All five Navajo County Supervisors were on hand at the November 27 Winslow City Council meeting to hear public comment from Winslow citizens about the supervisor’s redistricting proposals currently on the table.
Mel Bowers, Navajo County Attorney, began the public forum part of the meeting by explaining the legal aspect to redistricting. He pointed out that Navajo County is “covered” to ensure the Hispanic and Native American votes are not diluted. He also explained that district populations have to be less that 10 percent between the largest and the smallest due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that greater than 10 percent is unlawful.
Bowers added that the Department of Justice, which is responsible for making sure all minority votes are represented, would not negotiate on the subject. He stated that the DOJ could reject a map and send the board of supervisors back to the drawing board without explaining why the map did not work.
Eddie Koury, Navajo County Manager, took the floor next to explain each of the four maps presented to the board by the redistricting committee. He also explained that the deadline of December 3 had to be met.
Tom McCauley, Councilman and the Redistricting Committee’s chairman, spoke as a private citizen and said the public comment of “Don’t split communities up,” was ignored by the five other members of the committee.
McCauley then went on to explain to the audience the map he presented to the committee. He believes his map is the least retrogressive due to communities being kept together.
McCauley also pointed out that each map presented to the board would erase Winslow’s chance at electing a supervisor from the community.
Dale Patton, Winslow City Attorney, spoke as a private citizen and agreed with McCauley that McCauley’s map was a better choice than the four presented to the board of supervisors. “Tom’s map complies with the stale law of 10 percent difference and it keeps all the communities intact. It is unfortunate that all four maps split Winslow in half and there is no excuse for that,” he said.
Patton asked the supervisors to explain why they believed McCauley’s map would not be successful. None of the supervisors present commented.
He commended McCauley for “representing the voices of the county by keeping the communities together” and reiterated McCauley’s comment about Winslow not being able to elect a supervisor because of the proposed split.
Patton closed his comments by stating that “Tom’s map represents how the city of Winslow feels.”
Jim Boles, Mayor of Winslow, speaking as a private citizen, asked that Winslow be left “as whole as humanly and legally possible.” He also said that he would be proud to call any of the five supervisors his supervisor and “the district number isn’t important, just make sure all of us are there.”
Percy Dill, Supervisor for District No. 1, stated he “seriously believes McCauley’s map would be rejected by the DOJ” because of his redistricting experience. He believes that McCauley’s map will cause retrogression of the Navajo and Hopi votes. Dill added that the “Navajo and Hopi will appeal to the DOJ and they will listen.”
Fran McHugh, Director of Public Housing, also speaking as a private citizen stated that the redistricting “feels like a mugging.” “It feels like the big dog is being attacked by a bunch of little dogs,” he explained.
The audience at the meeting was the largest the board of supervisors has seen at its public forums that were held earlier last week in Holbrook, Dilkon and at the Hopi Tribal Council.