Let's face it. Every political "reform" for the past 25 years has backfired. In the early 1980s, Arizona had a relatively moderate legislature dominated by a bipartisan group of "great" leaders like Burt Barr and Art Hamilton. We can debate whether or not that was a good thing, but "Reformers" who don't like the current system will point to that sytem as the Holy Grail.
"Reformers" started tinkering with the system and now we have a legislature that's two thirds Republican--90% of whom are self-described conservatives. So whenever someone comes up with a new proposal to "fix" the system, take a moment and ask them how campaign finance reform, Independent Redistricting, Term Limits, Clean Elections and allowing Independents to Vote in Primaries has worked out for them.
The latest fiasco is the Independent Redistricting Commission. The Commission is an obvious disaster. It is far from Independent; it's conducting major business behind closed doors; the Attorney General has already begun an investigation in the Commission's Executive Session Open Meeting violations. And, of course, the current lines that everyone are complaining about were drawn by the last "Independent" commission.
Insiders don't even pretend that the Commission is independent. When Republicans complained that the Chairwoman is a Democrat in Independent's clothing, what was the Democratic response? Republicans were asleep at the switch; they didn't do their ground work etc. What does this mean? It means that--according to political insiders--Republicans did a bad job of finding a stealth Republican who could serve as the "Independent" on the Commission. The Democrats meanwhile, did a great job and their candidate is now voting with the other Democrats on the Commission. Game Over suckers.
That's transparency? That's the elimination of gamesmanship? That's reform?
The entire concept is a failure. So if you are in the media, how do you defend the current system? Easy, just make stuff about the previous system. On saturday, the Republic wrote an editorial that both chastised the current Commission and defended current structure. Check out this sentence: Redistricting used to be a cozy game in the bowels of the Legislature, where lawmakers drew district lines to protect their own turf.
The polite term for that sentence is "fiction." The colloquial term is more scatological.
They don't like the present, so they simply rewrote the past. I was in the Legislature during the 1992 redistricting process and we held dozens of official public meetings throughout the state. Then individual legislators--who of course were going to vote on the final maps--held their own meetings through out the state. And who did they listen to? Constituents. That's because if you drew lines that ticked off your constituents, they took it out on you at the polls. What's the average voter's remedy under the current system?
Oh, by the way, the vote in 1992 was bi-partisan.
So the process was much more open than the current process and since 90 people were voting on the ultimate maps, it was by no means "cozy".
The current process is opaque, secretive, riddled with gamesmanship and has probably already violated state law. Factor in that the current Commission is way behind schedule and is unlikely to have discricts in a timely manner and you have a complete failure.
So the reformers are flumixed. Well, here's on little piece of advice. Don't try to justify the current commission's shortcomings by denigrating the work we did in 1992.