans could organize, and they would pick up a few Democrats from the rural committee.  Have to get to 16 to keep the minority totally out.
Wallerie:  In terms of other Senators in this plan.  The pairing of Kookesh and Stedman.  They are also both in the majority.  Aware of proposal that would have put Stevens and Hoffman together?
Sen. T:  All are indications of what could possibly happen.  SE a potential one more Democrat losing which would tip things.
Wallerie:  Aware of earlier board proposals that would affect your seat?
Sen. T:  Yes.  Went up Summit Drive and around ?? Loop where my house was. No other parts of Summit Drive included.
Wallerie:  How were you aware?
Sen. T:  It was in the newspaper.
Wallerie:  When you saw this article, ...this isn't the current plan?  NO.  What was it about this article that made you concerned about redistricting process.
Sen. T:  The way that people said they didn't know where the incumbants lived, but you would have had to know where I lived.  I'm at 879, the only 800 number on the street.  Apparent done for a particular purpose.  The other houses on Summit Drive were excluded.
Wallerie:  When you heard about this.  Saw the map went to where your house should have been where all the other 800 houses were, the line would have gone straight.  But it had to go this way.  It would have put me in the other district.
What did you do?  What can you do?  I merely laughed and it was more evidence they were trying to change to coalition?
Wallerie:  Were you aware people complained?  And the eleimianted this bump?
Currently where is your house?
Sen. T:  In this area here.
Wallerie:  Connection between house district 3 and 4.  Does that give you any impressions?
Sen. T:  Not sure what you mean.  Now connected city house district with a suburban district?  Competing interests for funding.  City very different.  Competing interests in 106 road districts already among themselves, and they compete with the city.  Different dynamic in terms of types of money you are looking for.
Wallerie:  Fire districts in the borough?
Sen. T:  In mine at least 8.  Ivovled with them?  Oh yeah.  Always checking on what they need.
Wallerie:  How do you work with 106 road districts.?
Sen T:  No way to please all.  Try to get chunk of money for the borough and let them dole it out.
Judge:  12:30  Lunch break, back promptly at 1:30.

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