Redistricting commission hopes to interview mapping consultants next week

By: - April 13, 2021 3:56 pm
arizona map redistricting

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The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is looking to move quickly on key hires as it ramps up its work, though it will likely be a couple weeks before it makes its next big decision on who will serve as its mapping consultant.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the commission voted to invite the three mapping consultants that submitted proposals to give presentations at the AIRC’s April 20 meeting. The commissioners spent about 90 minutes in executive session to determine the criteria they’ll use to rank the three applicants, a process that state procurement law requires to be done behind closed doors in order to avoid giving the bidders inside information on how they’ll be evaluated.

Unlike other recent hirings decisions, such as the AIRC’s selection of legal counsel and its executive director, the mapping consultant presentations will take place in executive session, outside of the public’s view. The state’s procurement process requires that those interviews be conducted behind closed doors.

If the consultants are able to give their presentations, it’s unlikely that the AIRC will make a decision on who to select next week, Chairwoman Erika Neuberg told the Arizona Mirror.

“I think that’s a long shot,” Neuberg said after the meeting on Tuesday. “I think that there are some hurdles to go through with just formally doing due diligence through the process.”

The commission decided to use its own procurement authority to hire its legal counsel and sidestep the State Procurement Office, which would require a much more secretive, restrictive process. But Neuberg said the selection of a mapping consultant is a different type of situation. The AIRC limited its choices in legal counsel to firms that were already on the attorney general’s procurement list, meaning they were choosing among firms that had already been vetted by the state. With the mapping consultants, they’re starting from scratch.

Nonetheless, Neuberg was hopeful that the process won’t take long.

“I think the commission will be asking the state to expedite the process as much as we can. There aren’t a lot of firms in play, and I think we can do our due diligence with asking the questions. And we hope to move forward quickly,” she told the Mirror.

Neuberg said the commission is sticking with the procurement process “for now.” She noted that the AIRC will have different legal counsel by next week, when Ballard Spahr and Snell & Wilmer, which the AIRC selected last week, will begin their work. She said she has no reason to believe that their advice on the subject will differ from the advice the commission has been receiving from the Attorney General’s Office.

Three firms submitted proposals to serve as the commission’s mapping consultant:

  • HaystaqDNA, which is partly a successor agency to Strategic Telemetry, the mapping consultant for the last commission that drew Arizona’s current congressional and legislative districts in 2011. HaystaqDNA CEO Ken Strasma was the founder and president of Strategic Telemetry and Vice President Willie Desmond was its senior analyst.
  • Taylor English Decisions, LLC, is an Atlanta-based firm that specializes in government strategy, economic development and election and campaign compliance, which includes “extensive familiarity with redistricting,” according to its website.
  • Timmons Group is an engineering firm headquartered in Richmond, Va., with offices across the U.S., including in Phoenix, which provides services in the areas civil engineering, structural, environmental, electrical, geotechnical, GIS/ geospatial technology, landscape architecture and surveying services. The company is partnering in its proposal with National Demographics Corporation, which was the mapping consultant for Arizona’s first redistricting commission in 2001.

Though a decision on the mapping consultant will likely take at least a couple weeks, the commission expects to make a final decision on hiring a new executive assistant at its April 20 meeting. 

Executive Director Brian Schmitt told the commission that he had four finalists for the position and that he hoped to interview those applicants this week. Most of the commissioners expressed a desire to have some final say over the decision, while Republican Commissioner Doug York wanted to empower Schmitt to make the decision on his own. The commission settled the matter by authorizing Schmitt to make a conditional offer to his preferred candidate, subject to AIRC approval next Tuesday.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”