BUCKEYE — After acknowledging it is getting into the game in its final moments, the Buckeye City Council outlined priorities for the state’s nearly-completed redistricting process.
At last week’s regular meeting, upon hearing a report from the city’s intergovernmental affairs director, George Diaz, Council members voiced frustration and anger about Buckeye not having had any involvement in the Independent Redistricting Commission’s overall 2021 remapping efforts.
The IRC has met almost 80 times this year, with only a handful more meetings remaining as the IRC tries to create new districts by the end of the year.
That prompted the Buckeye Council to hold a special meeting this week, where Diaz again initiated a discussion. He outlined the six criteria the IRC can consider in drawing up new lines for state legislature and Congressional districts, using late-arriving 2020 U.S.-Census data, and proposed some priorities the city could communicate to the IRC.
“Developing new water resources, dealing with fast growth and maintaining agriculture — those could be a our top three priorities,” Diaz said.
Diaz said neighborhoods can be considered “communities of interest.” His recommended priorities included:
• Using I-10 and state routes 85 and 303 as dividing lines, if Buckeye’s 393 square miles and its 100,000 residents must be divided into multiple districts.
• The eastern boundary of any district that includes all or part of Buckeye not extend any further east than Dysart Road.
• The northern boundary of any Buckeye district should extend to the Patton Road alignment, well north of Sun City Festival.
• Buckeye should share legislative districts with the neighboring cities of Goodyear and Litchfield Park in order to pursue common interests and because of combined infrastructure efforts such as water treatment.
Diaz said secondary priorities could include minimizing the number of districts Buckeye is split into and putting the city’s residents in a district with Yuma or Yuma County. However, Yuma County is already 214,000 people on its own; the target number for the state’s 30 legislature districts is to have 240,000 residents in each one.
He brought a map to the meeting, mainly outlining the boundaries of legislative districts 22 and 25. It’s known as the West Valley Coalition Map.
Mayor Eric Orsborn and Council member Michelle Hess immediately voiced support for the map, which uses I-10 as a dividing line between the two districts and extends into the West Valley only as far as State Route 101.
That map also puts all of Luke Air Force Base in District 22, along with the northern part of Buckeye.
“I like the map, not just for Buckeye, but also the way it keeps the Sun Cities together and serves the whole West Valley well,” Hess said.
Orsborn asked Diaz if a proposal referred to in IRC meetings as “Yuma Gold” might have all or most of the aspects Buckeye seeks. Diaz said that map reaches into the West Valley as far as 107th Avenue.
Orsborn pointed out that some iterations of IRC maps — not all of which have been published — divide Sun City Festival from the rest of Buckeye.
“It sounds like the IRC is taking communities of interest into account,” Orsborn said.
Diaz recommended a single letter, signed by all seven Council members and potentially other West Valley mayors, and authorization for him to speak on behalf of the Council and the city during the remaining IRC meetings and input windows.
The Council voted, 5-0, in favor of Hess’s motion to proceed with Diaz’s recommendations. Vice Mayor Tony Youngker and Council member Craig Heustis weren’t at Tuesday’s meeting.
Council member Patrick HagEstad requested ongoing updates from Diaz about actions and dialogue involving the city’s submitted Coalition map.
Another IRC meeting was scheduled for Thursday. Diaz said the IRC will present its latest map or maps first, then view and listen to new map ideas, with Diaz updating Mayor Orsborn and the Council about how far apart the two sides are, along with other action updates.
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