OLYMPIA — The panel trying to redraw boundaries for the state's congressional and legislative boundaries made some progress over the last week — they've gone from “impasse” to “bottle necks.”
But members couldn't promise when they'd have a final plan, and acknowledge they are running short on time.
Impasse was the word used last week to describe efforts to draw legislative boundaries from Pierce County north around the Puget Sound. This week, Commissioner Tim Ceis said he and Commissioner Slade Gorton had narrowed their differences “to just a couple of issues.”
The other two commissioners are working on legislative boundaries to the south, and have made “nominal gains and some tentatitive agreements,” Commissioner Tom Huff said.
“We're trying as best as we can,” Commissioner Dean Foster said. “Sometimes we run into bottle necks.”
When Chairwoman Lura Powell asked if they would have maps to show the public at the commission's Dec. 13 meeting, Foster replied: “I'm not making any promises.”
The panel's four voting members have split into subcommittees in an effort to work out significant differences between a Democratic plan and a Republican plan to redraw the state's 49 legislative boundaries. They must redraw the legislative districts, and come up with a congressional map that adds the state's new congressional district, by Dec. 31. If they don't come up with plans that at least three of the four can agree to, the task goes to the state Supreme Court.
David Anderson, an Olympia resident who has been following the redistricting process all year, suggested the committee was hung up because members are meeting in secret while trying to protect incumbents and create politically safe districts for one party or the other.
“We have no idea what's causing these bottlenecks,” said Anderson, the only person to testify at Tuesday's hearing. “It's the people's business. When you isolate yourselves from the rest of the public and public input, it creates a lot of cynicism.”