Many of you are learning about this redistricting issue for the first time. It happens every 10 years following the national census. In Arizona, we have a commission appointed to draw the new districts for Congressional and Legislative districts in our state. We citizens have an opportunity to have a say with the commission, and so we must make every effort to make sure our voices are heard. I want to give a quick update on the public hearing already held by the Commission, the upcoming hearing in Safford, and what we all can do still on this matter.
First of all, in the 2001 redistricting, rural Eastern Arizona was given a voice in the legislature with the 5 Eastern Counties District: Gila, Graham, Greenlee, southern Navajo and Apache. In the 2011 redistricting, we proposed keeping our rural 5 Eastern Counties district, and adding the Copper Corridor and the Verde Valley to it. 15 of our rural cities/towns adopted unanimous resolutions supporting this proposal. Sadly, the unsympathetic commission ignored us and splintered our region into several other districts, often joining us with urban and metro areas. In 2021, we again are advocating to a new commission to re-unite the 5 Eastern Counties and once again add to us the Copper Corridor and the Verde Valley. The 5+ Eastern Counties proposal.
Public hearings have already been held throughout our region.
In Florence/Superior, citizens of the Copper Corridor (Superior, Kearny, Hayden, Winkelman, Dudleyville, Mammoth, San Manuel), spoke overwhelmingly of restoring a rural district. I had the chance there to introduce the 5+ Eastern Counties proposal and people afterwards expressed surprisingly strong support of the idea, one saying that it made the most sense of any mentioned that night.
In Egar/Springerville, I was not present, but I had it reported to me that uniting the 5+ Easten Counties was the strong message given by citizens attending.
In Show Low, Lakeside-Pinetop: I attended along with roughly a hundred people. The 5+ Eastern Counties was supported by citizens over and over again. One gentleman had the good sense to submit a printout of our map proposals to the commissioners.
In Payson, Globe-Miami, it was very frustrating. The commission scheduled the hearing for Sunday at 10 a.m. Predictably, extremely few attended, most being in church during that time. I was the only to one to speak of the four in attendance at Globe. A few spoke in Payson. Everyone echoed the desire for a rural legislative district and how unacceptable it is to have little Gila County split into 3 different legislative districts.
Up next, the commission will hold a hearing in Safford and Clifton. This is the last stop in Eastern Arizona for this tour. I will be attending and it is important that you email everyone you may know in the Gila Valley. Attend the meeting and voice your support for restoring the 5+ Eastern Counties.
Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at 5 p.m, Graham County Assembly Room, 921 W. Thatcher Blvd., Safford, AZ 85546. Remotely at: Greenly County Courthouse, 253 Fifth St, Clifton, AZ 85533.
Northeastern Arizona spoke loud and clear about the 5+ Eastern Counties. Central eastern AZ spoke strongly of the creating a rural district. We need Southeastern AZ to bring it home with an overwhelming turnout and echoing 5+ Eastern Counties!
We have two map proposals for the commission to consider. One includes the San Carlos and White Mountain Apaches in our district. The other places them with the Navajo. In the second, it is designed with an uninhabited strip of land where all the reservations can be combined and still allow our rural communities to be united. That is a decision to be made by the people of each tribe of where they want to land. If you have any tribal connections, please reach out to them.
Please fill out the Communities of Interest Survey for the IRC at this link: https://irc.az.gov/survey Below is how I answered each question:
A. Community Name: 5+ Eastern Counties
B. The map is difficult to use, do your best. Attached is PDF instructions. Below is the rough map I drew for a guide.
C. Community Description: 5+ rural Eastern Counties: Gila, Graham, Greenlee, southern Navajo and Apache, San Carlos & White Mtn Apache nations, Copper Corridor (Along SR 77/177: Superior to San Manuel), Verde Valley (Campe Verde etc.). We are natural resources focused, mining, farming, ranching, timber, tourism/recreation. Large amounts of National Forest and limited private land, making our issues of education, water, power, federal land management unique and focused. 5+ Eastern Counties: rural and natural resources focused.
D. Additional Comments: Our region transcends partisan, racial, and gender in local and legislative elections. Our survival depends on navigating common issues in ways that are unique to rural Arizona. The vast majority of our area is federal public lands and tribal, leaving a very small percentage as private for economic development and taxation. From the years 2000 to 2010, the 5 Eastern Counties had a voice in the legislature. In 2010, 15 cities and town across the 5+ East Co.’s, unanimously adopted a resolution to keep 5+ East Co.’s united. That was ignored and we were splintered among the four winds. In 2021, please re-Unite the 5+ rural Eastern Counties.
We are considering another campaign of resolutions from our Counties and Cities/Towns. We will need people in every community willing to get that on their County’s/Town’s agenda for adoption. Stay tuned for that!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Elected officials, I would love to speak with you more about this and share what information I have.
Thank you and I hope to see you in Safford!
/s/ Jess Bryant