Local leaders don't like draft legislative map that splits up Yavapai

YAVAPAI COUNTY - Legislative District One officials are speaking out against a preliminary map of new legislative districts that splits Yavapai County into four districts.

The three people who represent Legislative District One say the preliminary "grid" map splits Yavapai County into too many districts.

"I think we need to keep Yavapai County together," said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who has been speaking out against the legislative grid map. "Do we really want someone from Maricopa County representing Prescott?"

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission recently chose the statewide grid option #2 over #1. All the maps are available on its website at azredistricting.org.

The commission chose a map that puts Prescott, most of Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, and the Highway 69 corridor into a district with Wickenburg and other relatively rural parts of Maricopa County west of Buckeye. It places Jerome, Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Sedona into a district with Flagstaff and Williams, but puts Camp Verde into a district with Payson, the White Mountains and much of the Navajo Nation.

The preferred congressional grid map puts all of Yavapai into a district with Coconino, Mohave and La Paz counties.

Redistricting Commission Executive Director Ray Bladine said the congressional and legislative grid maps are highly preliminary, especially since they take into consideration only two of the six criteria (population and compactness) the commission must consider under state law.

The commission plans to come up with new draft maps by late September and then conduct a second round of public hearings throughout the state by early October, Bladine said.

The first Independent Redistricting Commission's preliminary grid map in 2001 put Yavapai County in basically one district, with the final map spitting it in two.

Currently Yavapai County is divided into legislative districts 1 and 4. The Prescott region is in LD1 with all the Verde Valley and rural Flagstaff, while much of the Highway 69 corridor and the southern part of the county is in LD4 with Sun City and other northern fringes of Maricopa.

Yavapai is part of the huge rural Congressional District One.

Fann wants to keep the Prescott region together with the Verde Valley, noting they all are in the Verde River Basin and have similar water issues.

At the same time, the City of Flagstaff wants its suburbs and much of the Verde Valley in its district instead of the Navajo Nation. Flagstaff submitted a proposed map to the commission.

Fann and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, both criticized the Flagstaff proposal.

Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, says Yavapai County would make a perfect district since it's only a few thousand residents short of the approximate population the commission must seek in each district.

He accused the commission of being biased against Republicans, saying its chair, who is not registered with any party, is siding more with the commission's two Democrats than its two Republicans.

"This is a Republican stronghold," Pierce said of Yavapai County. "They know it and they want to split it up."

Tobin said keeping rural communities together is most important. Secondly, the required guideline to keep "communities of interest" together is important to this region's efforts to cooperate on issues such as water, he said.

Legislators also mentioned the fact that Prescott is in Congressional District One and Legislative District One, and the new maps don't keep those numbers. They say the traditional number is appropriate since Prescott was Arizona's first territorial capital.

Bladine said he doesn't think the new maps focused on numbers, but people can submit comments if they think that's important. People can comment about the maps on the commission's website.

Tobin said he's not happy that the commission's members all hail from Maricopa and Pima county population centers, either.

It's not too early to be concerned about the map boundaries even though they won't stay the same, he said.

"We always have reason to be fearful of a commission that doesn't have any rural representation," he said.

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