Saturday, February 26, 2022

It's Hard Not To Focus On Ukraine - Two Good Videos

 We're all caught up in the real life drama of Ukraine, in a way relatively few people were during the impeachment hearings when Trump's phone call with Zelensky was discussed in detail.  When Trump held up Javelin missiles until Zelensky promised to dig up dirt on Biden's son.  

There is so much to say.  And so much has been said.  Really, Republicans, when are you going to figure out how you to quit Trump?  The man who calls Putin a genius.  That truly sums Trump up - it's all about winning or losing.  There's no morality involved.  If you can take it and get away with it, it's all good.  

This first video is a bit of very slick marketing.  But all I'm reading and seeing these last couple of days suggests it's the right message - of people fighting for the survival of their country.  Not to destroy it. This is February 2022, not January 6, 2021.                          

This second one is to give you a smile.  And let's hope that Zelensky is alive and well to show us what a good dancer he still is next month and next year.  

Friday, February 25, 2022

" . . .time made truth of what appeared to be"

A young girl, in 1921 Ireland, disappears.  Some of her clothing was found at the beach near her home. After much searching, there is no body found, just the evidence left on the beach.  

"As the surface of the seashore rocks was pitted by the waves and gathered limpets that further disguised what lay beneath, so time made truth of what appeared to be.  The days that passed, in becoming weeks, still did not disturb the surface an assumption had created.  The weather of a beautiful summer continued with neither sign nor hint that credence had been misplaced.  The single sandal found among the rocks became a sodden image of death; and as the keening on the pier at Kilauran traditionally marked distress brought by the sea, so silenced did at Lahardane*."

William Trevor,
The Story of Lucy Gault
But the reader knows better than the other characters in the book.  The clothing and that sandal were snatched by a 
dog while the girl was, in the author's  word, 'bathing' in the ocean.  In fact the girl is angry at her parents because they have decided they must leave the only home she knows.  They haven't told her the reason they are leaving - an attack on their house by young Irishmen with petrol cans.  Other large rural homes have also been attacked and other land owners have left.  

But my attention today is this phrase "time made truth of what appeared to be."  Read it a couple of times.  What appeared to be.  The incidents in the book took place in 1921.  

Today truths don't accidentally lead us astray.  They are meticulously created to lead us astray, to divide and conquer.  Fox News repeats them over and over until time makes truth of what appears to be.  Even to the extent that other media repeat the claims. They are designed to trigger our fears, to weaken us.  And we know that Russia plays a role in this exercise that most of the Republican Party is afraid to confront.  Few GOP politicians have the ability or the courage to challenge the lies the party is using in an attempt to fool enough voters into voting for the GOP.   

As I watch Ukrainians face the aggression of Russia, I see a courage that we see rarely in the US these days.  As I see the videos of Russian people protesting the war, I see a courage much greater than is required of most white Americans when they protest.  And when I see President Zelensky vow to stay in Kiev and lead the opposition to Russia, I see a courage that, for instance, my junior Senator doesn't come near to having.  He won't even risk an election five years off, to publicly voice opposition to, say, to vote to impeach the man who called for an insurrection to overturn the election.

*I've looked up Lahardane.  Such a place exists, it's on the ocean in the book, but not on maps.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ukraine President Zelensky's Speech

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy gave a speech today, starting out in Ukrainian and then switching to Russian to address the people of Russia.  You can read a translation of the whole speech at Lawfareblog. 

Below is part of the speech after he switched to Russian:

" . . . [Zelenskyy switches from Ukrainian to Russian.] And further in Russian. Today, I initiated a phone call with the president of the Russian Federation. The result was silence. Although there should really be silence in the Donbas.

This is why I want to appeal today to all the citizens of Russia. Not as president. I am appealing to Russian citizens as a citizen of Ukraine. 

We are separated by more than 2,000 kilometers of a shared border. Today, your forces stand along that border, almost 200,000 soldiers and thousands of military vehicles. Your leadership approved their step forward into the territory of another country. And this step could become the beginning of a large war on the European continent. 

Today, the whole world talks about what could happen any day now. A reason could arise at any moment. Any provocation. Any spark. A spark, which could burn down everything. You are told that this flame will bring liberation to the people of Ukraine. But the Ukrainian people are free. We remember our past, and we are building our future ourselves. Building, not destroying, as you are told every day on the television. Ukraine in your news and Ukraine in real life are two completely different countries. And the main difference is that ours is real. 

You are told that we are Nazis. But how can a people who gave more than eight million lives for the victory over Nazism support Nazism? How could I be a Nazi? Tell that to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet Army and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.

You are told that we hate Russian culture. How is it possible to hate culture? Any culture? Neighbors always enrich one another culturally. However, this does not make them a single entity. This does not dissolve us in you. We are different. But this is not a reason to be enemies.

We want to define and build our history ourselves. Peacefully. Calmly. Honestly.

You are told that I will order an attack on the Donbas, to shoot and bomb without questions. Although there are questions, and very simple ones. Shoot at whom? Bomb what? Donetsk, where I have been dozens of times? Where I have seen people’s eyes and faces? Artyom street, where I walked with friends? Donbas Arena, where I rooted with the locals for our Ukrainian guys at the Euro [the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship]? Sherbakova Park, where we drank together when our guys lost? Luhansk? The home where my best friend’s mother lives? The place where my best friend’s father is buried? 

Note that I am speaking right now in Russian, but no one in Russia knows what I am speaking about. These names, these streets, these last names, these events—this is all alien to you. Unfamiliar. This is our land. This is our history. What will you fight for? And with whom?. . . "

Before becoming president of Ukraine, Zelinsky was a comedian who starred in a television show, Servant of the People, about a high school teacher who gets elected president of Ukraine.  It was on Netflix when he first became president, but I can't find it there now.  Here's a You Tube preview of Season 2:

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

1000 Years Of Joys And Sorrows - Ai Weiwei/ Japan Invades China 1937

As Russia moves into Ukraine, it seems that Ai Weiwei's description of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 seems an appropriate reading.  Not just for the people of Ukraine, but for the people
of the world.  If Putin is able to 'take' Ukraine, what's next?  And what does this foretell about future relations between Europe, Russia, and the US, not to mention China, and the rest of the world?  

In July 1937.  Ai Weiwei's father Ai Qing was a young poet who had started getting noticed.  Three months earlier, the wife had their first baby on the day the Japanese began their invasion of China.  They are trying to keep ahead of the Japanese army and have arrived at Hangzhou.  Hangzhou is a little west of Shanghai and is known for its beautiful West Lake which is now a World Heritage Site.

Ai Weiwei writes:  

"The West Lake was unchanged, hazy and indistinct.  It seemed to him that the locals were drifting through life, still clinging to an illusory notion of leisure.  The onset of war had failed to shock Hangzhou;  while the fate of the nation hung in the balance, people simply continue with their routines. 'I cannot pretend to love Hangzhou," Father would soon confess.  'Like so many cities in China, it is crammed with narrow-minded, selfish residents,  with complacent and vulgar office workers, low-level officials accustomed to currying favor, and cultural types who make a hobby of hyping things up. They commonly think of themselves as living in unparalleled happiness, as though lounging in their mother's lap.'  He would write these words at the end of the year, when news came to him that Hangzhou had fallen, after he and his family had escaped to Wuhan." (p. 51)

Sound familiar?  

Ai Qing, who had moved his family further west, was once again faced with an advancing army.  This is surely happening right now in parts of Ukraine.

"When they arrived at Jinhua Railway Station at eight o'clock in the morning, wounded soldiers, freshly evacuated from battlefield, lay strewn along the platform.  One of the soldiers, a faint gray light shining in his eyes, told Father that hospitals in the area were no longer taking in casualties.  Some had covered themselves with straw for warmth, while others threw straw in a heap and set fire to it to warm up inside dirty bedrolls.  The fight had disrupted the normal train schedule, and in the confusion it was unclear whether rail service would even continue.  Ticket sales had been halted, and if a train came in everyone simply piled in,whether they had tickets or not."(pp 51-52)

Later, he writes about poetry and democracy.  Ideas to contemplate as those in power aim to abolish truth with mistruths.  

"'Poetry today ought to be a bold experiment in the democratic spirit,' he declared, ' and the future of poetry is inseparable from the future of democratic politics.  A constitution matters even more to poets than to others, because only when the right to expression guaranteed can one give voice to the hopes of people at large, and only then is progress possible.  To suppress the voices of the people is the cruelest form of violence.'  Eighty years later, his faith in poetry's freedom's ambassador has yet to find vindication in China."

For those of you unfamiliar with Ai Weiwei, he's probably modern China's best known artist, though he's living in exile now.  Here's a short bio.

I haven't seen much of Ai Weiwei's art in person.  But I did see this tree at an exhibition of modern Chinese artists at the Louis Vuitton museum in Paris five or six years ago. The link describes it somewhat.  

The Trevor Noah interview below doesn't tell you much about his art or life, but it's worth watching as we deal with an increasingly oppressive takeover of the Republican party.   

I have to add, reading a good book is so much more satisfying that scanning Twitter or other online collections of alarmism and distraction.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

This And That, Ups And Downs - San Francisco And Seattle

 We're back on Bainbridge Island.  San Francisco was great.  We tried a new rental car option.  Actually we've used BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and buses in past trips, but we were going to different places over the four days, so a car seemed to make sense. Kyte is a company that delivers the car to you.  And they were cheaper.  Everything worked well except two things.

  • They aren't allowed to deliver to the airport so they deliver to Daly City BART.  That's pretty close to the airport and sounded ok.  But it turns out it costs $9 per person one way from SFO to Daly City BART.  So we went to the information office in the airport to get senior BART passes.  In the past a $9 senior BART pass would get us into town and back, plus a trip to see friends in Oakland.  But they aren't selling them at the airport any more.  So the two roundtrips added almost $40 to the bill.
  • We were a bit earlier than our appointment and the pick up site is listed as 500 John Daly Blvd.  Well, that includes the entire BART station and two parking lots.  Finding out where we were supposed to be was hard and the driver was late.  
This would be great if we needed to get the car at a residence or anywhere besides SFO.  

Overall, we had a great time visiting good friends on the Peninsula one night and staying with an old Thailand Peace Corps buddy I've known since 1966.  Saturday we walked to the top of Twin Peaks from his house and my son and the two grandkids met us up there.  We spent the rest of the day with them on a glorious sunny T-shirt warm day at Golden Gate Park.  

Twin Peaks involved lots of steps

And flowers - there's a bee in there, but the resolution is too low.  Sorry.

Cool trees.

And birds, like this hummingbird.

And this crow enjoying the view from Twin Peaks

Red tailed hawk?

And for my friend Jeremy, I take pictures of towers like this that interest him much more than the trees or the birds or even the view.  

We also looked at a couple of houses.  My son's family is growing out of the confines of a two bedroom apartment.  It's interesting to visit open houses, but the prices are depressing.  Everything is super staged with furniture, paintings plants.  I discovered it's useful to look behind things - the stagers use items to hide things they don't want you to see.  

Getting altitude is favorite of my grandson.  This was sunny Saturday.

Back in Golden Gate Park Sunday, but it was cloudy and windy and chilly.  That didn't stop the kids from having a great time.  

Monday was sunny again and we had more park time.  Even though it was a much smaller park, there was enough room to play monster and the kids were good at changing the rules if they thought they were going to get caught.  

Broken glass, from my experience, is not an uncommon sight in San Francisco.  This is at a bus stop.  

Dropping off the car was much easier than picking it up and we got to the airport with plenty of time.  An advantage to walking instead of taking the sky train is getting to see the art exhibits all through the terminals.  

Most of these Tabitha Soren pieces didn't excite me, but I did like "Emailed Kiss Goodnight".

This should be larger and clearer if you click on it.

Alison Saar's Flourish

Thought this was interesting.  This isn't far from where my son lives now.  Filmore near Geary.

Finally, we got to our gate and had some ramen.  And I also finally had some time for yesterday's Wordle.  So I started with RAMEN.  

I got two right - one green one yellow -  and I figured I'd try to go through the possible words and make it in two or three tries. 

But as I discovered when we got off the plane and onto the ferry in Seattle, that I'd used the wrong letter as the yellow (A instead of R) one.  An almost totally wasted turn given the two words I'd boiled it down to - ABBEY and ALLEY.  For the first time I got it only on the sixth round.  Bummer.  

But I made up for it today with 99.99% luck.  

Meanwhile, it was 54˚ F in the condo when we got back last night.  A good part of the trip was being away while we waited for the plumber to fix the boiler.  And they called this morning to see if it was ok to come earlier.  YES!

But then they reported it needed parts they had to order.  The fireplace and the two space heaters we got have gotten it into the low 60s.  Oh, and there was fresh snow on the ground.  The weather app reported 32F on Bainbridge and 40F in Anchorage.

So, that's all you missed while I've been gramping instead of blogging.

Oh, my book club met last night.  It was a book I just couldn't finish. Reading it wasn't fun nor was it telling me anything I needed to know.  I didn't want to keep reading.  But that's a different post.  

Friday, February 18, 2022

While I'm Enjoying California Sunshine,Matt Buxton Is Covering More Redistricting Twists And Turns

 Basically, Matt's saying that Judge Matthews' order wasn't a final order and that he's remanded things back for the Board to fix.  And since it isn't a final order, it can't be appealed.  But they can ask for a review from the Supreme Court.  But it might mean that the changes would be in effect for the next election rather than the Board's map.  

I'm meeting the SF grandkids (and their parents) for dinner in a couple of hours, so I'll just refer you to Matt's Twitter feed for more details

[UPDATED Feb 18, 2022  10:20pm:  Here's Matt Buxton's newsletter on this.  It seems to have a bit more than the Twitter feed.  I'm glad Matt's working on this.

The cat of the house where we spent last night.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Travel Day As I'm Getting Better Acquainted With Judge Matthews' Redistricting Decision

We got up early enough to watch the sun rise from the ferry from Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle.

SeaTac has a program where you can reserve a time to go through security. Last time we did that, there was no one in line anyway.  This time there were more people, but not too crowded, but our line sent us directly to the front.  

We are spending the night with friends just south of San Francisco - good friends that go back to when some students from my public administration class in Hong Kong went on a study tour with me to Beijing.  It was May 1990 - a year after Tiananmen.  We went in May so that we wouldn't be there on the one year anniversary.  Even so, one of my students couldn't go because his parents were worried about what might happen to him.  D is now a professor of marketing and dean of his department here in the South Bay.  

This tree was across the street from the community center where his son was taking a video class.  We'll go into San Francisco tomorrow and stay with an old Peace Corps Thailand friend.  The impetus of the trip was visiting our grandkids, the youngest one turned five yesterday and got her first COVID vaccination.  

Meanwhile I'm working my way through the 171 page ruling Judge Matthews wrote on the Redistricting Board trial.  

Near the end of the trial, the Board's attorney was giving his closing argument.  I raised some issues I had with what he said and in other appearances earlier in the trial.  In his closing, after about five or ten minutes he said something like, "Well that's pretty much what I wanted to say, but I'm a lawyer, so I'll keep on talking."  As I listened I thought about the old saying - "Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to speak and prove it."  Singer isn't a fool, but he just kept talking and I thought he was being pretty loose and that he wasn't doing himself any good.  

The judge wasn't amused.  I'd like to give you specific quotes, but the PDF isn't searchable, and while someone told me there are tools to make it searchable, I haven't found them.  

Singer did tell the Redistricting Board, at their meeting yesterday (Wed) that the judge had "made new law" and that was the reason that the Board needed to appeal, to make sure the Supreme Court could rule on this "new law."  

One of my goals in reading the case is to find what Snger calls 'new law."  Here's my list of possibilities so far:

The Proclamation Plan offered 30 days after the Census data arrive should include Senate pairings as well as house pairings. (I missed the part where the Board claimed they had Senate districts because the third party plans had them.  In any case, the Board didn’t know the third party plans would have Senate pairings when they adopted their Proclamation Plan

  • Importance of public voices - Board members don’t have “discretion to make decisions based on personal preference when that preference is directly contrary to the overwhelming majority of public testimony” “Board must make a good-faith effort to incorporate the clear weight of public testimony.”   Need to take “a hard look and [make] a good faith effort to incorporate public testimony into its decisions.”
  • Need to have senate pairings in the proposed plan in 30 days
I'm not sure that the Judge made 'new law' as much as enforced the Constitution here. The Constition requires the Board to take their proposed redistricting plan to the public to get comments for six weeks.  The Board flew all over the state for twenty some odd meetings.

If the Board doesn't take their comments seriously, what is the point of gathering their opinion?  I don't think this is new law, so much as it's law that hasn't actually been tested in court and Matthews is saying that requiring public testimony means the Board must pay attention to the public testimony it gets.  

On the other point he's also clarifying that when the Constitution tells the Board to make a draft plan, it includes Senate pairings as well as the house districts.  Why does the judge think this?  Because the constitution doesn't mention either House districts or Senate districts when it talks about the draft plan.  But when it talks about the final play, it includes both.  
And, if the public is going to meaningfully testify on the Senate pairings, they have to see them.  

I'm tired.  It's getting late.  And all this is initial thinking about what I'm reading.  Below is the Table of Contents of the Judge's decision.  There's time to read it fully.

Our friends have an old cat

I.  Introduction

II.  History of Legislative Reapportionment


        A.  Make up of the Board

         B.  Board Meetings 

[In history of Board Meetings, doesn't mention the public outcry over v1 SE maps plucking incumbents out of their districts

p.14 Sept 20 Meeting "It was at this meeting that the Board contends it adopted proposed senate pairings through the AFFER proposed plan.122

IV. Legal Proceedings

    A.  Parties in the Case

    B.  Pre-Trial Proceedings

    C.  The Record Before the Court

    D.  Trial Proceedings



    A.  District Boundaries (Alaska Const. art. VI §6)

    B.  Public Hearings Requirement (Alaska Const. art. VI, § 10)

    C.  Equal Protection (Alaska Const. art.I § 1;  U.S. Const. amend.14)

    D.  Due Process (Alaska Const. art. I, § 7)

    E.  The Hickel Process

    F.  Voting Rights Act

    G.  Open Meetings Act (AS 44.62.310-19)



    A.  Article VI Section 6

    B.  Article VI Section 10 - East Anchorage

    C.  Equal Protection


    A.  Mat-Su and Valdez Districts 20, 30 and 36

    B.  Calista Redistricting Challenge

    C.  Skagway's Redistricting Challenge


XI.  PROCEDURAL CHALLENGES - Due Process and Article VI, Section 10

    A.  Applicable Legal Standard

    B.  This court looks to the debates from the Alaska Constitutional Convention to ascertain the goals of redistricting

    C.  Legislative history from 1998 amendments likewise informs this Court's view of the Board's intended role and the purpose of public hearings

    D.  Federal case law applying the Administrative Procedure Act to formal agency rule making is instructive on the question of what it means for an agency to take a "hard look" when public hearings are required

    E.  Precedent, reason and policy considerations for interpreting "reasonableness" in light of the Article VI, Section 10 "public hearings" requirement and other changes from the 1998 amendments

    F.  Regional Applications

    G.  Constitutional Deadlines in Article VI, Section 10

    H.  Other Due Process Issues


    A.  The Open Meetings Act

    B.  The Redistricting Board's use of Executive Sessions

    C.  Vague Motions Relating to Executive Sessions

    D.  Due Process/OMA Challenge by East Anchorage

    E.  Open Meetings and Attorney-Client Privilege


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

What The Judge Decides Will Depend On The Intent/Meaning of Socio-Economic Integration

 I imagine the judge up late last night, writing, then stopping to look things up in the materials the attorneys submitted, in the transcripts of the Board meetings, in Hickel v Southeast Conference, and other Supreme Court rulings on redistricting.  He's busily reviewing what he's written, having staff check for typos, and generally giving himself as much time as he can, so he can get it as right and as inclusive as possible.  

Fortunately, blog posts aren't as consequential.  But I can't help thinking about the factors Judge Matthews has to balance.  While compactness, contiguity, deviation, all count, I think that the interpretation of Socio-Economic Integration (SEI) will be the most critical.  But issues about public participation and gerrymandering will also be in the mix.  

So here's a look at the cases being decided and another look aback at the Hickel case.

That case was decided December 29, 1992. (Not to be confused with a 1994 case with the same name which settled payment of attorney fees on the original case.)  

At that time redistricting was done by the Governor.  A 1998 Constitutional Amendment gave the process to a Board of five.  The Governor chooses two members  and the Speaker of the House, Senate President, and Supreme Court Chief Justice each choose two, "without regard to political affiliation."  

I add that last note because the Governor clearly used political affiliation in his choices.  Board member Budd Simpson said as much when questioned by Skagway attorney Robin Brena.  Those choices were clearly unconstitutional, but whether the courts take that into consideration remains to be seen.  While there were situations where incumbents of the same party were paired or other instances where decisions were made that will have partisan impacts, those weren't direct targets of lawsuits.  However, the East Anchorage attorney has charged that the Eagle River pairings were done to give (very Republican) Eagle River an extra Senate seat, so this is on the record for the judges to use if they see fit.  

But the critical issue as I said in all of the cases boils down to the meaning of Socio-Economic Integration (SEI), one of the four key criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of a district.  The other three are 

  • equal sized districts
  • compactness
  • contiguity

§ 6. District Boundaries

The Redistricting Board shall establish the size and area of house districts, subject to the limitations of this article. Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area. Each shall contain a population as near as practicable to the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the state by forty. Each senate district shall be composed as near as practicable of two contiguous house districts. Consideration may be given to local government boundaries. Drainage and other geographic features shall be used in describing boundaries wherever possible.

 The key guidelines the Board's attorney, Matt Singer, has used for SEI has been:  Everything within a borough is SEI. And that was said clearly

"Everything within a borough or city boundary is SEI."

 Therefore, according to Singer, talking about SEI within Anchorage is besides the point.  He even cited the Supreme Court as saying at one point that Mat-Su and Anchorage could be combined and so he stretched that, at times, to claim all of Mat-Su and Anchorage are SEI. He backpedaled on that during the mapping, but he even claimed, in the closing argument (if I recall right) that at one time the court had allowed Valdez to connect to Anchorage, and since all three shop in Anchorage and use the Anchorage Airport, they can all three be considered SEI.  

My lay reading of the Hickel case  and the Constitution make me believe Singer's interpretation is much more simplistic than the Supreme Court's.  Valdez and Skagway attorney also sees it differently. 

The Constitution says "as near as practicable a relatively socio-economic area."  Each criterion is qualified with "as near as practicable" because they all have to be balanced to form each district and then to put all forty districts together.  As you get closer to the ideal in one criterion, you get further away in others.

In the Hickel case, PART II:  LEGISLATIVE REAPPORTIONMENT begins with this quote from the Alaska Constitutional Convention:

"Now the goal of all apportionment plans is simple: the goal is adequate and true representation by the people in their elected legislature, true, just, and fair representation. And in deciding and in weighing this plan, never lose sight of that goal, and keep it foremost in your mind; and the details that we will present are merely the details of achieving true representation, which, of course, is the very cornerstone of a democratic government."

3 Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention (PACC) 1835 (January 11, 1956). [1835 is the page number]

This seems to make it pretty clear that 'the details' are a means to an end.  So, what does that mean?

Hickel then says the various criteria - size, compactness, contiguity, and SEI - have to be fit together. That's the hard part, but they help constrain the Governor (at that time) from gerrymandering. They give several definitions of gerrymandering, but the essence seems to be

Gerrymandering is the dividing of an area into political units "in an unnatural way with the purpose of bestowing advantages on some and thus disadvantaging others." 

 "Gerrymandering is `the deliberate and arbitrary distortion of district boundaries and populations for partisan or personal political purposes. , ,'"

While people often think of gerrymandering as being directly related to giving advantage to one party over another, these definitions cited in the Hickel case are broader than that.  They include "partisan" [that would be political party] or 'personal political purposes'. [that would mean more for personal power advantage.] 

They then tell us that limiting SEI can only be done to increase compactness and contiguity, NOT to achieve some other goals.

The requirement of relative socio-economic integration is given some flexibility by the constitution since districts need be integrated only "as nearly as practicable." Alaska Const. art. VI, § 6. However, the flexibility that this clause provides should be used only to maximize the other constitutional requirements of contiguity and compactness. The governor is not permitted to diminish the degree of socio-economic integration in order to achieve other policy goals.

There's a lot more discussion, but one more quote on SEI from Hickel:

"Relatively" means that we compare proposed districts to other previously existing and proposed districts as well as principal alternative districts to determine if socio-economic links are sufficient. "Relatively" does not mean "minimally," and it does not weaken the constitutional requirement of integration. 

Skagway Case 

ASIDE TO READERS:  You can see how hard it is to separate one concept from another.  I'm trying to talk about SEI, but all these other factors are intimately related.  In the case of Skagway, attorney Brena has argued with lots of supportive data, that Skagway is significantly more SEI with downtown Juneau (with which it is currently paired in a district) than it is with the Mendenhall Valley (in the Juneau Borough) where Board member Simpson put Skagway in the new maps.  Singer is using "Everything in a Borough is SEI" to say that it doesn't matter, constitutionally, if Skagway is with Mendenhall Valley or with downtown Juneau.

Brena has argued that it does matter.  He's also arguing, without saying it out loud, that there is gerrymandering going on.  He's given the court all the pieces to put together:

1.  Simpson was picked because he's a Republican

2. He and his wife have been strong supporters of building a road to Skagway from Juneau

3. He's given election results to show that Mendenhall Valley favors the road and downtown Juneau doesn't

4. He's offered evidence that a road would devastate Skagway's economy as the 'Gateway to the Klondike" and as a cruise ship destination (the source of over 90% of their income).  [Maybe it would, or maybe there would be new opportunities, but they seem to believe it would.]

5. He's shown public testimony being overwhelmingly in favor of Skagway staying with downtown Juneau and not splitting up the Mendenhall Valley.  (Another complication because I haven't cited above the part of the constitution that says the board needs to spend six weeks getting feedback from the public on their draft plan. So what the public thinks matters, but the Board's attorney brushed it off with "This isn't a popularity contest.")

So Brena, all together, is giving the Court the pieces to see that Simpson ignored the close SEI ties between downtown Juneau and Skagway to put them into a district they aren't so SEI with.  This will mean their "adequate and true representation" will be diluted by having a representative who represents mostly people who want to build the road to Skagway, which they strongly oppose.  And Simpson did this, ignoring public opinion,  to further his personal political purpose of building the road to Skagway. 

So, the court has to balance Singer's mantra of "everyone in a Borough is SEI" with all these other factors that Brena says  need to be considered.  

So it seems that in trying to provide legal perspectives on SEI, I've essentially laid you Robin Brena's case for why Skagway should be with downtown Juneau.  I'd also note, this is the easiest case to fix.  No other districts need to be affected.  Just move the line south to add about 4000 people and reunite the Mendenhall Valley community.  Then take out Skagway, Haines, and Gustavus - also close to 4000 - and put them with downtown Juneau.  

East Anchorage Case

Issues here:  Compactness, Contiguity, and Socio-Economic Integration.  Also some hints at


1.  Contiguity is a possible big issue here, so let's see what Hickel said (in part, of course) 

"Contiguous territory is territory which is bordering or touching. As one commentator has noted, "[a] district may be defined as contiguous if every part of the district is reachable from every other part without crossing the district boundary (i.e., the district is not divided into two or more discrete pieces)."

The Board's interactive map makes the two Eagle River districts D22 and D24 purple so you can't really see which is which.  But they're paired with Elmendorf/Govt Hill (D23) and that little orange almost rectangle in the middle left (D21).  From Government Hill you'd have to drive through two districts to get to the other district in your Senate pairing.  From you South Muldoon you'd have to do the same.  Not contiguous in that sense.  Unless you want to hike over a mountain range.  

The Eagle River district maps only show parts of the districts.  It's hard to figure how they fit into this map above.  

East Anchorage is about the pairing of Senate districts and the only factor mentioned in the Constitution is contiguity.  

The two house districts paired here are contiguous geographically.  There is a large part where both districts touch.   But it is roadless land - mountains and different river drainages.  To get from the South Muldoon district to the Eagle River district you have to drive out of the district through other districts about eight or ten miles.  

The courts allowance of contiguity via roadless areas was originally in recognition that the State has many communities off the road system.  So that makes sense in rural areas.  It doesn't making sense in urban districts.  (Urban districts are also expected to have lover deviations (from the ideal population) than rural districts.  

2.  Socio-Economic Integrity

The two Eagle River districts which adjoin each other like the two halves of an apple (a very odd shaped apple) are among the whitest and wealthiest districts in Alaska.  The homes are large and many on large secluded lots.  The south Muldoon district is has a population made up of a large percentage of people of color and immigrants - actual population is close to 50%, voter age population is lower.  When a Muldoon house district was paired with an Eagle River district in 2013, the State's only black Senator was trounced in the next election.  

So the goal of reapportionment, from the Constitutional Convention of "adequate and true representation by the people in their elected legislature, true, just, and fair representation" is what the Court should be considering closely, because the people of south Muldoon are not going to get fair representation in the Senate with this pairing.  Continuity and compactness were also sacrificed to form this and the other Eagle River district that goes to Government Hill and parts of downtown.

Gerrymandering is also an issue here.  Board member Marcum said at the Board meeting that this pairing would give (Republican) Eagle River an extra Senate seat.  

Putting the two Eagle River house districts into one Senate seat is the most obvious and natural pairing on all factors, for both Eagle River and the two Anchorage districts they were paired with.  It would require repairing [pair them with different house districts*] some of the north Anchorage bowl house districts, but wouldn't be difficult and wouldn't affect other parts of the State.  

*Someone was confused with 'repairing' thinking I meant to fix, but I meant to re-pair them with other districts.


I have much less sense of this case.  Essentially, there are enough Calista Native Corporation members for one and a half house districts and about 70% of a Senate district.  The Board's map spreads them out over three house districts (D37, D38, D39) and two Senate districts.  They didn't come up with a map that puts all their members in two districts, but they did, if I understand this right, manage to increase their percentage in the third district from 1% to 10% (or something like that.)  

From Calista's Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law:

From the Board's Interactive Map

"Calista’s goal was to achieve more effective representation for its region by consolidating more of its population into fewer districts, specifically by having Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, and Chevak—which were historically in a district with Nome (District 39)—moved into the Bethel district (District 38), and shifting other Calista villages into the district to the south (District 37). While the Calista Region would still be split across three house districts and two senate districts, this would concentrate more of the region’s population into two house districts and one senate district in a manner that would have a meaningful effect on future election outcomes."  [emphasis added]

The goal, according the Calista President and CEO Andrew Guy, is to gain more control of a Senate seat.  

This would appear to be consistent with the idea of 

"the goal is adequate and true representation by the people in their elected legislature, true, just, and fair representation"

This case specifically raised the issue of gerrymandering:

"Multiple Board members had actual conflicts of interest. Member Bahnke is the President and CEO of Kawerak, Inc., the nonprofit arm of Bering Straits Native Corporation, which has an interest in District 39.7 Member Borromeo is a Doyon shareholder and the evidence at trial demonstrated that she was in close communication with the Doyon Coalition’s attorney about District 36 throughout the redistricting process.8 Member Simpson is outside counsel to Sealaska, an ANC in the Doyon Coalition, and testified that he receives six figures in billings from Sealaska annually and communicated with Sealaska about District 36 while working on the maps.9"

Particularly that the drawing of D36 and D39 unfairly impacted how D37 was drawn.   

Part of their proposal would move Tyonek out of D37 and put it back with Kenai Borough which it is part of.  (The fact that Kenai Peninsula Borough was broken twice, but the Board stubbornly refused to do that with Fairbanks raises questions about the consistency of the Board's rules.)  This will cause a ripple effect that Doyon Intervening attorney Admdur-Clark argued would ripple into many other districts, meaning the Board would have a bigger job.  

Mat-Su and Valdez

I've spent a lot of time on this in previous posts.  Again Brena made a strong argument about competing interests between Mat-Su and Valdez, which means Valdez wouldn't achieve 

"the goal is adequate and true representation by the people in their elected legislature, true, just, and fair representation"

There are also contiguity issues because you have to cross into District 36 for over 100 miles to get back to District 29 and drive into Mat-Su where 76% of the population of the district lives.

Brena also raised the issues of various Board members protecting their interests - getting all the Doyon and Ahtna villages into D36 for example - that meant that Valdez' normal pairing with the Richardson Highway communities was foreclosed.  

Ruling in favor of Valdez will cause the Board the most headaches, because it will affect a lot of other districts, either directly, or through ripple effects.  

So, sometime in the next 12 hours the Judge Matthews' decision should be known.  

I'd make a correction to what I wrote in the previous post.  I said if they can't get a final map done in time for the Division of Elections, then the Proclamation Plan map would be used.  That's what happened in the 2012 election.  But as I read the Hickel case again, I saw that another option is to have the trial court judge get a map done in time for the election.  

"In a separate Order of Remand, later corrected, we directed the superior court to remand the case to the Board for formulation of a final plan. However, because of time constraints, we also directed the court to formulate an interim plan so that 1992 state elections might proceed in conformity with the requirements of the United States Constitution, the Alaska Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. Further, we authorized the court to employ experts or masters to assist in the formulation of an interim plan. See Appendix C.

Thereafter the superior court appointed three masters. After receiving instructions from the court and reviewing alternative plans proposed by the parties, the masters presented a recommended interim plan to the court on June 14. In Orders dated June 18 and 19, the superior court accepted the Masters' recommendation, with several modifications including a redrawing of the Fairbanks House Districts. The parties cross-petitioned this court for review of the court's orders. On June 25, after considering oral and written arguments, we granted the petition and affirmed the court's interim plan with modifications required by our determination that the court had erred in redrawing the Fairbanks House Districts."

Monday, February 14, 2022

First Draft Of Suggestions For Next Alaska Redistricting Board


  • Starting from scratch every ten years is hard
  • Need way to maintain institutional memory
  • Start much earlier 
  • Get professional help
  • Don't require local areas to make 40 district maps
  • Do map making sessions with public at public hearings
  • Enforce:  board members not selected based on party affiliation
  • Guidance to Board on Alaska constitution, laws, and court decisions regarding redistricting should be public
  • Better rules about incumbents:  Not protecting incumbents should be paired with not target incumbents

I think it might be helpful for everyone involved in this process to think about what happened and write up some lessons learned for the next Board.  People playing different roles will see different things.  

So I'm starting my list now before I forget things.  This won't be the 'final report' but at least I'm doing a first draft

What have I learned from this round of redistricting?

Maybe I should start with lessons learned from the 2010 round of redistricting:  

1.  We aren't done yet.  If the courts agree with any of the lawsuits, the Board will be reconvened and begin mapping again. It will be easy if just Skagway or East Anchorage needs to be changed.  Calista has the potential to have wide ranging statewide impacts if Tyonek is pushed back into the Kenai Peninsula Borough.  The Valdez-Mat-Su complaints will require significant remapping and strong opposition from Doyon which worked hard to get all its communities and Ahtna communities into one giant (physically) district.  

2.  The 2021 Proclamation Plan will probably be the plan for the 2022 election.  June 1 is the deadline for state candidates to file for office.  I wasn't exactly sure the timeline so I checked with Board executive director.  His response was: 

"We expect a decision on Feb 15. The timeline is that appeals have to be filed in 2 business days. So if the decision comes Tuesday the 15th, appeals are due by Thursday the 17th. The court will convene a status hearing, likely by Monday, Feb 21.  Appeal briefs are due 10 days later, or about March 2. Appellee’s response is due 5 days after that, and then the court will likely hold an oral argument the week of the 14th or 21st of March. If the court sticks to the appellate rule, it will decide the appeal by April 1.

I think the idea here is that an April 1ish decision would give the Board some time to potentially resolve a remand order (make a change) with enough time for Div Elections to still do their job properly leading up to June 1.  But of course, if it's a complicated remand (like start over), that could be very difficult."

And I would add, if the revision is challenged, there probably won't be time and the new Proclamation Plan districts (the ones being challenged) would be used.   

3.  The Board might want to start mapping new options right now.  Let me rephrase that because the Board does NOT want to do that.  Why do possibly unnecessary work?  But they could get started before the final court verdicts are in.  At the very least they will know what the Superior Court decision is by Wednesday.  And they have a meeting already set for Wednesday at 11am.  The hardest adjustment will be, as I said above, if the Mat-Su/Valdez and Calista cases win.  The other two they should be able to fix easily.  But to the extent that Board members have vested interests in the existing maps, that's another reason to delay so that the current Proclamation Plan goes into effect for the 2022 election.  

Suggestions For The Next Board (The Legislature May Have To Help With This)

1.  Starting from scratch every ten years is difficult -  To rev up a brand new organization every ten years has some advantages but also some real problems.  The Board members don't get appointed until the decennial census year.  That was 2020 this round.  They then have to find office space, get equipment, hire administrative staff, hire legal counsel, learn all the rules, learn the mapping technology, figure out how to do the public participation road show (I really don't like that term, it makes it sound like it's superficial and it emphasizes the "show" part and not the listen part.  

On the plus side, you get fresh perspectives and new ideas.  But there has to be better continuity and some sort of institutional memory established.  

2. There should be a way to maintain some institutional memory - Perhaps having a state agency that's responsible for keeping up the Board's website, and ideally an employee who was involved with the Board who can help get basic things done for the Board.  \

The last Board's website disappeared.   And even it it had been kept alive, much of the material would have disappeared because it was on various State websites which got cleared when new governors got elected.  The best available record for the public of what happened in the 2010 cycle is my redistricting page with an annotated index of all my posts.  And a lot of my links are bad because the Board's documents are gone.   That isn't how it should be for an important government agency.  

Peter Torkelson tells me he's doing what he can to make sure the current Board's website is preserved. But that responsibility should be institutionalized, not just depend on a former Board employee. 

3.  Start much earlier - This current Board should leave a todo list and a time schedule for the next Board and even meet with them early on.  Steve Colligan, Mat-Su's redistricting/mapping consultant said that they began planning for redistricting five years ago.  They were keeping up with changes in the Census Bureau's advances in technology and data.  They started mapping ideal districts early.  Sure, you're working in a  bit of a vacuum because you don't know the ideal size of a district.  But by the time you get that information, you've spent a lot of time working the mapping software and overcoming technical obstacles.  He also said he has highly skilled GIS people to do much of the work.  This Board got appointed in the second half of 2020.  They didn't start playing with the software until July 2021.  They may have learned some basics quickly, but they are still amateurs. 

4.  Get professional help - Even if the software gets much easier to use in the next ten years, Board members learning it on-the-job is not a good model.  I know the Board members believe they got proficient and did a good job, and that's probably true.  But a trained, skilled GIS person knows a lot of tricks hidden in the software and lots of shortcuts.  I suspect Board member Simpson had the right approach - he says he didn't actually.  I've taken a couple of semester long university level classes in Photoshop and I can do a number of things, but the software has capabilities way beyond my level.  

5.   Don't require local areas to make 40 district maps - This Board's attorney explained in court that they required local governments to do whole 40 district maps, not just do maps of their area.  The justification was that it's easy to just do your area, but that you have to the whole state to see how your boundaries affect other districts.  That's logical, but it's also an easy excuse to not pay attention to what local people do.  It's the Board's job to listen to what local areas want and to try to incorporate them into a whole state map, not local communities.  

6.  Do map making sessions with public at public hearings where the Board techs work with local residents to try to fix boundaries that work with other areas' concerns.

7.  Enforce:  board members not selected based on party affiliation

8.  Guidance to Board on Alaska constitution, laws, and court decisions regarding redistricting should be public

9.  Better rules about incumbents:  This round's Board made a rule not to protect incumbents.  That's fine, but only if they also have a rule not to target incumbents.  

My granddaughter has a serious sibling rivalry with my laptops.  So this is going to have to do for now. This is just a first draft.  I'll also try to make a list of things the Board did well later.  And I'd encourage Board members, staff, the public, and others to make suggestions too.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

AK Redistricting Board: The First Trial Is Over

[See message from Board Executive Director which arrived just after I posted this. At bottom]

So how should I do this?  There were five cases.  The Board had to respond to all of them.  Board attorney Singer responded to all of them except the Calista case which he delegated to Lee Baxter. 

Robin Brena was the attorney for two cases - Valdez and Skagway.  Stacey Stone for Valdez' partner case Mat-Su.  Holly Wells for East Anchorage, and Michael Schechter for Calista.  

I was hoping the closing arguments would be posted online and I could just direct you there for the details of the arguments.  But they aren't up and I doubt they'll be up before Monday if then.  The Findings of Facts and of Law are all up which is a general guide to what was said in the closing arguments.  

[I originally linked to the Court page with these documents, but the Board has put them on their page and I think that will be more permanent.  They've talked of preserving it, unlike the last Board website.]

There were lots of things here to talk about.  One biggie is how ridiculous and how useful the adversarial process is.  Silly because attorneys fight hard to defend the indefensible, but useful because so many important points get out and rebutted.  And this seems like a very conscientious and thoughtful judge.  The grandstanding some did, that might work (or backfire) in front of a jury is irrelevant, because the judge, this judge, seems to see through it.  He was gracious to all the attorneys and court staff and whatever he decides will be thoughtful.  The biggest obstacle for him is time - time to read through everything, time to write up his findings.  

But let me try to wing it here and just talk about a couple things that caught my attention. 

I wasn't impressed with  East Anchorage's Holly Wells' presentation.  I'd expected it to clearly identify legal criteria and then show how the Board missed them.  It was less organized than that.  But I missed the first few minutes of Wells' presenting her case - I had the video ready, but must have hit the stop button. 

So I went back to see if the video was still there. (The court doesn't save the video, but sometimes it doesn't get taken down right away.  As I post this (Saturday) it is still up and you can listen for yourself.  You can skip around to get a sense of the different attorneys to see their various styles. Maybe it will stay there over the weekend before someone takes it down - PLEASE court, just leave it there until Monday at least.)

So I've transcribed the beginning (the part I missed)  of Wells' closing argument:

Wells: This case is really one of process than anything. While process has been sidelined by the board recently Process is the heart of every substantive Constitutional requirement that faces the Board.  It’s at the heart of how it functions, how it understand its obligations.  

The board’s decisions were to abandon process and to even outright evade it on the 8th and 9th hearings and Senate pairings that led to the substantial constitutional errors that were  committed by the Board with respect to ER EastAnchorage Senate pairings..  Seems almost peripheral to focus on something like process when you’re looking at the level of extreme substantive crimes??  here..  But the truth is that it is the courts that have grounded us in this concept.  In order to understand where things went off the rails, we have to understand why.  And because it is present in every piece and every component of the Board’s decision. It’s also present in how the Board analyzes and its own perspective of its errors and its decisions not to ?? those errors and its decision to conceal them which has its own issues.  I think the best place to start is with the house districts.  

With the house districts saw a board who made every effort to try to communicate with the public.  They adopted a public testimony process at the beginning and the end of every hearing.  They put up interactive maps, they adopted software that allowed the public to go in and draw on those maps.  They made mistakes because every board makes mistakes, and they’re inevitable, but they did maintain the integrity of their process, so at the end of the day they, when the Board members were gathered at their table there was fighting there was difficult conversation, a lot of public input and at the end of the day a fair house district map resulted.  On Nov 8 they walked in and suddenly they changed their agenda.  There is no second public testimony.  They cling to the presence of senate pairings and leave the findings facts and conclusions of law of the Board, there were  talk of Senate pairing proposals of the third party plans.  But in reality when they walked in they didn’t know what they were creating or how they were going to create it.  The discussions in the transcript have questions from member Bahnke asking “What’s our plan? How are we going to do this?”  And Chair Binkley answered, “I don’t know, maybe do some on our own, smaller groups, then we’ll all get back together and then we’ll show the public what we’ve come up with.  On the record.  There were no plans there were no Senate pairings out there and the public, even without those plans, submitted over 100 comments in support of keeping ER together and keeping Muldoon with Muldoon.  There was a significant focus of the public on the house districts, it was a running theme.  Fear that ER would be split, given two house seats and combined with Muldoon and then would be fragmented.  As they start this process, Board member Bahnke makes a presentation. And the majority Board members are silent.  They say nothing. They make some comments, I think there’s some discussion on procedural issues, but there is no substantive statement of support or opposition to what she presents about ER and Anchorage senate pairings.  

Then Board member Marcum makes her presentation.  She mentions that she has four versions, she doesn’t present any particular version in a way where you are looking at a concrete, visible, clear presentation of Senate pairings.

We see that in David Dunsmore’s affidavit.  We see that very clearly when we review the transcripts.  

And yet the one thing she does do, she makes it very clear there is one goal she is trying to accomplish.  She wants JBER to be paired with Eagle River.  My biggest disappointment is that reading this is much more interesting than listening to wells tell us.  It's more like she's relating to a friend what she said after a long day at trial.  And it may be the case that she was up late last night practicing.  She starts by telling us it's about process - which is an important part - but she doesn't succinctly identify the rule or law or constitutional point that was violated with a short example of what happened.  We have to work hard ourselves to figure out what points she's making.  There's no First, Second, Third to help us get back on track.  

She does, after this, talk about the Board being a public entity that is acting like a private entity, but if she cites legal differences between the two and then gives examples of what the Board did, I missed it in the droning narrative.  

We get principles - 
"Socio Economic integration is not required for Senate pairings, but rational decision making is."

She tells us administrative record wasn't maintained.  That there was a lack of communication.  That they violated Roberts Rules of Order.  

All that's true.  Minutes didn't really tell the public what happened or who was responsible.  And if I recall correctly, they all got delivered and approved in a huge group, so late in the process, that the Board itself didn't have time to check each meeting.  And frankly, by the time they got the minutes, it would have been hard to recollect what happened when or to find what was missing.  But why exactly is this illegal and reason to do what, exactly?  Sure, the transcripts of the meetings were never actually put up on the Board's website.  It took till the end of the pre-trial hearings before they actually got transcribed. Tell us why that's illegal enough to invalidate the ER pairings.  And the board did a great job of posting the audio or video very quickly of every meeting.  They also did a good job of posting the public comments within a week of the meeting, often faster.  

But as I know too well, going through video to find what was said is a slow and tedious process.  Transcripts, good ones anyway, allow you to search key terms.  Then if you need to, you can find the spot on the video - again, if the transcripts include time.  [Next time the Board should make sure there's a clock always visible in the video to make it easier to find things.]  

I went through the East Anchorage findings of fact fairly quickly yesterday.  After listening today, I need to do that again to see if they highlight more clearly the points she made today.  I suspect they do.  And this trial has been going at a grueling pace.  I suspect she didn't get much sleep the night before.  But that makes having an organized, point by point presentation all the more important.  

She ended by saying the remedy for the ER pairings is easy - they just need to follow the Bahnke plan that was presented.  

And then comes Singer, the board's attorney.  I finally figured out why it's so tedious to listen to him at trial.  There's a smugness in his voice.  Disdain.  He knows the truth and he sounds like he's tired of having to correct all the plaintiffs' errors.  That this all is a waste of his time. (A lucrative waste.) I didn't figure this out until the Calista case today when Lee Baxter took the role of the Board's lawyer.  In contrast, he sounds respectful and sincere as he tries to counter the plaintiff's arguments.  The parts that sound a bit like Singer are the parts that I suspect Singer had a hand in scripting - He started off by saying that "Calista seeks to gerrymander NW Alaska to increase representation."  That is out of character for Baxter.  But back to East Anchorage. (And I'll stray beyond East Anchorage.)

Basically, Singer was taking a stand that it doesn't matter what the districts are like as long as they don't violate the Constitutional requirements.  It doesn't matter if there are better maps that could have been drawn.  The plaintiffs had the chance to draw better maps but waited until after everything was over.  The Board worked hard, are smart people and they did a great job. There is no concern about having the best plan possible, just winning.  

What would happen if in Court the Board authorized the attorney to say, "You know, Brena is right about Skagway.  The court should give that one back to the Board and we'll switch Skagway back to downtown Juneau and keep all the Mendenhall Glacier  [Valley] together"? But that would take a concern for the people of Alaska that Singer doesn't seem to have.  Some things he said:

1.  "Everything within a Borough is socio-economically integrated.  End of argument."  We heard this over and over at Board meetings, from Singer and then from Board members.  I would really like for Singer's briefing to the Board on Redistricting Law to be made public so we can know if he told him about how much more flexible the SC decisions have been.  How they've emphasized things like:

"In addition to preventing gerrymandering, the requirement that districts be composed of relatively integrated socio-economic areas helps to ensure that a voter is not denied his or her right to an equally powerful vote."

That is precisely the point being made best by Brena in the Skagway and Valdez cases.  But also in the East Anchorage case and the Calista case.   And that's true for Senate seats as well - the voters not be denied their right to an equally powerful vote.  Even inside a Borough.

2.  Dismissing claims about overwhelming public testimony on Eagle River/Muldoon pairings (and Skagway), "This is not a popularity contest."  Actually in a way it is. We're talking about elections and democracy and he's just saying, the Board can ignore what the public has to say because that's why they were chosen to be on the board. To make the hard decisions. Over the will of the people they are deciding about.  Except if that were true the Constitution wouldn't require 60 days of public hearings.  And if it's true, the Board should pay back all the money they spent traveling the state to hear from the public.  

3.  On the other hand, he said again, that it's easy to make a map of one or a few districts.  But you really have to make a map of all forty districts because then you'll see how hard it is.  That seems to contradict the point of it being the Board's job to make the hard decisions.  If the Board tells people they will only look at their maps if they make complete state maps, that's essentially telling them "We don't care what you think."  The Board members got paid a decent fee to spend the last year making statewide maps with specialized training and staff assistance.  Simpson even testified he didn't do any mapping himself, he had staff do it for him.  That was better for him.  But the public was supposed to make 40 district maps?  They couldn't just describe their preferences for their own district and let the Board work it out?  

OK, I know it's not easy, and Tanner Amdur-Clark did a good job as an intervenor explaining how little changes in one place ripple across the state.  The presentation was effective, but I don't have the ability or time to double check what he said in detail.  And he is strongly advocating for maintaining D36 as it is, so he has a vested interest in not letting that district get altered which would happen if there are any changes to Valdez and Mat-Su maps.  But the presentation was a good illustration of the difficulty of making maps. 

4.  Right after telling us that "attacks on Doyon and Ahtna and others are an excuse to get the map they want" that "Ad hominem attacks are falacious"  Singer, in the next sentence, calls Valdez' expert Kimball Brace "Mr Gerrymander."  He's been called that on national television so it's not original to Singer, but nationally it's more a recognition of how well he knows how to map.  But Singer has made sure to link Brace to that moniker frequently.  That might work with a jury, but I think Judge Matthews sees through that.   

He also made fun of Brace for calling Hoonah, Houlihan.  But I recall Singer apologizing for not being able to pronounce all the names of the villages in the Calista case.

5.  He sounds a lot like a certain ex-president denying every allegation, even those everyone saw him do live on television.  I think I say that because of the swagger in his voice as he denies everything.  Well, not everything.  He acknowledged that Skagway joined with downtown Juneau would be perfectly ok, but it doesn't matter because that's not what the Board did and what the Board did was fine.  Because everything in a Borough is SEI so pairing with downtown Juneau or Mendenhall Valley would be equally SEI.  This just doesn't appear to be the case.  Except he's clinging to part of the Hickel case where that was said, but under different circumstances.

 I think this denial of reality is what is so frustrating. The Court early on said everything in a Borough by definition is socio-economically integrated because that was how Boroughs were defined in the legislation that created them.  But in a large, populated borough like Anchorage 50 years later, we know that in reality, that's not true.  It's a fiction.  Mountain View is not SEI with Campbell Lake. 

Brena made it clear that most people in Juneau would prefer Skagway with downtown Juneau and Mendenhall Valley whole. There is a very close government, business, and personal tie that isn't there with the Mendenhall Valley.  It really is what the people there, according to the testimony, including going through Simpson's handwritten notes person by person at the Skagway public hearing (which the Juneau Board member only attended via Zoom and not in person).  And switching them would be easy and not affect any other districts.  Yet the Board is simply going to stonewall that and go for the map that basically one person - Simpson - wanted regardless of the public testimony.  (At least that's how I heard the testimony)

I'd point the reader to my post that looks at some of what the Court has said about Socio-Economic Integration to understand my frustration with Singer's narrow view and my optimism that Brena has read those cases more closely and shaped his arguments carefully to mirror what the Court seems to believe.  

There are at least 100 posts that could be written about yesterday's closing arguments.  I'll try to get a bit more of a general summary of the arguments done.  But these were things that really stood out for me.

All my posts on the Board going back to December 2020 are indexed (latest post on top) at the Redistricting Board tab just under the Banner up top.  

UPDATE - Well really an addition that came just after I posted this.  An email from Redistricting Board Executive Director about a) they're posting court info on the Board's site  and b) a meeting Wednesday to discuss the judge's decision - which is due before midnight Tuesday. But they'll probably go into Executive Session, which would be appropriate for the parts where they discuss how they plan to react.  

From Torkelson:

It has been a whirlwind of litigation work the past several weeks with many late nights and weekends dedicated to defending the Board's adopted Proclamation Plan.  The Plaintiffs have likewise worked diligently investing substantial time and resources pursuing resolution of their concerns. 

Closing arguments wrapped up yesterday afternoon and we expect the Superior Court's decision by Tuesday, February 15.  Attorneys with decades of experience on both sides have never seen a case move this fast.

There are over 150,000 pages of litigation related documents and numerous motions and counter-motions filed by all parties.  It is easy to get lost in the flurry.

We have created a litigation web page which contains the initial complaints followed by Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law responses – the best summary of each sides' arguments.  
We will update this page with the Superior Court's decision once it is published.

The Board will meet via Zoom Wednesday, Feb 16 at 11am to receive a report from our legal team on the Superior Court's findings.  Here's the public notice link which includes the Zoom invite and agenda:
Have a great weekend,

Peter Torkelson
Executive Director
Alaska Redistricting Board