In search of loving home: Valdez
Once called the “single most-difficult decision” on where to place, Valdez is once again at the center of the Alaska Redistricting Board litigation.
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: It’s a double serving of Alaska Redistricting news that covers the action from Tuesday and Wednesday as the trial really dug into the problems presented by the placement of Valdez—which the courts once called the “single most-difficult decision” in a previous round of redistricting litigation—and why fulfilling the city’s request would create a cascade of other problems throughout the state; I heard Gov. Mike Dunleavy had his annual State of the State; and the reading list.
Programming note: I’m used to the busy coverage of the Legislature, but that hasn’t prepared me for just how busy I’d be with covering 9-to-5 court hearings in the Alaska Redistricting Board trial. Unlike the Legislature, where meetings are well-documented by GavelAlaska and the Legislature, this trial is a broadcast live with no easy way to return to the tape. I’ve gotta be tuned in with my recording software running if I want to get what’s going on, which means there’s very little opportunities for me to look away. It’ll be this way through mid-next week.
That’s all to say if there’s anything that’s on your radar Legislature-wise, feel free to ping me about interesting hearings—I hear that today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crime legislation was particularly spicy—and I’ll see what I can do. There will be plenty of Legislature to go around.
Thanks for the patience, y’all. And, as always, apologies for the typos.
Legislative day: 9
Alaska Redistricting Board trial day: 4
Spice level: 🤓
The problem with Valdez
The last two days of the trial challenging the Alaska Redistricting Board have been focused in on the complaint raised by the city of Valdez over its inclusion in a House district that leans heavily in the direction of the Mat-Su Borough. Their complaint argues the board overlooked the city’s more natural connections to the Prince Williams Sound district (where it was located prior to the 2000 round of redistricting) or the Richardson Highway district that reaches up to the Interior (where it’s been since 2000). In the grand scheme of things, it’s a particularly interesting problem because relocating the nearly 4,000 people who live in Valdez would force significant upheaval in the rest of the maps. The city’s preferred solution of moving them into the Richardson Highway district, which reaches up from Delta Junction and Tok into the rural Interior villages that compose the Doyon, Limited region, would force a reconfiguration that would ripple all the way out to the Bering Sea.
The case started out with an establishment of Valdez’s unhappy marriage with the Mat-Su, particularly when it comes to its current representation out of the valley. While they seem to be reasonably fine with Sutton Republican Rep. George Rauscher, they had nothing good to say about Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower. Valdez City Clerk Sheri Pierce was particularly critical. Shower has never visited Valdez, never phoned into a town hall and, she said, refuses to take their meetings in Juneau. She and others also noted that Shower was a supporter of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposal to seize the local property taxes levied oil and tax infrastructure, which would have seen some $40 million of Valdez’s annual income vanish.
“I don’t know why Valdez should be singled out as being OK that the socio-economic ties are not there. It just seemed to me that they worked very hard to make sure all of these other areas in this large district of House District 36 ... (had) those socio-economic ties present,” she said. “We seem to get what’s left, and I don’t think that’s fair. ... (In terms of representation) we have gone from good to bad to horrible, in my opinion. This particular map seems to be the very worst scenario for us.”
Their current district is about 40% Mat-Su while the one approved by the board would be more than 70% Mat-Su.
Alaska Redistricting Board counsel Matt Singer argued the Alaska Constitution has guidelines for drawing House districts—that they be contiguous, compact, relatively socio-economically integrated and have minimal population deviation—and there isn’t a fifth category requiring maps produce representation that communities like.
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