BISBEE — “We do not need to become a suburb of Sierra Vista. We are our own community,” said Douglas resident Ginny Jordan to the county Redistricting Advisory Commission Monday evening.

It was just one of the comments made at the public hearing held in Bisbee and Douglas. Officials and residents who attended do not want to change the current supervisors’ district boundaries just to appease Sierra Vista.

Some of the members of the county Redistricting Advisory Commission met to hear the thoughts of the communities in Supervisor Ann English’s District 2.

Sharon Gilman, associate county administrator, provided the overview of the redistricting process, which can change due to population shifts tracked in the 2020 Census.

“Districts must comply with requirements in the U.S. Constitution, Voting Rights Act and state laws,” said Gilman about redistricting principles. “Redrawing ensures equal voter representation and electoral districts that reflect each area’s diverse population. The districts must be geographically contiguous, compact and maintain integrity of a city or community of interest. How and where district lines are drawn can shape a community’s ability to elect the representative of their choice.”

District shapes must be compact and contiguous and must avoid dividing communities of interest, she said. They must use visible geographic features or city or town boundaries and maintain the core of districts previously drawn, to extent possible. Redistricting cannot favor one party, incumbent or candidate over another and must remain competitive.

The law allows for some deviations in state and local redistricting plans, generally at or less than 10%, she said. The current boundaries meet this objective, she noted.

However, to consider the request of Sierra Vista to include Fort Huachuca and the west end of the city, changes would have to be made in all three districts. To add the areas to District 1 (represented by Tom Crosby) now in District 3 (represented by Peggy Judd) the city would have to give up an eastern section of the city, which would go to Districts 2 and 3.

District 2 would spread across the entire southern portion of the county from the border with New Mexico to the border with Santa Cruz County. District 3 would have a portion coming down into the eastern side of Sierra Vista to make up for the population change.

“Minorities must constitute at least 50% of the citizen voting-age population of a minority majority district like Douglas,” Gilman said. “At least the same number of minority majority districts in a previous redistricting plan must be drawn in a new redistricting plan.”

Sierra Vista mayor pro tem Rachel Gray made the request to consider the changes during the first RAC meeting. She said the fort has more in common with the city as a community of interest, a consideration in redrawing boundaries.

However, the people speaking from Bisbee and Douglas all voiced opposition to the change.

Bisbee Mayor Ken Budge heard from constituents saying they did not want a change, especially since it was not required.

“To be quite honest, the people have come to me asking why are we changing this if it’s not necessary. They feel what they have now makes sense to them. Creating more voting precincts and taking some of Sierra Vista and putting it the other districts is not what they want. They are comfortable in the way it is.

“To me personally, I don’t quite understand why it’s so important to bring the fort into the same district as Sierra Vista. The county has no true jurisdiction and it doesn’t do anything for the fort. There’s no planning and zoning, no police force. There is nothing that they really provide that would mean they should all be in the same district. “

Budge was a member of the Upper San Pedro Partnership, the multi-agency overseers of the San Pedro River basin and national conservation area formed by an act of Congress to curtail water use and protect the San Pedro River flows for the myriad of rare plants, birds and mammals that call it home.

While on the USPP, he said working with the fort to address problems was no problem, so he saw no reason to change the boundaries.

“To me, you’re disenfranchising some people to bring the fort in,” he continued. “To be honest here, Sierra Vista is the big dog. They have all the population, and no matter what happens we’re going to have to break some apart. The way it is now makes sense. The way the proposal is you’re having a dogleg come down from District 3.

“I’ll be honest. We always hear about the ‘state of Maricopa.’ Whatever the state of Maricopa says we have to be a part of it. Now, I feel like it’s the ‘state of Sierra Vista’ and they want this.”

Bisbee City Manager Steve Pauken, who lives in San Jose, like Douglas a majority minority district, worked on redistricting Bisbee in 2010 and recognized the difficulty in retaining the majority minority district.

Pauken said, “I agree with Mayor Budge and all the points he made. Even though the letter of the law is reached with the statistics that you have in Scenario 1, to me it is more important to comply with the spirit of the law. The spirit says, ‘OK, we’ve got a majority minority in District 2 and I think we should continue to make it as easy as possible for a minority person to be elected to the county supervisors. I recommend the no change scenario.”

In Douglas, City Manager Ana Urquijo echoed the Bisbee speakers.

Urquijo said Mayor Donald Huish was unable to attend, but wished to say “no change.”

“I think the importance of being a rural community is that our supervisors represent our rural areas as we are a rural county. Collectively, our district needs representation by people who understand our rural weakness. We feel that no change allows us to maintain that leverage and collective presence as a rural district.”

Luis Pedroza, director of management services, brought up the changes Douglas could see over the next few years as the old Port of Entry is renovated and a new commercial port to the west will bring more opportunities. Those possible changes in population should not be discounted in favor of Sierra Vista.

Pedroza also said the city was “undercounted in the census and we are set to build the second port of entry which is expected to be an engine for jobs and growth. We feel with that population change we would be best served to leave things they way they are.

“I would say support for the fort is countywide. We realize the importance of it not just to Sierra Vista, but the entire county. Leaving it as is would not hurt the fort and any which way.”

Jordan, 76, said she sees Douglas as having has less and less of a voice. She said she did not know about the meeting and wondered where the public outreach was to give them more of a voice.

“Little did I know, you wouldn’t come ask me my concerns,” she continued. “Or my neighbors. Now, you’re proposing this big change. I say no change. We will lose the little voice we do have. Douglas is an important dynamic wonderful community. It doesn’t need to have less of a voice. “

Lucia Spikes, another Douglas native, said, “I applaud the people who spoke before me. I recommend there be no change. The fort is a community whose populace will vote from their hometown communities. Like Mr. Pedroza said, we’re going to be a very dynamic city.”

The county also held a public meeting Nov. 4 in Benson and Willcox, but no one attended.

The final public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Sierra Vista and Huachuca city halls on Tuesday, Nov. 16.