It was standing-room-only Thursday night in at Flagstaff City Hall as the Independent Redistricting Commission held its first in-person hearing in the city.
But although nearly 300 people tried to crowd into the council chambers, it was the 60 or so from the flood zones below the Schultz fire northeast of Flagstaff who commanded the most attention.
Their goal was to convince the commissioners to change the draft legislative map so that they would be aligned with Flagstaff in District 6, not the more remote Navajo Nation in District 7.
"We have no infrastructure of own," said Philip Off, a resident of Pine Mountain Estates. "We work in Flagstaff. We shop in Flagstaff. Our children go to school and play football and soccer in Flagstaff. We worship in Flagstaff. Our medical care is in Flagstaff. Even the water we drink comes from wells and pumps in District 6."
Added Off: "We are wholly dependent upon and inexorably linked with the greater Flagstaff community."
About 3,000 residents of Doney Park, Timberline, Fernwood and other neighborhoods along the Highway 89 corridor are affected by the map dispute.
Off worried that flooding near Flagstaff might not be a top priority to a legislator based in Window Rock.
"We have to deal with flooding for the next 30 years," he said.
In attendance were commissioners Linda McNulty and Jose Herrera, both Democrats, and panel chair Colleen Mathis, an independent.
Commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz, both Republicans, did not attend the meeting but were reportedly watching the meeting online.
CITY ADDS SUPPORT
The residents found significant support from both the city of Flagstaff and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.
Flagstaff City Councilmember Scott Overton was one of the first to speak. He thanked the commission for their work, but worried that the IRC misinterpreted the city's lobbying efforts to keep the city intact over the last few months.
"This legislative map has done much to keep Flagstaff whole; however, as a city we may not have been clear on the rural neighborhoods that are part of our greater community," Overton said. "Our community recognizes the importance of the Schultz fire restoration area and therefore includes it within these neighborhoods. Again, we ask that the neighborhoods of Timberline, Fernwood and the Schultz fire restoration area be included in LD-6."
Overton also asked for the commission to consider moving the town of Camp Verde out of LD-14 to LD-6.
"It's important to say that the business community is a partner with the city and that we believe the current configuration of LD-6 keeps similar business interests together," he told the commission.
County Supervisor Matt Ryan echoed Overton's comments.
"Most of the residents work in Flagstaff and their children attend schools in Flagstaff," Ryan told the IRC.
KEEP CD1 RURAL
Several other residents did weigh in on the proposed boundaries of congressional districts, with many opposed to the expansion of one rural district to two largely rural districts with some urban precincts.
Local business owner Joy Staveley contended that the redrawn boundaries of the First Congressional District, which stretches from the Four Corners to the Mexican border, were not in the best interests of Flagstaff.
Arizona has enough people to have two true rural districts, she told the IRC commissioners.
Flagstaff resident Diana Arendt agreed.
"Where there was once one pure rural Congressional district, there are now two rural/urban districts," Arendt told the IRC. "Rural Arizona deserves its own congressional district."
The meeting in Flagstaff was the third of 26 that the IRC has scheduled in the next 30 days around the state. It plans to adopt final legislative and congressional district maps in late November so that they would apply to next year's state and federal elections.