Borough Mayor’s Communications To Redistricting Board Draws Criticism
The Matansuaks Susitna Borough Assembly met Tuesday at the Palmer railroad depot. At the top of the agenda, a resolution sponsored by Assemblyman Warren Kehoe of Chickaloon, requesting that Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss’s June email to the state’s redistricting board be rescinded.
DeVilbiss’ communication to the redistricting board was in support of the board’s current voting map. But Kehoe says the mayor’s email was sent without Assembly scrutiny or approval, and he says that it flaunts the public process
“This is a resolution I have brought forward because the mayor is out of bounds. He’s making unauthorized communications to, in this case, the state’s redistricting board. We have a strong manager, weak mayor form of government. When he does stuff like this, he didn’t write it on letterhead, he sent it from his personal email address, the majority of the Assembly didn’t know anything about it, Steve Colligan knew about it, because he gave him the maps. The manager, the clerk, the attorney, the mayor’s secretary, nobody knows about this stuff.”
Assemblyman Steve Colligan’s business provided the map that the mayor referred to in his response to the redistricting board.
Mayor DeVilbiss arrived at the meeting armed with another letter he had written, explaining that he had been contacted by a redistricting board staffer for his opinion on the voting map, and that he had asked for Assembly input at an earlier meeting and gotten none. But Kehoe was not buying that excuse. Kehoe said the mayor’s comment was taken as an official one, and that it is an example of the Borough ‘s lack of transparency when it comes to administration affairs.
But Kehoe’s resolution was immediately dropped from the agenda when Assemblyman Steve Colligan threw a fourteen – point document on the table, outlining all the reasons the Assembly should support the mayor’s communication with the redistricting board. That document was accepted by the Assembly. Colligan’s move ultimately ended debate on the “unofficial communications” issue, but it did not derail a testy exchange between Kehoe and Colligan
Kehoe :”To drop this in our lap, without any notice, this is the public process gone completely south.”
DeVilbis: “Assemblymember Colligan”
Colligan: “Number one, I appreciate the drama, but the reality is, Mr. Kehoe, that you wouldn’t have been able to compile your other comments without looking at the map and the other data. The mayor clearly stated in public record he was speaking on his own behalf. I’d ask members to urge your support. The boundaries, I think, represent the Borough well. “
The issue may be moot, since the state redistricting board approved the current voting map in July. The map extends the Mat Su voting districts North and South. North along the Richardson Highway and South to include Chugiak, areas that mainly vote Republican.
If the map stands after a court challege, it would provide for a third state senator for the Mat Su. The new map is one supported by the Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting a group headed by a former Republican Party of Alaska chairman. The current voting map faces litigation filed by two Fairbanks men, who claim that the new Mat Su lines do not meet requirements for social and economic integration.