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Archive for September 5, 2011

Redistricters adjourn until 8 a.m. tomorrow, mount last-ditch effort at plan

Well, it's down to the last-ditch try for Idaho's bipartisan redistricting commission. The panel reconvened at 3 p.m., at which point GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito said, “I think we've been making great progress - I'm encouraged. Of course we need some more time - that's just been the nature of this. So if we could have another couple of hours to let commissioners Finman and Kane continue to work their magic, I would appreciate it.” He called for a recess until 5 p.m., but a clearly exhausted GOP Commissioner Evan Frasure said, “We have not had our lunch yet even - we've been working through on these numbers to try to hand back to you in the spirit of compromise - I'm tired of it.” His eyes red-rimmed, Frasure proposed adjourning until tomorrow, rather than bring the staff back today at 5. The rest of the commission agreed, and they're now adjourned until 8 a.m. Their drop-dead deadline to have a plan is 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Esposito said afterward that GOP Commissioner Lorna Finman and Democratic Commissioner Julie Kane have been working with Frasure and Democratic Commissioner Allen Andersen on district lines for eastern Idaho, and the two women are nearly done with North Idaho districts. “I just received another map on Ada County,” Esposito said. “It doesn't appear there's been any movement there, but we'll see. Everybody's tired. We're putting our trust in Commissioners Finman and Kane.”

Finman said, “We're trying. It's kind of fragile. We're giving it our best shot.” Kane said, “I just think it's good that we're making progress. I don't want to be too optimistic, but I think we're working hard. I'm hopeful - I've been hopeful throughout the process.”

Asked if there's really any chance at this point that the commission could make tomorrow's 5 p.m. deadline, Andersen said, “I think it can be, if they are truly willing to do what they're going to have to do to put this all together, instead of keep talking.” If the commission fails, the ball likely would be kicked to the Idaho Supreme Court - which likely would kick it back to the commission, ordering it back to work.

Redistricters break on slightly more hopeful note…

Before breaking until 3 p.m., Idaho's bipartisan citizen redistricting commission has taken a brief look at where things stand between Commissioners Lorna Finman and Julie Kane on North Idaho - with a District 2 that eliminates the controversial backwards C shape, instead vertically slicing off the eastern third of Bonner County to attach to District 2, which stretches through Shoshone County and south, keeping Clark Fork whole rather than dividing it. “We've actually looked at it in a pragmatic way,” Kane told the commissioners. “This is a pretty clean map. … I just wanted to sort of bring this up as an illustration of … kind of a step in the direction of moving toward a solution in the north.” The map still is evolving, she noted. “I concur with what Commissioner Kane is saying,” Finman said. “This was a good kind of map to springboard from, and we've made some tweaks up there that we're very close on now. I think it's very doable.”

Then, Democratic commission Co-Chair Allen Andersen presented a handout to the GOP commissioners, a map of Idaho colored mostly red, but with three small white blotches and one tiny blue blotch.

The white blotches are in north-central Idaho, in southeastern Idaho and around Blaine County, and the blue blotch is in the northern part of the Boise area. “We would prefer these areas be maintained as having a Democratic influence,” Andersen said, noting, “As you can see, the rest of the state is completely red.”

He said, “What I would like the Republican commissioners to think about, what I'd like 'em to do is to take this … handout, make any line, draw any legislative districts they want to draw, keeping these areas that I've identified whole.”

GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito objected to the blue blotch. “I'm going to say this as gently as I can, the reach from downtown Boise to Eagle is just plain unacceptable, it's greed at its worst. I am fully prepared to give Commissioner Moses status quo; this goes far beyond that. So we need to figure out a way to get through that. But I remain hopeful that if we get North Idaho done, we can work through all this. I appreciate you giving us this map to show the areas of concern.”

Female redistricting commissioners offer to mediate among feuding males

GOP Redistricting Commissioner Lorna Finman called for everyone to take a step back. She noted that she and Democratic Commissioner Julie Kane are close to agreement on North Idaho legislative district lines, and there seem to be just a few districts in southeastern and southwestern Idaho where the other commissioners are clashing. “In effect, we probably are all agreeing on 30 out of the 35 districts, and the handful left are obviously real sore spots.” Finman made her fellow commissioners an offer: “I do believe that Commissioner Kane and I are very close to an agreement on the north.” If they can conclude that, the two of them would be willing, she said, to serve as intermediaries to help the other commissioners work out their remaining sore points. “We've had a good, positive dialogue that's been open and reasonable, and if we can … support our other colleagues … still hopefully we can leave with something everyone can feel good about.” She noted, “We're very, very close, obviously, to this falling apart.”

Commissioner George Moses was skeptical, saying he and Commissioner Lou Esposito have more than a handful of districts in dispute in Ada County alone. Commissioner Evan Frasure said he wasn't done entering into the record the partial maps he released yesterday; the commission has now taken a brief recess to allow the staff to get all the details of those ready for submission. During the break, Kane said  she's with Finman - she's willing to help mediate. Co-Chairman Allen Andersen smiled and indicated he liked the idea, saying it would “get all of the testosterone out of it.” Esposito said, “If that's what it takes, I'm all for it.”

Redistricters spar in Labor Day session

GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito, responding to complaints from Democratic Commissioner George Moses that GOP commissioners never gave their response to five proposed legislative plans the Democratic commissioners submitted several days ago, said, “You did submit five plans the other day, and we were busily working toward some compromises. … We did take a close look at your plans and then made the decision in the hopes of reaching an agreement not to publicly review the plans because of the fact that they were unacceptable, and we could go through point by point and point out all the flaws in each one of the plans, but we truly had hoped to find a starting point and that's what we did.” Moses responded, “Pick the one you find least objectionable and let's talk about what the flaws are.” Esposito said, “I think that's what we've been doing.”

He noted that “to their credit,” commissioners Lorna Finman and Julie Kane have continued working on North Idaho lines and have made progress, and moved to recess the committee to 2 this afternoon for more work.

But before that, Commissioner Evan Frasure said he's been informed that after publicly releasing partial maps for eastern Idaho yesterday that he and Commissioner Allen Andersen had been negotiating, he has to formally submit those as partial legislative district plans, so he's doing that now. Going through the details, Frasure noted that one of his proposals put GOP Rep. Jim Guthrie into a district with three other Republicans. “I just threw Jim under the bus … by me offering to compromise to follow the Democratic plan,” he said. He offered that and other details as proof that he wasn't taking a “my way or the highway” position.

Redistricters deadlock 3-3, three times…

Democratic redistricting Commissioner George Moses moved this morning to approve a congressional redistricting plan - starting with a publicly submitted plan that kept all counties whole, and created a new District 2 in the southwest corner of the state, including Ada and Canyon Counties, while the rest of the state is District 1. “The public has done, in many cases, a very good job in meeting the criteria,” Moses said; that plan has a population deviation of .28.  GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito said, “I guess Commissioner Moses is entitled to a vote. We've been over all this ground over and over again. We've had staff research the fact that congressional districts nationwide have gone to zero deviation, let me repeat that … zero deviation. … If this is the effort by our Democratic colleagues to move this process forward, I'm kinda sitting here scratching my head. … we already have agreement on the record on another plan, only held because of wanting to vote on a legislative plan.”

GOP Commissioner Evan Frasure said, “I appreciate the fact that we're voting - the only way to find out people's position is to cast votes. … Hopefully we can salvage a congressional line, hopefully today,” before tomorrow's 5 p.m. deadline.

The congressional district plan, C-2, then was voted down on a 3-3, party-line vote, with the Democrats in favor and the Republicans against. Moses then moved another publicly submitted plan, C-4, with a deviation of .16 percent; it, again, creates a new District 2 in the southwestern corner of the state, with the rest of the state making up District 1. It too failed on a 3-3 vote, as did C-9, another publicly submitted plan that created a northern District 1 including Ada County, and a southern District 2 including Canyon County.

Redistricters open on somber note

The Idaho redistricting commission opened on a somber note this morning, as Co-Chairman Allen Andersen fiddled with a colorful hand-held wooden puzzle, saying it's an interesting toy that can come together in a variety of ways. As he toyed with it, he said, “Last night, I was chagrined in realizing that I had been sucker punched. … It appears that my confidence was breached, which caused me some real concern. So I got to spend a lot of time last night seeing if there was a way I can make this work.” Twisting the colored pieces, he said, “It is difficult, especially when trust is a part of the process and that trust is breached. But we still have to move on best way we know how. This can be worked with, different combinations, permutations are made, eventually a design will come out of it that is pleasing. Hopefully that's what we can do today.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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