Several Maricopa city leaders say the Pinal County Supervisors are ignoring input from city leaders and citizens on the boundaries of the county’s new supervisory districts.
City officials object to the current proposals for a variety of reasons, according to Maricopa Councilmember Nancy Smith. Those include the splitting of Maricopa into two districts, with Tortosa and the areas east of town landing in District 3; including Saddlebrooke, which is a retirement community and suburb of Tucson, in a district whose interests are primarily aligned with those of Phoenix and Maricopa County; and the sheer size of the district, which runs from the southern edge of Maricopa County all the way to the Pima County border.
Another objection raised by both Smith and Mayor Christian Price is the process through which the redistricting is being done. The supervisors will hold a work session next Tuesday, March 1, from 9 a.m.-noon, then vote on a redistricting plan to submit for public comment. That public comment period will last less than 24 hours, as the supervisors will vote on the final district boundaries at their meeting Wednesday, March 2 at 9:30 a.m. in Florence.
While the state’s congressional and legislative districts are drawn by an independent redistricting commission, the supervisory districts are drawn by the supervisors themselves.
The entire process is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of some local officials.
“What’s happening now is that the city of Maricopa for the first time in its history is being split into two districts,” Price said. “We have a piece of Tortosa that is no longer in District 4 with supervisor McClure. And that’s really kind of bothering us. We know there’s going to be a lot of growth there in that area. We’d also like to see if we can keep all of the city of Maricopa together – that seems to make sense to us. That’s really what we’re fighting for, that’s the challenge.”
The redistricting process has been ongoing for more than a month. Two redistricting maps were initially proposed – Maps A and B. Based on the initial round of public input, which lasted about a month, a Map C was developed. That is where the problems began for Smith, who pulled no punches when talking about the process – or its results.
“Map C came out and it was obvious very quickly that none – zero – of the input from Maricopa and the northern area of Pinal County was incorporated into that map,” Smith said. “That’s very, very, upsetting. Here’s the main point, I think – they didn’t take a single bit of input from their own communities of interest. They flat out ignored it. Saddlebrooke has absolutely nothing in common with district 4.”
Maricopa Vice Mayor Vincent Manfredi said the process needs to work for everyone.
“The most crucial aspect of redistricting is to ensure it is fair and works for all the residents of Pinal County, not just the elected officials,” Manfredi said. “(District 4 supervisor) Jeff (McClure) is a good guy, and I like him as our supervisor, so I don’t want to lose him, and if his precinct is moved to a different district, he will continue to represent Maricopa until the 2024 supervisor elections.”
Manfredi and Smith both pointed out that when the Arizona State Legislative districts were redrawn earlier in the year, six sitting state senators and 19 sitting house members are now being forced to run against each other in this year’s election.
“The Independent Redistricting Commission did what was best for the people, not the elected officials,” Manfredi said. “Therefore, we should look and see if the County Supervisor districts should be drawn by an independent redistricting commission, not the elected officials, so we can avoid these things in the future.”
Smith also seized on the issue of supervisors protecting their own interests rather than doing what is best for their constituents.
“One of the nine principles the supervisors used to determine the districts was to protect incumbents’ territory,” Smith said. “But the county attorney told us that is one of the nine principles because they put it there, not because it’s a state law. Why shouldn’t county commissioners have the same standard as state legislators?”
Price had multiple objections to the districts, and primary among them is the lack of time for public comment.
“They may vote on it as early as Wednesday,” Price said “I think more time for the public to comment is always better. And so, if they’re going to come out with any new maps for us to view, and we get to see if Tortosa is back in or not as of Tuesday, then really, it doesn’t give the public a lot of time in which to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’ One of the things I would encourage our public to do is to contact your supervisor, contact all the supervisors, because it’s not just one that votes on it. It’s all five of them.”