December 7, 2011 in City

Deadline looms on redistricting

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – The panel trying to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative boundaries made some progress over the last week – they’ve gone from “impasse” to “bottlenecks.”

But members couldn’t promise when they’d have a final plan, and acknowledged 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. On Tuesday, Tim Ceis, member of the state Redistricting Commission, 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 tentative agreements,” Commissioner Tom Huff said.

“We’re trying as best as we can,” Commissioner Dean Foster said. “Sometimes we run into bottlenecks.”

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 to work out significant differences between a Democratic plan and a Republican plan to redraw the state’s 49 legislative boundaries. They also must come up with a congressional map that adds the state’s new congressional district, all by Dec. 31. If they don’t come up with plans that at least three 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.”

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