June 20, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 24

Redistricting on assembly agenda

Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said this week she will ask the assembly whether it wants to weigh in on where Haines should fall in new redistricting plans.

The Alaska Redistricting Board is currently holding map work sessions to redraw district boundaries ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court. Initially lumped in with Juneau, Skagway and Gustavus, Haines was eventually moved into a district with Sitka, Angoon, Hoonah, Kake, Metlakatla and other communities as an interim plan for the 2012 elections.

The board and third parties have until June 21 to submit new maps complying with the Hickel Plan, which requires each district be formed of contiguous, compact territory. It also requires the district be composed of areas with generally similar socioeconomic interests “as nearly as practicable.”

In May 2012, the Haines Borough Assembly passed a resolution authorizing the borough attorney to file objections against the plan pairing Haines with the Mendenhall Valley. Now, though, the threat of being linked with the much larger Mendenhall Valley again looms.

Scott said she isn’t going to submit comments on any of the plans without direction from the assembly. “What does the assembly want to do? I’m not going to comment unless the assembly signals. Do we insist that we don’t want to be absorbed into such a large district?”

Scott also asked for advice from borough attorney Brooks Chandler.

After the June 21 deadline, the board will take the new plans to a series of public hearings around the state, including one in Juneau on July 2. Scott said she will ask the assembly whether it wants to send a representative to testify on the plans.

When the borough first filed an argument against its districting with the Mendenhall Valley, it cited a disparity in the socioeconomic climates of northern Juneau, Skagway and Haines. Whether that argument will overcome the Hickel Plan’s main criteria – that the districts be compact and contiguous – remains to be seen.

“Can we argue that we’re contiguous with Sitka? We may not really have an argument if the Hickel Plan is put into place,” Scott said.

The assembly will discuss the matter at its meeting Tuesday.

The board hopes to have a new map adopted by July 12, which would allow time for review and disputes. The new map will determine the districts for the 2014 elections.