Sunday, December 05, 2021

What Red Light?

I was on my way home from 80,000 Schnizel at the Bear Tooth.  On La Touche waiting to turn left onto 36th.  It's generally a long light.  I was the second car.  After at least 30 seconds of red light, the car in front of me started to inch forward.  Was he really just going to ignore the light?  I grabbed my phone.  There's no question the driver knew the light was red.  They'd been waiting there for a while. Just didn't feel like waiting any longer I guess.  The phone says I took the pictures at 3:15pm.








It was at least another 30 seconds, maybe more, before the light changed to green.  These are low res pictures because even on my phone the license wasn't legible. It was either really dirty or even a paper dealer's license.  I'd like to think this was someone trying to get to Providence Hospital and decided it was safe to go.  

Once at this intersection, the light had turned green and I was just starting to go, when I realized a car was speeding down 36th from the east and wasn't planning to stop.  

 

Saturday, December 04, 2021

AIFF 2021Lune- Fascinating Film Covering Many Issues

 The Bear Tooth was practically empty today.  The film was huge.  It quickly expanded from a mother/daughter relationship into mental health, race, art, parent/child relations in general, money wealth and love wealth, South African elections, dance, Judaism, Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  I'm sure I'm missing something.  I think a great editor could have trimmed it back a bit - it says it was 113 minutes, but seemed longer.  The actors were outstanding - all of them.  Watching someone off their meds is disturbing, but the actor was so good!

The only thing that bothered me, may not be an issue except my ignorance. The main actor was a white, South African who'd emigrated to Canada.  She sounded a lot more than a woman I know from London than a white South African woman emigrant to the US.  But perhaps whites in South Africa have different accents.  

I want to reiterate that there are quite a few films that will be shown live this week, as well as the whole online array of films.  I know.  We've all gotten comfortable with our various streaming subscriptions and the comfort of staying home to watch.  And it's cold out, etc.  

But seeing the last two films on a big screen was great.  And it's really safe if you're fully vaccinated.  Everyone is masked (except when eating).  They block out the two seats on both sides of your party when you reserve online at the Bear Tooth.  Far more space from others than we just had on the airplane from Seattle.  And the ceiling is much higher than in a plane.  And the food is better.  Though I was disappointed to learn that if you order from the restaurant, they no longer bring it to you.  They treat it like any other to go order.  They text you that it's ready.  Really that's what they said.  They are getting lots of take out orders and it takes up to 45 minutes they say.  But who wants their phone to ping during a movie?  Who wants to get up and leave the movie to pick up their food?  Only the person who was dragged to a movie she hates and would love the excuse to leave.  Otherwise, no one.  

This is a customer service and management inflexibility problem that's easy to fix.  They can text the Bear Tooth Theater food staff and have them pick it up and deliver it.  It's not hard.  

But other than that, pick a couple of films and get yourself out of the house and into a theater.  If you've already bought a pass for the online, still do it.  Yes, it will cost and extra $10 plus service fee, but just do it.  

And now that there are no 'films in competition' it's harder to figure out which ones you want to see.  Even then, there were films I thought were better than the films in competition.  In any case I invite, implore, folks who are watching films at home to share your favorites so others can find them.  Use the Festival's FB page or even leave comments here.  

And with all the trees decorated with ice today, it was worth being out in such a magical natural wonderland.  

OnThese Grounds is playing at 6pm tonight at the Museum

80,000 Schnitzels is playing at 1pm at the Bear Tooth tomorrow (Sunday)

For Ticket Information: www.anchoragefilmfestival.org.  That's really not that helpful.  For the Bear Tooth, go to their site and you can buy tickets online or at the theater.  For the Museum, not sure you can get them online.  Same with  E Street.  Just go.  



Friday, December 03, 2021

Run Raven Run - Roma Musicians Open AIFF2021

 Lots of firsts lately.  First plane ride in almost two years and tonight we were at the Bear Tooth for the first time in two years at the Anchorage International Film Festival Opening.  The Festival is both live and online.  

Masks are required except while eating and drinking and two spaces are left open between your party and the next.  We decided to try it because when I went online to buy your ticket I could see there were mostly empty seats.  

And a pass to the online festival doesn't get you into the theater free, so I'm guessing lots of people are staying home.  But if you're fully vaccinated I'd encourage you to come.  The big screen was a great change.  And while everything seems new and different, it quickly seems like normal again.  The biggest shock was that the Bear Tooth orange cones are a thing of the past.  With reserved seats, the wait staff doesn't have to go looking for your cone.  They have your seat number.  

And there are lots of films that are scheduled live.  And they have printed programs at the Bear Tooth.  Here's a couple of pages so you can see there are live films all week.  Some at the Bear Tooth, the museum, and the E Street Theater.  









The Festival directors and some board members were on stage to greet folks.


Run Raven Run took place mostly in Romania as film maker Michael Rainin takes us into the lives of different Gypsy musical traditions.  We skip around from one family to another with bits of history and geography thrown in.  That probably sounds a bit tedious, but the people in the movie pulled us into their lives and their world view.  Credit has to go to the film maker, but even more so, I'm guessing, to the people who took him into their homes and shared their lives with him.  We went from traditional oriental Gypsy music to violins to rap.  We saw beautiful rural villages and horrible Bucharest slums.  We traveled to Europe from Rajasthan, India.  We encountered Nazi concentration camps, and see Ceaușescu's trip to North Korea and his overthrow.  We even see some American jazz musicians and a great Louis Armstrong imitation.  
Ida Theresa Myklebost, Festival Co-Director
interviews Run Raven Run Director Michael Rainin

The director of the film, Michael Rainin, talked about the film and making it at the end.  Part of the discussion was about the acceptability of using the word Gypsy.  As you might assume by its use here that he felt the people in the film used it and didn't seem to have any objection to its use.  

Go online and check out the long list of films.  Tomorrow Lune plays at 1pm at the Bear Tooth, A family Shorts Program plays at 4pm at the Museum, and A Sexplantion plays at the Museum at 8pm.

Or just watch it all whenever you can online with a festival pass.  Or pay to watch individual films.  

But do try to go to at least one live event.  

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Some First Quick Thoughts On The Matsu Suit Against The Redistricting Board's Plan

Tthe first suit against the Alaska Redistricting Proclamation Plan has been filed.  By Matsu.  Back in September when all the alternative plans came in, there was one from Matsu.  But when I asked about it, the Board's Executive Director told me 

"The one wrinkle that has emerged is that Mat-Su and AFFER’s plans appear to be identical."

I assumed that's why we never saw that map again.  But I can't find it on the Board's map page, so I can't compare.  AFFER is the group that Randy Ruedrich makes maps for - a very Republican leaning group.

Anyway13. According to the 2020 United States census, Alaska had a population of 733,391 residents, an increase of 23,160 residents. The MSB had a population of 107,081, an increase of 18,086 residents, representing 78 percent of the statewide population growth. 

 the Alaska Landmine put up a link to the suit.  

A quick perusal suggests two major grievances:

  1. Getting paired with Valdez in one district
  2. Being overpopulated

AFFER made a big deal about keeping district deviations low.  But as I looked at the suit, I found these statements surprising:

13. According to the 2020 United States census, Alaska had a population of 733,391 residents, an increase of 23,160 residents. The MSB had a population of 107,081, an increase of 18,086 residents, representing 78 percent of the statewide population growth. 

30. Every House District within the MSB (25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30) exceeds the quotient for the ideal House District. Combined, the total overpopulation of the districts is 13.75 percent. This represents the most significant deviation of any geographic area in the State of Alaska as proposed in the Final Plan. 

31. Comparing the MSB to Anchorage, Anchorage has 18 House Districts included in the Final Plan, of those 18 only two are overpopulated, thus the Anchorage House Districts are underpopulated by 10.02 percent. 



They seem to be monkeying around with percentages to make the Matsu grievances seem terrible.

In 13) they tell us that Matsu had 78% of the growth in the state.  OK, so what difference does that make?  That was, in people, not percentages,18,086.  That's about 269 people under one new ideal House  district.  And Matsu got  a new district..  

In 30)  they again play with percentages.  This looks so obvious that I'm wondering if I'm missing something.  You can't add up percentages to get the cumulative percentage.   Lots of people make this kind of mistake apparently.
"The common error is taking the percentages at face value and adding them together to get the overall percentage change."

Each of these percentages represents district deviation / total district population.

So you have to add up the numbers, not the percentages.  First add the number of people over or under the ideal district size for each district.  Then divide that number by the ideal district size (18335) * 6 (districts)..  Then you do the math to get the percentage of the six districts altogether.   

If you add the number of people above the ideal number (18,335) of people per district, it comes to 2520.  
If you divide that 2520 by the whole population of the Matsu's six districts which they tell us is 107,081 (2520/107,081) the Matsu area is over populated by 2.4%, not 13.75%.  I know Randy Ruedrich is smarter than that, so someone else must have done it, or he must think that the judges would be fooled.  No, he's smarter than that too.  So who did the math

I did not go through all the Anchorage districts to add all the numbers, but the same rule of math applies - you can't add the percentages, you have to add the numbers for each district and then divide the sum, by the total ideal population of all the districts.  

But look again.  They say that Anchorage has 18 House seats.  Throughout this process everyone has always said that Anchorage has 16 House seats.  And when I look at the final map of Anchorage I can only count 15 seats, because the 16th, District 24,  is north, off the map.

That's just a quick look.  These are pretty glaring errors that may torpedo this challenge.  

I do think that fact that Matsu altogether is overpopulated is a legitimate issue.  In urban areas, the deviations should really be about 1% or less  But only tiny parts of Matsu could be considered mini-urban areas.  The rest is more rural, so higher deviations are more acceptable because the population is so scattered.

And pairing Valdez with Matsu is also a potential problem. But finding the right place to put Valdez is hard, because you have to keep the deviations down.  

The issue of taking just Cantwell out of the rest of the Denali Borough is also a reasonable complaint.  The Board did this, as I recall, to include it with other Ahtna region villages.  

The argument that some people made at public hearings - that Matsu is the fastest growing part of the state, so it should be underpopulated to allow for growth - goes against the basic rule of redistricting.  That rule is that the numbers you use are the Census data numbers you are given.  Not some future expectation.  Who know for sure that Matsu will continue to grow into the future?  It has grown in the last two decades and may again.  But it may not.  While the suit points out Matsu's large population increase, I didn't see them making this argument.  

I'm waiting for someone to tell me I'm wrong.   These errors seem way too basic.   It would be embarrassing to be wrong about my math when criticizing someone else's math.  But I do acknowledge that possibility.   I must be missing something.  I have a toothache, so maybe it's messing with my mind.  

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Started Day In Bainbridge, Ending In Anchorage




The day began on Bainbridge Island walking my granddaughter to school.  She had on a backpack and a yam (rising tone, like you're asking a question).  That's the Thai name for the shoulder bags you see on the left.  Those are from a blog post in 2008.  I told my granddaughter I'd bought the yam for her mother long ago.  

She said I sounded like I was asking a question and I responded that in Thai each word, actually each syllable has its own tone and yan is rising town.  In English the tone goes with the sentence, so that's why you think it sounds like a question.  When I was studying Thai, at the very beginning, we were just being taught how hear the different tones and then repeat them.  The teacher would say "mea" very flat tone and we would say it adding an English question to the word and changing the tone to a rising tone, which meant dog instead of to come.  

She was quiet for a while and then she said, "Grampa, if Thai words all have tones, how to they make songs?"    She's eight, going on nine.  Good question.  I wonder how much her piano lessons helped trigger that question.  

Then we got a ride to the ferry.  Actually, it was balmy, if cloudy, about 60˚ F.  We'd usually walk, but our daughter offered us a ride.  

I did walk around the deck, but it was very windy.  Here's a picture just as the ferry was leaving Bainbridge.  Downtown Seattle is in the middle, just to the right of the trees.  I thought about it.  Why do we think of the tall cluster of skyscrapers as an image of Seattle.  It's just a tiny fraction of the city.  



COVID and warnings about jammed TSA lines at SEATAC put us into a taxi instead of the train to the airport.  It's really fast that way - about 20 minutes instead of over an hour.  Because of the long lines, they've set up a system where you can make a reservation for a spot in the line.  Ours was for 11:15 (you get 15 minutes period).  Turned out there was no line whatsoever.  And we were in the terminal waiting for our flight.  




I thought this was an interesting sign.  Not sure where they store all the water.  Do they collect it from the roofs of the terminal buildings?  











Our flight was uneventful - the best kind - and were in Anchorage a little early.  We had a great Somali cab driver.  Hope to see him again.  You know, maybe people are afraid of immigrants because they know they are smarter and willing to worker harder than they are.  

And here's the back yard.  


I'll shovel tomorrow.  Nice to be back and to be greeted by much warmer temperatures that we were hearing about.  Our outdoor thermometer says 20˚F.    Didn't feel cold at all.  But we didn't spend that much time outside.  But not the shock that it sometimes can be when it's below 0.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Redistricting: Will The Supreme Court Reject Alaska's Proclamation Because Of Partisan Gerrymandering?

[NOTE:  I'm going to discuss the law in parts of this post.  I'm not an attorney. But I do know that the law is more complicated than it seems.  That you can find a statute in one place, but that there may be exceptions to that law written in other laws.  So, take what I say about the law skeptically.  Take everything I say skeptically.]


IS GERRYMANDERING A VALID LEGAL REASON TO REJECT THE PROCLAMATION PLAN?

When I blogged the 2010 Redistricting Board (you can see the index of that here), the Board's attorney, Michael White, once told me that no redistricting plan had ever been rejected because of partisan gerrymandering.  I'm not sure if he meant just in Alaska or nationally, but I think at the time both were true.  Since that time the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned that state's map in 2018 based on political gerrymandering.

"The Court also adopted and announced a new legal standard for determining whether a map is unconstitutional. According to the opinion, “neutral criteria of compactness, contiguity, minimization of the division of political subdivisions, and maintenance of population equality among congressional districts…provide a ‘floor’ of protection for an individual against the dilution of his or her vote in the creation of such districts.” The Court went on to state that when 'these neutral criteria have been subordinated, in whole or in part, to considerations such as gerrymandering for unfair partisan political advantage, a congressional redistricting plan violates [the Free and Equal Elections Clause] of the Pennsylvania Constitution.'”

I've noted on this blog a couple of times how it was clear that some of those testifying were simply using criteria like compactness and deviation as a cover for what appeared to be more political mapping.  This became clear because people used one criterion in one situation then ignored it to emphasize a different criterion in another situation.  Marcum, for example, early on strongly advocated the idea that every district in Anchorage had been ruled Socio-Economically Integrated (SEI) with every other district in Anchorage.  But when she proposed a map that joined Eagle River with Muldoon and JBER, she argued heavily for the SEI of all the military and retired military in those three places.  

All this is preface to this post.  Those people thinking that the obvious political gerrymandering of Eagle River and Goldstream should be a slam dunk in the Alaska Supreme Court. . . well, no.  

I can't find any language in the Alaska Constitution that bars political gerrymandering.  The US Supreme Court will consider racial gerrymandering, but has rejected political gerrymandering.

"Held: Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Pp. 6–34."

But in this post I'm going to offer a possible way to get politics considered in Alaska's redistricting appeals.

You can read the Alaska Constitution on redistricting here.  It's not long.  But there aren't very many rules about what the Board CANNOT do.  Mostly how they make the House districts and that's basically focused on balancing the ideas of compactness, contiguity, and socio-economic integration.   Federal requirements add being as close to one-person-one vote as possible.  The federal Voting Rights Act has other standards, mostly related to not discriminating based on race.  But the US Supreme Court has invalidated one of the key aspects of the VRA and there's no telling what they will still recognize as valid.  That's why the Democrats' new Voting Rights bills are so important.  


POLITICS IS MENTIONED ONCE WITH REGARD TO REDISTRICTING IN THE ALASKA CONSTITUTION

The closest the Alaska Constitution comes to banning partisanship is this sentence: 

 "Appointments shall be made without regard to political affiliation."

What exactly does that mean?  If you make a decision 'without regard' then you could choose a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or a Green, whatever, so long as . . . what?  You weren't aware of that affiliation?  You didn't take that into consideration?  


HOW CAN WE KNOW IF DUNLEAVY CONSIDERED POLITICAL AFFILIATION?

How do you even know if someone made their appointment with or without regard to political affiliation?  To my knowledge, no one has ever raised this question in a challenge to a redistricting plan.  Actually, the original Alaska Constitution gave redistricting to the governor to take care of.  A 1998 Constitutional Amendment created our current system (pp. 114-115) From what I can tell, in 2000 Gov. Knowles appointed Democrats.  Gov. Parnell chose Republicans in 2010 and Gov. Dunleavy chose Republicans in 2020. The only appointments that have been seemingly free of political consideration have been the made by the Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justices.  But I say 'seemingly" because as judges, they don't officially affiliate with a political party.  

The Speaker of the House (Rep. Bryce Edgemon)  who appointed Nicole Borromeo was officially an Independent.  I don't know Borromeo's affiliation and it hasn't been clear from her actions on the Board.  (Republicans might say that her opposition to the Republican proposals at the end show she was a Democrat, but simply opposing Republicans doesn't make you a Democrat.  Especially when GOP actions appear to be openly pushing political advantage.)  Melanie Bahnke was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Joel Bolger.  (He retired in June 2021, so if this Proclamation is challenged, he won't be sitting in judgment.)  Again, I don't know Bahnke's political affiliation.  It's not mentioned in any of the descriptions or bios I could find online about her or Borromeo.  If they are registered to a Party, it's not that important an aspect of who they are.

On the other hand, Governor Dunleavy appears much more likely to have considered political affiliation: 

1.  Budd Simpson is the husband of Paulette Simpson who has been active in the Juneau and Alaska GOP as an officer, was  State Convention Organizing Chair in 2020.  In 2013 she was described as a powerful party activist who was 'fired' from her position along other Alaska Republican heavyweights like Glenn Clary during an internal party takeover that was short lived.  In 2016 she was named State Republican Party State Finance Chair by Tuckerman Babcock when Randy Ruedrich stepped down as State Party chair.  Paulette doesn't show up on the current Alaska GOP list of officers, but she donates significantly to the party still.  But, you say, Dunleavy appointed Budd, not Paulette.  Good point.  There are married couples with spouses of different parties. But it's not that common.  And Budd Simpson did split another $500 in contributions to Dan Sullivan and Don Young in 2020.  So he does have some skin in the GOP game too.  
2.  Bethany Marcum is the Executive Director of the Koch backed Libertarian oriented Alaska Policy Forum. The Forum's mission and goals are to cut back government as much as they can.  Exactly what Governor Dunleavy wants to do.  The best way to do that in Alaska would be to elect the most conservative Republicans they can find.  What better position for Marcum than to be on the Redistricting Board where she can influence who gets elected to the Alaska legislature for the next ten years?  Did I mention she was on Dunleavy's staff when he was a Senator?  Here's a bio of Marcum attached to an essay at Constituting America:
"Bethany Marcum has made Alaska her home for over 20 years. She currently works as Executive Director of the Alaska Policy Forum. She also serves as a citizen airman in the Alaska Air National Guard. She worked as legislative staff for State Senator Mike Dunleavy from 2013 to 2017. She is currently the Alaska Republican Party Region V Representative and has held a variety of other positions at the district and state level. She is a former president, long-time board member and life member of the Alaska Chapter of Safari Club International and is a life member of the NRA. She serves in her church with the children’s ministry and is a volunteer “big” with Big Brother Big Sisters of Alaska. She and her husband Conley enjoy hunting together." [this was undated]

3.  The third Republican on the Board is former state senator and representative John Binkley.  He was appointed by then Senate President Cathy Giessel.  I had thought he'd be more independent because Giessel had become a moderate Republican (or rather she stayed the same but by comparison to the governor seemed moderate).  Her district had been stretched from the Anchorage hillside to Nikiski in the last redistricting.  She hadn't appreciated that.  National Republicans helped Dunleavy purge the state House of moderate Republicans in 2020 and also had her term shortened to two years twice.  In the last election she lost her primary (as did John Coghill) to further-to-the-right Republicans.  So one could hold out some hope that Binkley wasn't so tightly bound to Dunleavy.  But then Binkley chaired the campaign against Dunleavy's recall.  So there was also loyalty to Dunleavy on his part.   

Both Dunleavy selections would appear to have been made with consideration of 'political affiliation.'  These weren't just folks who happened to be registered as Republicans. In the case of Marcum it's someone he's worked closely with, whose day job is to reach goals (no taxes, shrinking government) that would be easier to reach if conservative Republicans control the legislature.  
Budd Simpson isn't quite as ideologically ideal, but he does have close ties to the Republican Party.  He's more than just a random Republican registered voter. One could counter that Dunleavy only knows Republicans, or only trusts them, but that's a failing on his part.  The governor should serve all Alaskans, not just the Republicans. He should have good relationships with honest, well-intended people who aren't Republicans.  I'm sure folks in Juneau can fill in more on Simpson's background.  


CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

But how does one prove intent? We have to gather circumstantial evidence.  Again, I'm not a lawyer, so I have to look up a lot of definitions of circumstantial evidence to make sure that they all pretty much say the same thing. This comes from a New York Courts website.  What I first got was a document about circumstantial evidence, but there was no identification on the document itself.  By playing with the url, I was able to find this page which links to the document.  It's sort of a catalogue of jury instructions that New York judges can use.  You can scroll down to circumstantial evidence, or just go directly to it here.
"Circumstantial evidence is direct evidence of a fact from which a person may reasonably infer the existence or non- existence of another fact. A person's guilt of a charged crime may be proven by circumstantial evidence, if that evidence, while not directly establishing guilt, gives rise to an inference of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.3"
There's a lot more at the link, but the take-away is that circumstantial can be used to show what wasn't, or cannot be, observed directly.  Like Dunleavy's intent when selection appointees to the Alaska Redistricting Board.


CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE OF PARTISANSHIP

1.   DUNLEAVY STRONGLY FAVORS HIS APPOINTMENTS TO BE LOYAL TO HIM AND TO HIS GOALS

When Dunleavy first came to office his chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock, required 1,200 non-politically appointed state employees to sign loyalty oaths or be fired.   That was in 2019. In 2021 a Federal judge rule that illegal and that the governor could be personally liable.  
"The decision by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick Friday is a major defeat for Dunleavy and Babcock, who could be personally liable for their actions.  The judge refused to go along with the claim of “qualified immunity” because Dunleavy and Babcock should have known they were violating the rights of employees."

Why is this relevant here?

  1. The original loyalty oath business suggests that Dunleavy does not like having employees who he doesn't know are loyal to him and his program.  While that's true of most elected officials, this is extreme.  Most assume that professionals will do their job professionally.
  2. The governor was willing to try to do something that the judge said he should have known was wrong. 
  3. If Dunleavy was willing to try to impose a loyalty test on state employees despite that being clearly illegal, it's reasonable to believe that choosing highly partisan Board members, despite the constitution prohibiting selection based on political affiliation, would come naturally to the governor.
  4. Tuckerman Babcock is extremely partisan and was the chair of the Alaska Republican Party from 2016-2018.  He resigned as chair the same day Governor elect  Dunleavy appointed him chief of staff/.  He's also been involved heavily in redistricting.  He even wrote a book chapter on redistricting.
  5. It's not a stretch to assume that Dunleavy chose Marcum and Simpson precisely because they were Republican loyalists who would carry out his political wishes.  

OK, up to this point we have 
  1. the highly partisan nature of the Marcum pick, and
  2. the less glaring but still partisan choice of Simpson, and
  3. Dunleavy's attempt to get state employees to sign loyalty oaths, which supports the idea that he's hardly likely to select someone who won't do his bidding.  

2.  BUT WHAT DID DUNLEAVY WANT?  A SUPPORTIVE LEGISLATURE

Although Republicans make up a majority of both the state House and Senate, the Republicans are not all united with Dunleavy.  Some House Republicans have joined a coalition with Democrats.  The Senate Republicans are divided as well and block or alter Dunleavy's proposals.  

What the Governor wants is a Republican majority in both houses that is loyal to the Governor and passes his budget, PFD proposals, and other initiatives.  Not only does he want to weaken Democrats, but he's frustrated with Republicans who don't support him on everything.  The state GOP successfully eliminated two long time Senators,  conservative Republican senators with even more conservative, Dunleavy-loyal Republicans in the primary.  They did the same to less than 'loyal' Republicans in the House..

What better opportunity to advance loyal Republicans and weaken Democrats than to have loyal supporters work toward that end on the Redistricting Board?  


WHAT DID HIS APPOINTEES DELIVER FOR DUNLEAVY? 

A.  In the first round of map making, Bethany Marcum made Anchorage maps that paired a number of Democrats into the same house districts.  Meanwhile Simpson managed a protrusion that slipped one Democratic representative into the district of another.  While he has protested it was accidental, no one has explained how he did it accidentally except to talk about the oddities of Census blocks in general.  And it managed to get repaired without doing harm to the Census blocks. It appeared that they got assistance in developing those maps, because the Boards' official software purposely did not contain any political data.  After the strong protests against the political nature of the Board's v1 map, I suggested in public testimony, that Board members should publicly report any contact outside the Board - besides public testimony - they had to help with mapping.  Later, both Borromeo and Bahnke stated publicly at Board meetings that they'd had no outside contact.  None of the GOP-appointed Board members made such statements.  

B.  After the public hearing tour, Bethany Marcum made a map of Anchorage that had house districts that included Muldoon and Eagle River and other pairings that the public testimony had strongly opposed.  Districts that would add strong Republican populations that would dilute the Democratic East Anchorage voters.  Even Budd Simpson voted no, saying the public testimony had swayed him.  The Eagle River House districts stayed in Eagle River by a 3-2 vote.  Only Binkley joined Marcum to support her map.

C.  Senate Pairings.  At what seemed like the very last minute - Board member Bahnke said she was taken by complete surprise - Board member Bethany Marcum presented a map of Anchorage senate pairings which linked the two Eagle River house districts, NOT with each other, but one with South Muldoon (about 10 miles away by road through one or two other districts) and the other with JBER, Government Hill, and parts of downtown Anchorage.  This was after all the testimony opposed to such linkings.  An alternative map was rejected 3-2.  Marcum's map was passed 3-2.  There was minimal debate.  
Although Simpson had opposed those connections in the House districts, he voted, with little or no comment in favor of Marcum's map.  Others have spoken at length about how this gives ER two Senate seats and is an example of cracking much more diverse districts and favors GOP candidates. 
If the GOP-appointed members had had a good non-partisan, non- gerrymandering reason for these Senate pairings, they didn't tell anyone.  They did emphasize how important military socio-economic links tied these areas together.  I've pointed out in this Nov 9 post that the military are among the most favored subgroups already in Alaska, with 20% of the Senators fitting in that category.  I'd also note that Marcum had previously argued strongly that social-economic integration was irrelevant when pairing other Anchorage House seats because the Courts had rule every neighborhood in Anchorage was socially-economically integrated with every other district.  Now SEI was her only argument for the Eagle River pairings.  

After this was over I asked Budd Simpson, 
Me:  "Since you cited the public testimony for keeping Eagle River separate from Muldoon when you voted for the House districts (he voted, to everyone's surprise, against the Marcum plan), what changed that cause you to vote for pairing ER with Muldoon in the Senate pairings?"
Simpson:  "I don't talk to bloggers."
Me:  explaining more of my background and redistricting blogging history and asking again
Simpson:  "You can ask all you want, I'm not going to answer."
This only makes sense if he doesn't have a good reason.  He's an attorney.  He should be good at articulating his argument.  My guess is that after his unexpected vote on the Anchorage House map, he'd been taken to the woodshed by his wife, the governor, and other GOP officials and was reminded why he was appointed to this Board.  Sure, this is speculation, but I haven't heard any better explanations.  I would say that his silence forces others to fill in the void.  

D.  Allocation of Senate Terms To Alternating Cycles

I wrote about this in detail here.  Basically, after a fairly brief discussion, and after rejecting the option of flipping a coin to decide whether to start with seat A or seat T, the GOP-appointed Board members all voted for Bethany Marcum's Allocation plan with the other two Board members opposed.  Why wouldn't the three flip a coin to, as Nicole Borromeo proposed,  "to avoid any appearance of partisanship?"  Because, the outcome was punishment for moderate Republican Senators and reward for those loyal to Governor Dunleavy. Something they didn't want to say out loud.  The chart is pretty clear in the outcome.  In the follow-up post, I showed that the motion itself was hardly a plan.  Marcum once stated her 'motion' as   "I propose we go in simple numerical logical order, starting with A 2 years 4 years 2 years cycle like that.??  Is that how we say it Peter? 2 years 4 years 2022, 2024?"  The second time it wasn't even a complete sentence: "2022, 2024, 2026 something like that" in violation of all standards for making official motions. This wasn't a high school government motion on the theme of the prom.  This would affect the Alaska legislature for ten years.   It would appear Board members didn't even know the details of what the motion would do.  But that is grounds for a different challenge to the motion.  The point here, is that Dunleavy's appointees carried out exactly what he wanted them to do:  Support those Republicans in the Senate who stayed loyal to him and punish those who didn't go along with all his proposals.  

I mention it here only because it strongly supports the idea that the plan came from others, and because it so carefully and so successfully targeted seats for punishment or no punishment, that someone like Randy Ruedrich or Tuckerman Babcock with years of redistricting experience likely would have been involved.  And that these are examples that taken all together show a pattern of partisan appointees doing what they were appointed to do.  

SUMMARY

1.  The Alaska Constitution says that people should be appointed to the Alaska Redistricting Board "without regard to political affiliation."

2.  Governor Dunleavy's appointees were not simply Republicans.  One had been active as an officer in the party and was the executive director of an organization whose job is to pass anti-government legislation.  The other is the husband of a woman very active in the Alaska Republican Party, and, Budd Simpson himself  had contributed $500 to GOP candidates in 2020, the year he was appointed.    His wife contributed over $1000 to the Party that year.  This is the Party that has already supported the far-right, Trump supported US Senate candidate over our sitting Republican US Senator Lisa Murkowski. 

3.  It is hard to imagine Gov. Dunleavy would have made his appointments "without regard to political affiliation."  Why?  Because this is the governor who on taking office sent letters to 1200 career employees requiring them to sign letters pledging loyalty to his policies or be fired.  Since then the judge has found this not only illegal, but so illegal that he may hold the governor personally liable.  That's not the kind of man who would choose people for a Board that will help determine the political makeup of the Alaska legislature for the next ten years, without considering their political affiliation and loyalty to his policies.  

4.  In various actions - early Anchorage maps, later Anchorage maps, Senate pairings, and Allocation of Senate Terms - his two appointees made decisions that harmed Democrats and 'disloyal Republicans' and favored Republicans who had been loyal to the Governor. Only once did Simpson vote contrary to Dunleavy's wishes, but he quickly toed the line after that.  

5.  Not one of these points by itself is overwhelming proof, but taken altogether, they show a pattern of partisanship starting with the appointments and ending with various actions aimed at weakening Democrats and moderate Republicans.  


CONCLUSIONS

Dunleavy appointed two Board members who delivered on his objectives - to make maps and allocate the Senate seats in a way that would favor candidates  more supportive of the governor's policies.  

From what I can tell, every governor, since the constitution was amended to create a Redistricting Board up to now, has appointed people of their own party.

The requirement to NOT consider political affiliation when choosing is clearly not being followed.  I suspect the Supreme Court has not ruled on this because no one has specifically brought it up in suits against redistricting plans.  However, given the clear line from Dunleavy's appointments to specific partisan outcomes, it's apparent to me that his appointments not only considered political affiliation, but also commitment to fulfill the Governor's interests in redistricting.  

If any of the possible lawsuits against this year's Proclamation raises this point and the evidence I've presented here and if the Court fails to act on it, then the Court would be effectively saying that the clause that prohibits considering political affiliation when selecting Board members is meaningless or unenforceable.  

What might the court do?  I suspect that depends on what the attorneys ask of the court.  Here are two options.
  1. At one extreme, the Court could invalidate Dunleavy's choices and order him to choose two new members.  This would not only be very disruptive to the redistricting process, but the Governor could simply pick two more Republicans and then what?
  2. The Court could instead invalidate the most partisan results of the Proclamation Plan and order the Board to make appropriate changes.  This would include at least the Eagle River Senate pairings and the Allocation of Senate Terms.  This would neutralize the partisanship of the original appointments without dismantling all the other work that was done by the Board.  And it would send a message to future governors (and Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House, and even Supreme Court Chief Justices) that if they make partisan choices that result in partisan gerrymandering of the new redistricting plan, those parts of the plan will be invalidated.  It might not change what governors do, but it would set a precedent that the Courts will reverse partisan plans.  And they can do this because the Constitution requires that Board picks be made without regard to political affiliation.  Which implies the Board is not supposed to make politically partisan plans.  

FINAL NOTE:  I've focused on the Eagle River Senate pairings because they seem the most egregious acts of partisanship and because I know the Anchorage area much better than I know the rest of the state.  I know that the residents of Goldstream strongly protested first their being carved out of Fairbanks and into a much larger district, and then their Senate pairing.  But most of that seems to have been done by John Binkley, not a Dunleavy appointee.  Other areas of the state may also have grievances that I'm less sensitive to.  I apologize.  Just focusing on the Anchorage area was a huge task.  Others can make their own cases better than I can.  




AIFF 2021: Picking Films By Image And Description

In previous years, by this time (a few days before the Anchorage International Film Festival begins) I would have made lists of films in competition for various categories with descriptions of the films and trailers.  I would have had email communication with some of the film makers, and possibly even done a Skype interview or two.  

But beginning last year all films are in competition.  They haven't preselected 'the best' five or seven in a category.  That's good for most film makers, but more work for film festival bloggers.  That leaves getting tips from people who have screened the films or doing a lot more work than I've had time to do while I'm still deep in redistricting details.  

But the Festival starts Friday and I had to do something.  Since I've bought my online pass, I can peruse what's there.  (You think you can do that without a pass, I'm not sure. Try from their FB page. You should be able to.)  So I've picked a few films from different categories that caught my eye.  Film should have beautiful visuals, so I picked some that I thought were visually striking.  Where someone picked  a beautiful image as the still shot to represent the film.  Or at least an interesting shot.  

But the first one was just different. Made me stop and imagine, how would I try to do this?  

This is a perspective I would have least expected.


The light and dark of this image made it the most striking of the films I perused.  



Another striking image.  

Not a mummy story.  


This seemed like an unlikely story, but then I realized that making me think that was the point of the blurb.  But why shouldn't an Alaska Native play on the USA Rugby Team?  Is the real story that she made it to the rugby team or the close ties of family?  We'll see at the festival.


This was just such an odd combination of people, clothing, and stuff.  







Another striking and curious image.

And not the story line I would have imagined for the picture.  





Again, the image caught my attention here. 


There are lots and lots of interesting looking films from different parts of the world.  There will be very limited seats at the Bear Tooth opening night (to keep people distanced) and tickets go on sail December 1, 2021.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

There Are Still Flowers Here South Of Canada

After what seems like a week of grey and rain, the sun came out this afternoon and it felt warm.  I'm guessing low 60s.  

Some pictures while picking up my granddaughter from school this afternoon.  I got the sun behind a branch of this tree before taking the picture.


Flowers are still blooming on Bainbridge Island.  Wednesday we head back home for the Anchorage International Film Festival which starts Friday.  I'm afraid I'm not giving the festival the attention it deserves this year, but redistricting posts are taking up all my blogging energy right now. I'm working on a third one that looks at how the court might consider gerrymandering.  It should be ready in a day or two.  Meanwhile I'm enjoying the flowers and the bushes and trees that still have green leaves.







Friday, November 26, 2021

Redistricting Board Allocation of Terms: "2022, 2024, 2026 ?? Something like that"

This post is a followup to a previous post on the impact of the Alaska Redistricting Board's decision on allocating senate terms to staggered cycles (it favored Dunleavy loyalists and punished GOP who worked with Democrats.).  This post looks at the vague and sloppy motion that passed to make it happen.  


KEY POINTS IN THIS POST

  1. The motion to Allocate Senate Terms was so sloppy and so vague that it's impossible for anyone implementing it to not make their own assumptions about what it means.  The member who made the motion never really articulated how it was supposed to work.  No one seems to have written it down.  The chair didn't really repeat the motion - such that it was - before the vote.  This seems to violate basic procedures required of Boards and Commissions to have  the most basic standards of documentation when making public decisions.  Every legislative bill has to be clearly spelled out and written down.  The Redistricting Board's decisions are arguably far more impactful than most legislation passed in the Alaska Legislature and should be handled with the same care.  What the Proclamation itself and the Proclamation Report show are neat sets of 2022 and 2024 senate seats, but this doesn't at all reflect what is really scheduled - that 19 of the senate seats will run in 2022.  
  2. It would appear that the staff had spoken off the record with the people who made the motion. Whether it was just when the Board was not on public record or in Executive Session is not clear.  In any case, this also raises questions about what was actually considered during the lengthy Executive Sessions prior to the board's voting on an Allocation Plan, and whether the Board's use of Executive Session was in violation of the statutes on Executive Session.  The session was supposed to be about the VRA (Voting Rights Act) and how the Eagle River pairings might be affected, so it shouldn't have spilled over into Allocation of Terms.  But how did staff know how to interpret the motion?  Why did Marcum ask the Executive Director, while making the motion,  "Is that how we say it, Peter?"
  3. The Alaska Constitution says senators serve four year terms. Because truncation messes the required staggered terms, redistricting boards have resorted to assigning two year terms to get the cycle back in order.  But this should be rare.  In this round two senators were given TWO, two year terms.   The Board shouldn't have the power to make a senator have two, two year terms if there is an available option to avoid that.  The Executive Director clearly said they can't extend the term to six years.  Then why can they cut it down to two years, twice, in some cases?  When there are two two year terms for one or more senator, the board should be required to make adjustments to avoid this.

INTRODUCTION

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm struggling to keep my head above the details of the last couple of days the Redistricting Board process.  Up to the last week or so, I'd say the Board was run well.  Things were mostly transparent, there was plenty of opportunity for public input, the meetings were accessible often via video conferencing and always by phone, and the Board has posted video of meetings and all the public testimony.  The last three days leading to the Proclamation, though, things fell apart.  The three GOP-appointed members stopped engaging in meaningful discussion with the other two members (except on Truncation which didn't have any apparent serious political implications.)

I've been trying to write posts that give readers not only the facts, but the context of the facts.  But in order to get something posted, I find I have to focus very narrowly here so that all the details aren't  overwhelming.  There are plenty of previous posts to get some context.  They are indexed on a tab above, under the blog banner.

My criterion now for narrowing my focus is: would this possibly make a difference when there are court challenges to the Board's Proclamation Plan?  That's the arena where the rest of this process will be played out.  Everything else, at this point, seems moot.  Later there may be time to reflect on what the 2030 board should learn from this board - both to copy and to avoid.  

In this post, I'm focusing on the motion to allocate senate seats to alternating terms.  The state constitution requires ten seats must run in one election year and the other ten the next election year.  This intended result, as I understand it, is that at least half of the Senate has some experience.  One of the Board's duties is to allocate the seats to these staggered terms. 

A previous post AK Redistricting Board GOP Members Use Allocation To Punish Moderate Republicans showed the partisan outcome of this process and gave some basic background information for readers.  For readers who haven't seen that post, I'd recommend it strongly so you understand why this is important.

Why might the Board's decision making process make a difference in court?  Like all decision making public bodies, the Board is required to follow basic procedures of documentation when passing motions. The public should understand what the motion is and how it will be carried out.  I'm arguing in this post that the motion that passed 3-2 at the November 9, 2021 Board meeting did not meet that standard.  It was sloppy, vague, and even the person who proposed the motion didn't clearly understand her motion.  With such a motion, the staff is left to interpret it their own way.  I think the staff did the best they could, but they had a motion that really, on its own, was extremely vague.  If the staff 'knew' what it meant, it wasn't because of the motion; it was because the staff already had an idea of how this was supposed to work, or because of discussions that were held outside of public view.  And let me emphasize that all my dealings with the staff were good - they were very responsive and helpful and forthcoming.  But they serve the Board members.


THE PROCESS AND MOTION FOR DECIDING ON ALLOCATION OF SENATE TERMS

I want to start here by offering you my transcript of the motion to allocate senate terms to election year cycles.  [The words on the tape aren't always easy to hear. People are wearing masks, don't have individual mics, etc. ?? indicates something was said but I didn't catch it. Mostly those don't seem to be important to the overall text.  I think this fairly represents what was said.  You can watch and listen to the tape yourself here. I'd note the timing numbers on the video are not always exactly the same.]

[5:12:04]

Binkley: Bethany did you have a motion?

Marcum:  I propose we go in simple numerical logical order, starting with A 2 years 4 years 2 years cycle like that.??  Is that how we say it Peter? 2 years 4 years 2022, 2024?  I

Binkley:  So it would be 2022

Marcum:  The cycles do not work??  The link to the cycle ???

Binkley:  It’s the year. . .

Torkelson:  It’s the year in which the election was held.

Marcum:  2022  2024  2026  ??? something like that.

Binkley:  Does everybody understand the motion, Uh, is there a second?

Simpson:  I’ll second it.

5:10:57 Binkley:  Is there discussion on the motion?  Does everybody understand the motion? Is there any objection to the motion?

Bahnke and Borromeo?? I object

Binkley:  All those in favor of the motion?

Ayes.

Binkley: All those opposed same sign.

Ayes.

Binkley:  Looks like two opposed, three in favor.  The motion passed.  Peter, what’s our next task?


Do you - the reader - understand the motion?  And what exactly it tells the staff to do in terms of allocating seats to one cycle or the other?  What does "A 2 years, 4 years 2 year cycles, something like that" mean?  That seat A serves for two years and seat B serves for four years?  All Senate seats are supposed to be four year terms.  Because the truncation likely will interrupt that ten/ten alternating cycle, some seats may end up with a two year term, but they aren't assigning seats to two and four year seats.  They are assigning seats to years to start their cycle.  

Even the motion maker - Bethany Marcum - isn't sure.  She says, "Is that how we say it, Peter?" [Peter Torkelson is the Executive Director of the Board - the staff person in charge of overseeing everything the Board needs done.]  Then she says: "2022, 2024, 2026 ??? Something like that."

"Something like that" doesn't make for a very clear motion.  Not a motion that's acceptable for a Board with as impactful a mission as this one has  No one seemed to write the motion down.  The chair doesn't restate the motion.  

One of the problems here is that 19 of the 20 seats are up for election in 2022, so how can the cycle begin in 2022?  To maintain staggered seats, some will have to run again in 2024 and others in 2026.  

Here's what the staff wrote about this in the Proclamation Report (p.7):

"The Board then considered setting Senate term allocations and adopted a pattern of alternating election terms for the coming decade.  Seats A,C, E, G, I, K, M, O, Q, S standing for election in 2022/2026/2030 and Seats B,D,F, H, J, L, N.P, R, and T standing for election in 2024/2028/2032 in keeping with Alaska’s constitutional requirement for alternating 4 year Senate terms.”

But this isn't quite right, because every seat except T under this plan will stand for election in 2022.  What the Board has actually done is start the allocation of terms process in 2024.  Nine of the ten seats listed as starting in 2024 are actually scheduled to run in 2022.  The actual plan doesn't seem to follow the motion, but then, the motion would be hard to follow the way it was stated.

The Proclamation itself tells us which seats were truncated, but does explain what that means.

Second, that the terms of Senate incumbents – B, D, F, H, J, and N under the 2013 Redistricting Proclamation labeling system be truncated because those Senate Districts have been substantially changed by this Redistricting Proclamation, and that the term of the incumbent of Senate District T, not be truncated because that Senate District is substantially unchanged; and
Page 1 of 2
  Then on the next page we have this chart that shows the cycles.



This chart implies that all those running in 2022 run again in 2026.  Not true.  This chart misses the fact that all the seats but seat T in the right hand column run for election in 2022.  

The allocations should have been for years 2024 and 2026.  That's when the differences between seats actually matter.  This list doesn't reflect what's actually happening.  

But no one ever said this. What they DID talk about was: “running in 2022 or 2024”;  “two year terms or four year terms”; “alternating years starting at Seat A or Seat T”; and  "avoiding appearance of partisanship by flipping a coin to determine if they would start at Seat A or Seat B."   

But they didn’t talk about when those terms would begin.  At one point in the excerpt, Peter Torkelson says, " It’s the year in which the election was held."  Why does he use the past tense?  That makes sense if he's talking about the last time the seat was up for election - 2018 or 2020 - but no one ever talked about that in regard to this motion.  

The lack of understanding of how exactly this was going to be carried out was made clear by Budd Simpson when he asked if the Board could extend a term to six years.  He asked this about a previous motion made by Borromeo to alternate terms starting with 2024 for seat A. [As opposed to Marcum's later successful motion starting with 2022 (or 2-year) starting for seat A.]  He was pretty sure the Board couldn't extend terms, but the question shows he didn't understand how this process was going to be carried out.  Or it was just his way to objecting to Borromeo's proposal.
"Nicole:  The motion on the floor is that we start with A and that is on the 2024 cycle.  

Binkley:  OK, the motion before us is:  We start with A on the 2024 motion [sic].  All those in favor of the motion say Aye. All those opposed
Simpson: ???? That seat is currently on the 2022 cycle…..So that would be??   It’s already on the 2022.  That is somehow it is extending that seat.  It’s already on the 22.  
Binkley:  We don’t know? what the rotation is
Simpson: There’s kind of a 50/50 chance.  I’m just saying that that seat is currently on the 2022 cycle and I don’t think we have the power to extend it to the 24 cycle. That kind of throws [5:09:40] everything off doesn’t it?

There are a number of problems here.  The first one, that he knows who is in Seat A, causes Melanie Bahnke to ask about what information he and Binkley had that she didn't have because she doesn't know who is in that seat.  It also is in direct conflict with what he has said previously in the discussion, that he doesn't know who anyone on the list is.  

But if it is true that a seat, who's term is up in 2022, would be extended to six years for Borromeo's motion (to start with Seat A and assign that to 2024), then it would be true for some other seats in Marcum's plan, soon to be approved, which starts with seat A with (and it's not clear because she said both 2-4-2- years and 2022-2024. ) 

But as I check again the 2021 Senate Term Allocation Table, Seat A's previous election is listed as 2020, so the term was actually up in 2024 anyway.  So Simpson was wrong.  (The Term Allocation Table hadn't been prepared yet, so Simpson wasn't consulting it.) So it was used as an argument against Borromeo's motion, but it wasn't true.  So it would have been useful if Bahnke could have seen, as she requested, what he was referring to, in order to verify what he was saying.

There are a number of issues here, but my point is that he didn't understand how the allocations in Borromeo's motion would be carried out if he thought one or more seats might be extended to six year terms by the process. (He rightly didn't think they could extend a term to six years.) He didn't understand that 19 seats would be up for reelection in 2022 and that the allocation of terms would really begin with 2024 and 2026, not 2022 and 2024.  (I'd note that at that point Board members didn't know that 19 seats would be up for election in 2022, because the Allocation of Terms process itself would add some more to the list.  But there had to be at least ten running in 2022 based on the old rotation cycles, plus they added some more through Truncation.)

The Point?  That the Board members really didn't understand the motion and how this was going to play out when it was implemented.  I'm convinced as I've said in the previous post on this, that the GOP-appointed members had been given an assignment to pass a certain package.  They didn't quite grasp all the implications, only that they needed to pass it.  

They did not really understand the motion.  And if they didn't, how could the public? 

So, just how did the staff members figure out how to carry out the motion?  Was it discussed during the Executive Session?  Probably not - it was too off topic even for them.  During a break in the Executive Session?  Possibly.  But probably during the work session or another break.  Just not on the record.  


WHY IS NOT KNOWING WHAT THE MOTION IS, A PROBLEM?


Because every governmental body that makes official decisions is required to use standard procedures, whether Robert's Rules of Order or a similar set of rules so that all decisions made are clear, unambiguous, and understandable.  

Here's a link to guidelines for Alaska State Boards and Commissions - for ethics and for open meetings.  I'm sure there are other sources of guidance for Boards.  The last pages of that document is titled:  

Handout 4- Ground Rules for Good Meetings 

Ground Rules for Successful Meetings

One ground rule that is directly relevant to the motion for Allocating Terms is number 4:

  1. "4)  Re-state the motion and clarify amendments. This is a simple way for the Chair to be sure that everyone on the team is on the same page as you move through the process. It also gives support staff the opportunity to clarify the language or intent if needed. As a member of the board/commission, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you are unsure."

Another section reminds Board members:

"Most important, the consistent use of Robert’s Rules by the appointed members of Alaska’s boards and commissions builds the public’s trust and reflects positively on all involved."

[UPDATED Nov. 26, 2021 7:38pm - From Robert's Rules of Order for Dummies:

The member states the motion.

Offer your motion concisely (and with only minimal advance comment, if any at all) by saying, “Mr. Chairman, I move that. . . .”

"For all but the simplest original main motions, write out the motion ahead of time and be prepared to immediately submit the written motion to the chair or the secretary after making the motion. "

This was hardly the simplest of motions.] 

This is a fundamental given of all meetings where decisions that affect people are made.  John Binkley served in both the State House and State Senate. Phrases like "Is there a motion?" or "All opposed?" slip easily off his tongue.  So should clarifying the motion.  The state legislature has very precise rules for the wording of bills (p.17), for instance.  He did ask Board members if they understood the motion, but that's not enough.  This was a very flakey motion.  "Is that how we say it Peter?" and "2022  2024  2026  ??? something like that."  Even the person making the motion couldn't state the motion.  

But no one, not those favoring the motion, nor those opposing it, actually pointed out how vague and confused the motion was.  I suspect, perhaps, that different Board members thought they understood the motion, and those understandings were not the same.  

In fact, I suspect that, right after the motion was passed, the Board members had been asked, separately, to write down the motion, they all would have written down something substantively different.

And if they had been asked, again, separately, to write down instructions for the staff on how to carry out the motion, they would have all written something different.  

And without a clear motion that clearly spells out how the task of allocation is to be carried out, I don't see how the allocation process can be valid.  



PROBABLE ABUSE OF EXECUTIVE SESSION

The Board went into Executive Session around 5pm on Monday, November 8 and based on my blog posts that day, they were still in Executive Session around 7:45pm, because when I got home, I turned on the ZOOM and it was still running with a sign that said "Executive Session."  That continued the morning of November 9 until 10:35am.  

They came back into public view for about 20 minutes to pass Bethany Marcum's Senate pairings that split the Eagle River house districts and attached each one to other House districts giving Eagle River two Senate seats.  There was also a new map that changed the rest of the Anchorage Senate pairings. Then the Board adjourned until 1pm to allow the staff to work on calculations needed for the Truncation process.  

The public is still in the dark about what happened in the Executive Session and how the Bethany Marcum Anchorage Senate pairings got discussed.  Two of the Board members had serious objections.  

The same documents I linked to above with guidance  for Boards and Commissions includes material on Open Meetings and Executive Sessions.  Alaska's statue on Executive Session leans heavily toward openness.  

"Executive session procedure requires that the reason for calling the executive session is clearly stated. The attorney-client privilege exemption to the Open Meetings Act is limited to matters where public interest may be injured. This might include how to avoid legal liability, litigation strategies and candid discussion of facts, a proposed settlement conference, and a conference on a decision to appeal." [emphasis added]

It seemed to me that the Board did not carefully weigh whether the matters they were to discuss in Executive Session would "injure public interest" if they were in public.  They have assumed throughout this process that whenever they were talking to the attorney, they were covered by attorney-client privilege, although the statute says 'might.'  

I'd argue that the attorney telling the Board his interpretation of the Voting Rights Act was something the public should have been able to hear.  At that point, there were no cases against the Board.  And to my knowledge, none have yet been filed.  If the attorney's interpretation of the VRA was an unusual one, or aimed at supporting what the Board wanted to do, the public ought to know.  The rationale that the Board is discussing legal strategy in case the Board is sued and thus should be covered by ES is also questionable.  Indeed, "the public interest may be injured" by the Proclamation Plan of the Board and thus it would be in the interest of the public to have this information public.  This is not a situation where the Board wants to keep secret what they are willing to accept in a potential settlement.  This is not a discussion that might cause a defendant in a law case with the Board to know in advance what kind of deal the Board is willing to make.  This is advice to defend the Board's plan.  We already know that the pairing of Eagle River districts was in defiance of the overwhelming public testimony against that pairing.  And my previous post on Allocation of Terms shows that the Allocation process resulted in punishing Governor Dunleavy's Republican 'enemies' and rewarding his loyal Republican allies. These are partisan political moves that harm the public interest.  

And we don't know if in Executive Session the Board discussed other related but not ES covered topics, like Marcum's Allocation proposal that led her to ask:  "Is that how we say it Peter?"

While the Board is in Executive Session, they may only discuss the narrow topics that they went into  ES for and nothing else.  Their reason for going into ES was very broad - to give the Board advice on how the Voting Rights Act would be affected by Marcum's plan for Eagle River.  They appear to have been in ES for roughly four hours.  It's hard to believe that everything they discussed had to be hidden  to keep the public interest from being injured.  But I wasn't in the meeting,  And it was Borromeo who called for ES.  


UNNECESSARILY GIVING SENATORS TWO YEAR TERMS

When Budd Simpson raised the issue of adding two years to a Senator's term to make it six years, Board Executive Director Peter Torkelson said "You do not have the power to  extend a term from four years to six years."  But they do have the power to shorten a term from four years to two years because of truncation and allocation of terms. But it seems that this power should be used only where there is no possible way to avoid it.  The process previous boards have used and that was copied by this board, to just alternate starting election years alphabetically through the Senate seats A through T is a process that seems to make it more likely that more seats will be shortened.  

But should they have the power to give a senator TWO two year terms?  Under this plan two Senators get two, two year terms.  Senators Wilson and Wielechowski ran last in 2020.  Truncation requires them to run again in 2022.  And term allocation requires them to run again in 2024.  Two, two year terms, when the state constitution stipulates a senate seat is four year. 

In such situations, if there were a way to make adjustments to the plan to eliminate the two, two year   situation yet keep everything in compliance with the guidelines for truncation and allocation of terms, shouldn't the Board then have to go back and try to make adjustments?  After all, Peter said, "You do not have the power to  extend a term from four years to six years."  Why should they have the power to shrink a senator's term to two years, twice?  The constitution say four years. 

In Wielochowski's case, he's been cut short first by truncation.  But his district had a 24.5% constituency change.  That's well within the limit of 30% maximum change given the Board by their attorney based on past Alaska Supreme Court decisions.  In fact, Budd Simpson had proposed cutting it off at 25%, which would have left Wielechowski untruncated.  If Wielechoski were not truncated, he would fall in the same category as seat T.  He'd run next in 2024 (when his term expires) and he'd already be on the right cycle. I'd note that setting the cutoff at 25% would also "untruncate" two more seats - Sen. Myers (21.7%) and Sen. Begich (16.3%).  

Wilson's district was changed too much to escape Truncation. But Wilson's cycle (2024) could be swapped with someone who is already being moved to a 2026 cycle.  Say, give Sen. Stevens (who is not truncated) Wilson's 2024 year cycle, when he would normally run next  and Wilson takes Steven's 2026 cycle.  

Why shouldn't the Board be instructed to go back and make alterations, if possible, to prevent them from forcing a Senator to have two, two year terms?  I understand that the Board did Truncation without knowing exactly which seats were being truncated.  But in the end if the Board sees that their anonymous truncation and allocation decision results in forcing a senator to have two, two year terms, shouldn't they be able, even required,  to go back and see if they can adjust things so that the senator's normal four year term is only shortened once?  If as Peter said, they don't have the power to make a senator's term six years, why do they have the power to unnecessarily shorten a senator's term twice?

To my knowledge, these double two year terms have been part of the redistricting process from early on and no one has challenged it, but it seems like an issue that should be presented before the Supreme Court.  Is it better to have truncation at 16.3% and above and force a senator to have two two year terms, when a higher cutoff level - which is comfortably below the 30% threshold the Court has previously said was OK - is easy to do?  I think not.  The Constitution's requirement of four year senate seats shouldn't be violated so easily.



Note to readers:  I've been writing this post for over a week.  

First, the writing and then double checking the video to ensure I'm accurate is helpful for me to better understand what happened.  But as I find new wrinkles, I end up searching the internet to fill in new missing details. And the post starts to bulge in a different direction.  

But a key goal here is to bring light on the process and share anything that might be useful to attorneys challenging the Board's Proclamation Plan so that, whatever the outcome, the Supreme Court will have had a chance to review all the relevant issues.   

Second, this is all so full of details and nuances, that it's hard to write without forcing readers to go into all those details with me, something I know most readers won't do. Just having a label for what I'm writing about is difficult.  What the hell does "Allocation of Terms" mean? Nothing to someone not paying close attention to the redistricting process. But finding clearer labels like  "Assigning Senate seats to staggered terms" is almost as opaque and way too long. There are lots of examples of that kind of problem

That's why I have now narrowed this to issues that might have bearing on the Superior and Supreme Courts' decisions.  Imagine - this is the narrowed down version.  There is more that I have edited out, than I'm leaving in.  I hope to look at a few more issues in the next few days.  Like the constitutional requirements for those choosing Redistricting Board members with out consideration of politi