Saturday, April 17, 2021

Keeping Busy Doing Nothing - AK Press Club, Seedlings, Bike, Cooking, Redistricting, COVID, Spanish, Grandkids. . .

 Time seems to whiz by.  Suddenly it's Wednesday and I have to take out the garbage again.  How can it be 10pm, it's still light out?  I just paid that bill.  Making it worse, it seems like I haven't gotten anything done.  

But when I try to track what I'm doing, it turns out I'm really doing a lot.  I'm tracking and posting  the Alaska COVID numbers every day.  I'm doing 20-40 minutes into DuoLingo Spanish.



I try to do the Cryptoquote and the Sudoku in the paper every day.



My Seattle granddaughter FaceTimes with us for an hour or three several times a week.  And I've been volunteering in her class, via zoom, listening to kids read books of their choice.  The SF grandkids have a regular two or three hours every Wednesday afternoon.  

This month, the Alaska Press Club has been having Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8am workshops in lieu of a three day in person conference.  Despite the horrible hour, all the ones I've listened in on (all of them so far) have been excellent.  Yesterday was one on covering Corrections and included a reporter who does cover corrections, an ACLU employee who works on corrections issues and used to work for the Dept of Corrections under Walker, and a woman who started a non-profit called Supporting Our Loved Ones Group - people who have friends and relatives in prison.  One part of the discussion focused on the words that journalists use to describe people in prison. I guess I've had a soft spot for the plight of prisoners ever since I visited a former 6th grade student (he was then probably in the 9th grade) at a juvenile detention center outside of Los Angeles maybe 50 years ago.  Other sessions have been on Climate Change and How to Choose And Write Stories. They also did one on setting up an elections debate commission for Alaska that was very compelling.  You can see the commission proposal here.   I've got notes for blog posts on all of these, but the Anchorage Municipal Election and the Redistricting Board have distracted me.  

I haven't seen much coverage at all in other media about the Alaska Redistricting Board and since I covered it intensely in 2011-13, I realize I know a lot about what it is, what the issues are, and what was done last time.  So it seems I'm stuck doing it again.  Right now not much is happening - setting things up procedurally and getting staff - they've hired a law firm to advise them and they are getting an RFI ready to hire a Voting Rights Act consultant.  They are behind the pace of ten years ago because the Pandemic and Trump policies slowed down the Census Count and the State redistricting numbers won't come out until maybe August this year.  Last time they got the numbers in March.

I've started my summer biking in earnest yesterday, keeping to the trails along streets while the trails through the greenbelts still have snow on them.  I did a seven mile test run south on Lake Otis, east on Dowling, north on Elmore, then wandering through neighborhoods back home.

Here's Campbell Creek from Lake Otis

An aside about snow this year.  I'd asked Weather Service guy Brian Brettschneider, via DM on Twitter, if we'd had more snow days this year, because it seemed like I was shoveling snow all the time.  He responded: 

"Anchorage will finish with about 5" less snowfall than normal. But our snow depth was one of the greatest on record. We basically had 0 melting events throughout the season."



Riding along Dowling, the ice and snow were gone from the trail the whole ride.  




And then Campbell Creek again, this time looking back from Elmore.


My knees have been showing signs of being past their warranty.  Running is out.  Biking was ok last summer.  I'm hoping I can do another 600 km or more this summer, but it will depend on how my knees react.  





We've been zooming in to the Alaska Black Caucus' Sunday panels. (Link to this Sunday's forum is on the upper right of their page.) They've been doing a great job covering a lot of topics from candidate forums (School Board and Mayor, and this Sunday they are going to have the mayoral runoff candidates - Dunbar and Bronson) to discussions on things like body cameras for police and the military experience in Alaska for Blacks.  They've been having 50 and 60 attendees every week.  Really well done.  I've never heard candidates talk so candidly.  But then the 

There was also a Citizens Climate lobby meeting and a few other zoom meetings.

One way to get through all the zoom meetings is to do relatively mindless tasks that allow me to pay attention, but also get something done.  Eating is the most obvious, but I also prepared and baked a bread through one meeting.  


And used the left over dough to make a veggie pizza.  



And I've been planting seeds now that I can see patches of ground through the snow outside.  Trying Arctic Tomatoes this year.  But I've also got arugula, stock, snapdragons, pansies, sweet peas, flax, and a few other seeds growing.  


I suspect that feeling like I haven't gotten anything done comes partially through the fact that zoom meetings let you stay home and so you don't get out that much.  When you physically go to a meeting, it (probably, it's hard to remember) feels more like you've actually done something.  So I have to write things down to remind myself that I've actually been busy and doing worthwhile things.  

Oh, and watching some of the video of each of the UAA Chancellor candidates.  A really diverse selection.  Not a good time to be a white male in this crowd I'm guessing.  Most looked reasonable, some very good, and our Superintendent of Schools must have been unwell, because she couldn't be still or say more than platitudes.  You can watch them yourselves.  I'd recommend about ten minutes of each to get a sense of them.  Really, these tell us mostly how well they speak in public.  To some extent how much the know about higher education.  But not too much about how well they can run a university.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anchorage Election Results Today Don't Change Anything [UPDATED 4/16/21]

[UPDATE 4/16/21 - today's new numbers don't really change the standings.  You can see them here. I don't think I need to keep updating this table.]


I managed to squeeze in one more day.  Front-runner Dave Bronson added 241 votes to his total and second-place Forrest Dunbar added 197 votes.  All the candidates kept their same ranking, with just a couple of exceptions, throughout.

In the School Board races the leading candidates continue to lead and seem to have gained a bit over yesterday.


Mayor RaceTuesWednesThurFridaySaturdayMonTue WedThu
EVANS, Bill 

999 (4)   

3,871  (4)  4,782 (4)5,505 (4)5,686   (4)6,281(4)6,83270087052
SWANK,  Jr

36  (9)

139 (10)157 (10)173  (10)183  (10)206 (10)226228230
MARTINEZ, 

321 (6)

1,272  (6)1,658 (6)1,928  (6)2,006  (6)2,345(6)2,6342,7202,744
MOMIN, Reza

12  (11)

35  (13)39 (13)40  (13)44 (13)47(13)484850
FALSEY, Bill

1,281 (3)

5,312  (3)6,703  (3)7,614  (3)7,826  (3)8,527(3)
9,2579,4789,536
HERNDON, H

91   (7)

303    (7)337  (7)366  (7)374  (7)400(7)428441445
ANTHONY, A

63  (8)

190   (8)233  (8)237  (8)242   (8)270 (9)290296303
BRONSON, D

3,116  (2)

12,986  (2)15,953 (2)18,716  (1)19,334  (1)21,807(1)23,59724,23624,467
BROWN, Jeffr

33  (10)

147   (9)196  (9)229  (9)236  (9)274(8)295304307
VERSTEEG, Ja

11  (12)

31  (14)35  (14)36  (14)36 (14)37 (14)414142
ROBBINS, Mi

745   (5)

3,097   (5)3,766 (5)4,324  (5)4,457  (5)5061(5)5,5425,6895,743
DUNBAR, For

3,701 (1)

13,711 (1)16,458 (1)18,300 (2)18,812  (2)20,566(2)22,23822,76322,960
COLBRY, Darin

8  (14)

18  (15)21 (15)25 (15)25  (15)29 (15)303031
WESTFALL, Jo

12 (11)

48  (11)61  (11)67  (11)68 (11)73(11)798383
KERN, Jacob S

 (13)

38   (12)41 (12)43  (12)45 (12)50 (12)515252







Total10,43841,19850,43057,60359,37465,97371,58873,41774,045




The Recall and School Board Votes

ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 4 – SEAT G – RECALL (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 23 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

12,487 / 42,059

29.69%

Candidate

Party

Total

YES

5,166

43.44%

NO

6,726

56.56%

Total Votes

11,892

Total

Unresolved Write-In

0

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT B (1-YEAR TERM) (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

75,158 / 236,619

31.76%

Candidate

Party

Total

ELEDGE, Judy Norton

25,014

38.42%

STEWART, Marilyn

7,420

11.40%

COX, Mark Anthony

7,404

11.37%

LESSENS, Kelly

25,266

38.81%

Total Votes

65,104

Total

Unresolved Write-In

562

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT E (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

75,158 / 236,619

31.76%

Candidate

Party

Total

HIGGINS, Pat

21,338

32.94%

HILDE, Alisha

8,237

12.72%

BLATCHFORD, Edgar

5,247

8.10%

BLAKESLEE, Rachel

6,373

9.84%

GRAHAM, Sami

20,943

32.33%

WILLIAMS, Nial Sherwood

2,638

4.07%

Total Votes

64,776

Total

Unresolved Write-In

600


SCHOOL BOARD SEAT F (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

75,158 / 236,619

31.76%

Candidate

Party

Total

SANDERS, Marcus

10,211

16.02%

PAULSON, Kim

21,508

33.75%

LORING, Dan

3,330

5.23%

WILSON, Dora

28,681

45.00%

Total Votes

63,730

Total

Unresolved Write-In

653

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT G (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

75,158 / 236,619

31.76%

Candidate

Party

Total

VAKALIS, Elisa

30,296

48.77%

JACOBS, Carl

31,824

51.23%

Total Votes

62,120

Total

Unresolved Write-In

1,112

Redistricting Board Meeting Friday April 16 (Tomorrow) 2:30 PM - Public Testimony Taken And Voting Rights Act Consultant

 The Board's meeting tomorrow at 2:30.  Here's the agenda:

Date: April 16, 2021

Time: 2:30 pm

Place: Public Numbers: Anchorage 563-9085, Juneau 586-9085, Other 844-586-9085

Agenda

1. Call to Order

2. Establish a Quorum

3. Adoption of Agenda

4. Public Testimony

5. Adoption of Minutes from past meetings

6. Request for Information for Voting Rights Act Consultant

7. Adjournment  (emphasis added)


As you can see, most of the agenda is procedural.  There are only two items, maybe just one, with any substance.  I had to ask if "Public Testimony" meant they were going to talk about how to do it (since they haven't done that publicly yet) or if they were taking public testimony.  The answer was the latter, which, if I had paid closer attention to the notice at the state public notice site, I would have figured out myself.  

But what is there for the public to comment on?  And how does the public know that they can comment?  I dare say the average Alaskan doesn't know how to find the state's public notice page, or if they do, they can't find the Redistricting Board meeting.  

As of right now, I can't find any mention of the meeting or public testimony on the Redistricting Board's website, where it surely should be.  I would note, though, that you can sign up for email notifications of meetings and other key announcements on the website here.

It would appear the only truly substantive item on the agenda is the  Request for Information for Voting Rights Act Consultant.  What is this?  

The 1965 Voting Rights Act and its later renewal sets out the law for acceptable voting practices including redistricting. 

Alaska was one of 16 states required to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice for their redistricting plans.  It's one of just seven states who were covered in their entirety by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  The other states only had some jurisdictions that are covered.  

In the 2010 Redistricting process, the Board put Section 5 at the top of their agenda because if the Department of Justice (Obama was president then) didn't approve the redistricting plan, they had to start all over.  But in 2013, after the Board had done everything it could to comply with Section 5, the US Supreme Court invalidated Section 5.  The House passed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 with 92% voting for the bill and the Senate voted 98-0 to pass it. I'd note that Alaska's Senators and Representative all voted in favor.  And this shows how messed up Congress has become since then.  

Nevertheless, Supreme Court, only seven years later, said that just because states had problems in1965 that didn't mean they should still be considered problems in 2013 and that Congress needed to reevaluate whether those states still needed pre-clearance.  You can see an extensive history of the bill here from the Congressional Research Service.  

Of course, we seen since then, that many of the 16 states that had required pre-clearance, immediately began finding ways to suppress minority voters.  And many more now are introducing ways to make voting for Blacks and other likely Democratic voters much more difficult.  

Part of getting pre-clearance last time involved a complicated set of formulas for maintaining the power of minorities in certain districts in the State.  In Alaska that meant a number of districts in which Alaska natives had enough population to sway the election. Those requirements are gone now. So the role of the Voting Rights Act consultant is very different, and limited, compared to ten years ago.

Here's a 2011 post called:  Can The Board Keep Nine Native Districts?  to give you a sense of the complexity of what they had to do.  Here's another on the topic:  Boundary Setting And Terminology Around Minority Districts.

And here's a post on the meeting with the Voting Rights Consultant who was calling in from Afghanistan where she was consulting on elections there.  Board Talks to Voting Rights Consultant Lisa Handley Calling from Afghanistan.  My notes say:

One hour meeting talking about
  • What data she'll need to do her analysis
  • Clarifying how to determine "Native"
  • Other issues like whether 35% will be the number still for Native influence districts (not necessarily)
  • How does voting age fit in?
  • Schedule - her return time (April 24), how long until product (three weeks later)


Oh, yes.  Here's a copy of the draft RFI for the Voting Rights Consultant this time:  (sorry, the formatting is a bit off, but you can see the original here - at the bottom after all the minutes.  

(Again, this is a pretty esoteric expertise, particularly necessary every ten years, though I'm sure different states require experts between reapportionment.  This RFI does mention experience in Alaska redistricting which limits things even more.  But I suspect that requirement is NOT required, but desirable.  I'd also note that the RFI does give notice that the proposals may be subject to public disclosure.  That would be helpful for us all to evaluate the competing proposals.  Certainly seeing that Schwabe - the law firm the Board retained - proposal made it clear that that firm had access to Michael White who was the legal consultant to the previous board.  That removed any questions I had about the selection process.)

 SCHWABE DRAFT Request for Information (RFI) Voting Rights Consultant
Background
The State of Alaska, Alaska Redistricting Board, issues this Request for Information (Request) for a Voting Rights Consultant to assist the Board, and prepare a statistical racial bloc voting analysis of statewide and state legislative elections held in Alaska in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Scope of Work
The contractor shall provide Consulting Services and Voting Rights Assistance as directed by the Redistricting Board and Project Director.
Services shall include but are not be limited to the following:
1. Preparing a statistical racial bloc voting analysis of the 2012, 2014,2016,2018 and 2020 statewide and state legislative elections in the State of Alaska to determine whether voting in the State of Alaska, or in specific regions of the state, is polarized by race and assist the Board in complying with the Voting Rights Act while creating new legislative districts for the 2022 election cycle. This may include a vote dilution analysis of proposed plans.
This service will include the following tasks:
1. Assisting in the preparation and design of the data base needed to conduct racial bloc voting analyses.
2. Preparing a draft written report and a final written report to the Board outlining the results of the racial bloc voting analysis.
3. Making an oral presentation to the Board of the results of the analysis.
4. Advising the Board on matters pertaining U.S.Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This service may include the following tasks:
1. Assist the Board in determining if one or more proposed redistricting plans may comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
2. Serving as an expert witness for the Redistricting Board on Voting Rights Act issues in any court challenges to the Board’s redistricting plan, including testifying in deposition and/or trial as requested.
3. Performing these tasks and other Redistricting Board Consulting Services/Voting Rights Assistance as required by the Project Director.
4. Travel to the Redistricting Board Office in Anchorage for consulting as requested. Two or more visits may be needed.
Response Requirements
Responses must include the complete name, mailing address, telephone number and email address of the responder(s). Responses must, if applicable, provide notice that the offeror qualifies as an Alaskan bidder. Responses must be signed and dated by the responder.
Offeror must provide:
1. Comprehensive narrative statements that illustrate their understanding of the purpose and scope of this project, any pertinent issues and potential problems, and statements that illustrate their understanding of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the impact of subsequent amendments and court decisions.
2. A description of the offeror’s qualifications and experience in preparing racial bloc voting analyses in Alaska and other jurisdictions.
3. A description of expert witness experience the offeror has provided.
4. A description of the statistical analytical methodology the offeror will employ to perform the required services.
5. A listing of current or past clients similar to the Redistricting Board, a brief description of service provided and a contact name and phone number of each client.
6. A listing of staff experience in advising clients on redistricting/reapportionment in Alaska and other states and jurisdictions.
7. Information on the company ownership,headquarters,branch or affiliate offices, length of time in business,
8. Indicate if the award of this contract would require the acquisition of additional office space, equipment, personnel or any other items. Be as specific as possible, i.e., how much additional space, specific equipment, the number and function of additional employees, etc.

9. Adescription of any distinct and substantive qualifications for undertaking the proposed contract, such as the availability of specialized equipment, awards and recognition received for similar services or special approaches or concepts relevant to the required services under this Request
Costs & Expenses
1. Offeror’s must provide an hourly rate schedule for services provided in order for the proposal to be considered responsive. Proposals received that do not included hourly rate(s) shall be considered non-responsive and shall be rejected.
2. NOTE:Reimbursement for all travel and out-of-pocket expenses shall be limited to the items authorized by the Project Director as set out in a contract resulting from this Request.
Travel to the Redistricting Board Office in Anchorage for consulting as requested. Two or more visits may be needed.
References
Responders are encouraged to provide a list of references the Board may contact to verify the responder’s character, qualifications and experience.
Funding Source
Funding for the Alaska Redistricting Board is subject to Legislative appropriation.
Submission Details, Deadline
Provide one electronic copy of the requested information to the email address below. Responses to this Request must be received by 4:00 p.m. AST, on May 3, 2021.
• Peter.Torkelson@akredistrict.org
This Request in no manner obligates the Board to pursue a contractual relationship with an entity that responds to this Request or limits or restricts the Board to pursue a contractual relationship with an entity that does not respond to this Request.
This Request in no manner obligates the Board to pay any costs incurred in the preparation of any response to this Request. A party responding to this Request is responsible for all costs associated with their response. Responses become the property of the Board and may be subject to public disclosure.
Questions should also be directed to Peter Torkelson at
• Peter.Torkelson@akredistrict.org • 907-406-2894

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Election News: More Of The Same. Two School Board Seats Tighter

 I'm confident this is going to end soon.  But then we have a runoff.  But that should be easier to count because there are only two candidates.  If you get your votes in early, maybe we can have a winner without waiting two weeks.  Actually, we do have two winners for mayor (who will be in the runoff - Bronson and Dunbar.)  But a couple of the School Board races have margins of less than 1%.

Again, the rankings didn't change among the mayoral  candidates.  So, Monday's rankings remain the same for yesterday and today.

Frontrunner Bronson gained 639 votes over yesterday's total.  Second place candidate Dunbar gained 522 votes.   You can get all the daily election tallies here.


Mayor RaceTuesWednesThurFridaySaturdayMonTue Wed
EVANS, Bill 

999 (4)   

3,871  (4)  4,782 (4)5,505 (4)5,686   (4)6,281(4)6,8327008
SWANK,  Jr

36  (9)

139 (10)157 (10)173  (10)183  (10)206 (10)226228
MARTINEZ, 

321 (6)

1,272  (6)1,658 (6)1,928  (6)2,006  (6)2,345(6)2,6342,720
MOMIN, Reza

12  (11)

35  (13)39 (13)40  (13)44 (13)47(13)4848
FALSEY, Bill

1,281 (3)

5,312  (3)6,703  (3)7,614  (3)7,826  (3)8,527(3)
9,2579,478
HERNDON, H

91   (7)

303    (7)337  (7)366  (7)374  (7)400(7)428441
ANTHONY, A

63  (8)

190   (8)233  (8)237  (8)242   (8)270 (9)290296
BRONSON, D

3,116  (2)

12,986  (2)15,953 (2)18,716  (1)19,334  (1)21,807(1)23,59724,236
BROWN, Jeffr

33  (10)

147   (9)196  (9)229  (9)236  (9)274(8)295304
VERSTEEG, Ja

11  (12)

31  (14)35  (14)36  (14)36 (14)37 (14)4141
ROBBINS, Mi

745   (5)

3,097   (5)3,766 (5)4,324  (5)4,457  (5)5061(5)5,5425,689
DUNBAR, For

3,701 (1)

13,711 (1)16,458 (1)18,300 (2)18,812  (2)20,566(2)22,23822,763
COLBRY, Darin

8  (14)

18  (15)21 (15)25 (15)25  (15)29 (15)3030
WESTFALL, Jo

12 (11)

48  (11)61  (11)67  (11)68 (11)73(11)7983
KERN, Jacob S

 (13)

38   (12)41 (12)43  (12)45 (12)50 (12)5152







Total10,43841,19850,43057,60359,37465,97371,58873,417



In the School Board races Seats B and E tightened a bit again.  Lessens leads Eledge now by 269 votes.  Higgins leads Graham by 310.  


ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 4 – SEAT G – RECALL (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 23 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

12,386 / 42,059

29.45%

Candidate

Party

Total

YES

5,116

43.37%

NO

6,681

56.63%

Total Votes

11,797

Total

Unresolved Write-In

0

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT B (1-YEAR TERM) (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

74,515 / 236,619

31.49%

Candidate

Party

Total

ELEDGE, Judy Norton

24,801

38.42%

STEWART, Marilyn

7,354

11.39%

COX, Mark Anthony

7,332

11.36%

LESSENS, Kelly

25,070

38.83%

Total Votes

64,557

Total

Unresolved Write-In

555

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT E (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

74,515 / 236,619

31.49%

Candidate

Party

Total

HIGGINS, Pat

21,169

32.95%

HILDE, Alisha

8,167

12.71%

BLATCHFORD, Edgar

5,201

8.10%

BLAKESLEE, Rachel

6,326

9.85%

GRAHAM, Sami

20,759

32.32%

WILLIAMS, Nial Sherwood

2,617

4.07%

Total Votes

64,239

Total

Unresolved Write-In

591

Page: 3 of 14

4/14/2021 3:52:47 PM

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT F (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

74,515 / 236,619

31.49%

Candidate

Party

Total

SANDERS, Marcus

10,123

16.02%

PAULSON, Kim

21,325

33.74%

LORING, Dan

3,296

5.21%

WILSON, Dora

28,463

45.03%

Total Votes

63,207

Total

Unresolved Write-In

643

SCHOOL BOARD SEAT G (Vote for 1)

Precincts Reported: 0 of 123 (0.00%)

Total

Times Cast

74,515 / 236,619

31.49%

Candidate

Party

Total

VAKALIS, Elisa

30,025

48.74%

JACOBS, Carl

31,580

51.26%

Total Votes

61,605

Total

Unresolved Write-In

1,103