Navajos propose different district lines

The Navajo Nation has proposed changes in state legislative and congressional boundaries that at least one tribal member thinks may be more acceptable to Kingman-area residents than those presented by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The Navajos have proposed a state legislative district – served by one senator and two representatives – that would exclude Mohave County, said Frank Seanez, acting chief legislative counsel for the Navajos in Window Rock.

The proposed district would include all of Apache County, major portions of Coconino and Navajo counties and Indian reservations in Gila, Pinal and Graham counties.

The Navajos favor excluding Kingman and all of Mohave County because of its rapid growth, and believe Mohave County should be in a separate district that contains a portion of La Paz County, Seanez said.

Mohave County experienced the fastest growth rate of any Arizona county – 65.8 percent – rising from 93,497 people on April 1, 1990, to 155.,032 on the same day in 2000, the U.S.

Census Bureau reported in March.

However, the Navajos support a congressional district that would stretch from the New Mexican border in Apache County and include all of that county, Navajo, Coconino, Yavapai and Mohave counties and portions of Gila, Graham and Pinal counties, he said.

"We think that our (congressional) plan is viable even though there is explosive growth within certain portions of Mohave County," he said.

"Mohave County is still primarily rural, especially in northern Mohave County.

Kingman Mayor Les Byram and District 1 County Supervisor Pete Byers disagreed.

Byram said he opposes a congressional district that would include northeastern Arizona.

"We have much more in common with western Maricopa County and Yavapai than we do with the eastern side of the state," Byram said.

He said he disagrees with Seanez's characterization of Mohave County as rural.

"We feel that ranching and other jobs are not that important to our economy as they once were," Byram said.

Tourism, manufacturing and distribution are more important to the economy now, whereas eastern Arizona relies on tourism, ranching and government checks, he said.

Byers said he thinks the Navajos want to exclude Mohave County from a legislative district because they fear this county is experiencing faster growth.

Seanez said the Navajos, who number 105,000 in Arizona, would constitute one-sixth of the population in the proposed congressional district.

He said tribal members drew the proposed boundaries to coincide with the commission's plans to equalize legislative districts with 171,021 residents and 641,329 people in congressional ones.

Because of population growth, Arizona is adding two congressional districts, bringing the total to eight.

Navajo officials presented their proposals initially June 25 in Window Rock and at meetings that the redistricting commission has conducted statewide, Seanez said.

The redistricting commission, created through voter approval of Proposition 106 last year, is revising boundaries for state and congressional districts to reflect changes in population over the past decade.

The commission unveiled proposals that sparked widespread opposition at a meeting that drew more than 100 people to the Kingman City Council chambers Sept.

8.

The proposed congressional district would stretch from the New Mexico border to the Colorado River and extend southeast to Graham and Greenlee counties, but it would exclude the Hopi Reservation.

The panel proposed a state district that also would stretch from the New Mexico border to the Colorado River.

Commission spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico declined comment on the Navajos' proposals.

"We can't react to anything until we have a final (draft map)," Rezzonico said.

"It's a public process.

We've heard from thousands and thousands of citizens in Arizona."

She said the public comment period concludes Sept.

30, and the commission is scheduled to meet from Oct.

1 to 10 to adopt a final map.

The panel plans to submit the plans by mid-October to the U.S.

Justice Department, which has up to two months to review the map.

The Kingman area currently is served by state District 2, which includes a swatch of land from Bullhead City east to the Hopi Reservation.

Voters elected Sen.

John Verkamp, R-Flagstaff, and Reps.

Jim Sedillo, D-Flagstaff, and Tom O'Halleran, R-Oak Creek, in November.

Residents of the Butler area and Valle Vista are part of District 3.

Their elected officials are Jack Jackson, D-Window Rock, and Reps.

Sylvia Laughter, D-Kayenta, and Albert Tom, D-Chambers.

Kingman is part of congressional District 3, which includes Mohave, La Paz, Navajo, Yavapai and Maricopa counties.

Bob Stump, R-Tolleson, is the representative for the 45,000-square-mile district.