I sat down this week with James Abrenio, a personal injury and criminal defense attorney in Northern Virginia, who recently stepped down from serving on Virginia’s inaugural Redistricting Commission (he also served on the Joint Subcommittee to Study Barrier Crimes and Criminal History Records Checks, which completed its work last November). As someone who followed the ups and (many) downs of the Redistricting Commission, I was curious to hear his thoughts.
The full interview follows, but here are a few brief highlights:
- The vast majority of the Democrats, both politicians and [citizen] commissioners, came into it in good faith. I also on the flip side think that there were various Republican members that had no desire—unless they got the sweetest deal possible—to negotiate.
- I wish I had known more about [Republican map-drawer] John Morgan…you can’t have a system where you’re trying to have a clean slate, and then have somebody that’s been called out by the court for acting against the Voting Rights Act, and let that slide.
- I guess the biggest disappointment I had was how the discussion the Voting Rights Act went. For instance, Senator McDougle, when he asked whether or not the Voting Rights Act would apply to the Gaelic community–with all due respect to that community, it was discussions like that that demonstrated to me number one, that they did not put the work in to understand what the Voting Rights Act was, or number two, they didn’t take it seriously. And I thought that was a bit insulting when I heard that question.
- I would rather a system where it doesn’t go to the General Assembly for approval…Obviously the “land the plane” thing, Senator Newman called us out on Facebook. I love this—he taints the process, steps off, and then talks trash on Facebook about citizens not being willing to land the plane…From day one, that’s the concern we had is whether or not the General Assembly would approve this thing. I didn’t have that concern. My view was: let’s get something fair, and then if it passes, it passes. If it doesn’t, it is what it is, but I’m not going to be held hostage to non-commissioned legislators, because that defeats the whole purpose.
- I think that we [need to] have purely citizen commissioners, an educational type system that allows them to have the skill set to be able to serve. Get politicians out of it altogether… I think that there needs to be an agreement that there’s gonna be one set of attorneys, and one set of map drawers, because it’s unworkable with two sets…Maybe some type of system that allows you to challenge choices and commissioners if you think that there’s unfair things happening, inappropriate behavior, communications violations, things like that, some type of way to address that.
- Whether or not it was a failure, or not whether or not we deserve criticism, we do–all of us deserve criticism; but one thing, I don’t think at least on the Democratic side you can criticize was our intention to do it right.
Is Meg Lamb a national treasure who should definitely be paid more, no matter how much she’s earning now?
I think Meg Lamb and the entire DLS staff are rock stars. You know, when you look at what you dream of being as a lawyer coming out of law school, and doing real public service, what she’s doing is it. It’s not that CNN-type stuff. It’s behind-the-doors, hard decisions, and dealing with jerk politicians—and a lot of commissioners as well, we were jerks as well. To do it with such class, I mean she’s obviously on point very intelligent. She’s just inspiring, and I just really appreciated working with her; she was very kind, and just a good person and nonpartisan, really just doing the job, and we’re lucky. It’s really that simple. I don’t know what to say without offering her a job myself; which if she wants one, she’s welcome to come work with me!
Would you have wanted to be chair knowing what you know now?
No, because I think that Greta [Harris] did a very good job. I also like the idea of having strong women leading it in a bipartisan fashion. Though Miss Babichenko—I disagree with her on a lot of things, I think she did her best to do it right too. Greta was amazing and I think she was the right person to lead that so no I was not the right person to be chair.
We hear a lot of both-sidesism. Do you think both sides were operating in good faith? Or that both sides were content to throw this to the Court? Or was one side trying to negotiate a deal in good faith?
It’s interesting to look back now and to speculate what people were doing and thinking. First of all, I want to say that I came into it in good faith. I think the vast majority of the Democrats, both politicians and [citizen] commissioners, came into it in good faith. I also on the flip side think that there were various Republican members that had no desire—unless they got the sweetest deal possible—to negotiate, and it was pretty obvious who those were. I think though there were some commissioners on the other side that were doing their best to try to get a good result. But I think if you’re looking at it as a whole, I think the Democrats came in with more trust in the system, made more effort to concede, more effort to put us in a position to have the commission work. When you think about it, we had the House and Senate, we had the Executive, and we still voted for Amendment One, and that was ceding a lot of power that I don’t think the other side would have ever come close to doing.
I’m not going to speak for every Democratic commissioner, but I think the Democrats put a lot more effort into trying to get it right. I think I was one that was quoted a lot talking about it not being a failed commission by going to the court, and what I meant by that is the way that the system was set up, the way the Amendment was set up, that was a foreseen and thought-through process to go to the courts. So the commission did not fail simply by going to the courts, that’s what was meant to happen if we could not have an agreement. I think that it was a cost-benefit analysis for both sides. I think for the Republicans, many of them said “unless we got the sweetest deal, we’re gonna put it to the courts, because we see it as a conservative court, and we’re probably gonna get a better deal.” For me personally, as it came through, I thought it was going to be more of a mediation, but it turned out to be litigation, right? It turned out to be a zero-sum game. As I realized that there was going to be nothing that we could do to make them happy, I trusted the court more. I’ve heard a lot about the partisanship of the courts and all that, but this [Virginia] Supreme Court, I had faith that they were going to do a better job than us and I think they demonstrated that at least by initially throwing out the clearly partisan Republican map drawers.
Did Republican citizens operate independently of Republican legislators? Did Democratic citizens?
For the Democratic side, for me personally, I initially went in and I was going to be completely independent. One thing about [Delegate] Marcus [Simon]–and I’ve seen a lot of criticism about him, people saying “hey he’s gonna go blow up the commission” and that kind of stuff—one thing about him is that he was very transparent. He said to me “James, look, I’m the guy, I’m the Democrat who didn’t want this to happen. I don’t think it’s going to work, but I’m going to do my best to make it work.” Initially, for the non-technical things, for the conceptual thousand foot-view, I was certainly independent. But as we got into more technical things, like what does this district look like, and what does that line affect in that jurisdiction, I think ultimately you’re required to at least use that information, that institutional knowledge that they had. I looked to Marcus a lot for Northern Virginia I looked at [Delegate] Dolores [McQuinn] for her area, Senator Locke for Hampton. You have to rely on them for technical knowledge. I will say though, I think the Democrats in general didn’t just cede to the politicians. I wasn’t in the room with Republicans, but all I can tell you is if you looked at how often the citizen Republican commissioners voted with their politician counterparts, I would imagine it was lock step a lot more than the Democratic side. I don’t remember a whole lot of times where a Republican citizen said “you know what, I disagree with my political counterpart.” I think for the [Republican] citizen members I talked to, I think they did have a desire to do it right, but at the end of the day it got contentious, and they just ended up falling in step with their politician counterparts.
One thing that I’ve heard and I sort of sensed was that Chair Babichenko did want to make it work. I think she was trying her hardest to get people to negotiate, but it felt like ultimately she was loyal to McDougle—there were decisions where she clearly was siding with him in a deferential sort of way. Would you agree with that?
I think that she tried to do it right. I also think that there were a lot of times when she looked at [Senator] McDougle for leadership and for answers, and I don’t know that, given the system that we had, that that was necessarily a bad thing. It just was set up to fail in the first place. There was just no way for it to work when you had the thousand foot-view questions of: do we need two attorneys, do we need two map drawers, can we trust Moon Duchin [MGGG Redistricting Lab], can we trust the [Princeton] Gerrymandering Project? How do you go from there to talking about specific lines? There’s no way that you can, really; then it gets so technical that you know it’s almost like it doesn’t really matter. Honestly that’s kind of the way I felt: as soon as we started drawing the lines, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be a way that we could all sit down and draw these lines in an educated and reasonable fashion. And then as we went on, the Democrats tried to produce a map for the public to comment on, I mean you saw that, where we even said “look you take one set of maps, the House or the Senate, and we’ll do the other.” The value of that was to put it on the board, and then see individual comments polka dotting each line–that was very valuable for me as a commissioner because I could see “okay that line has that issue, that group has an issue with that,” and it just gave me more tangible responses to make in the next set of drawings. But the problem is we never got to the one set; and if I would suggest this, they would suggest that, and it would just kind of become a Rubik’s cube. We’re trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, but instead of one person you’ve got 16; but it wasn’t even just that, it wasn’t just “hey to how we solve this together.” It became clear that when a Democrat would move this way, the Republicans moved that way, just for purposes of fighting. It had nothing to do with whether or not the ultimate Rubik’s cube was solved.
Do you think that ordinary citizens really have enough understanding of the process and the technology and the map system and the lines and the politics and all of the all of that to serve on a redistricting commission, and in particular where legislators also serve, or are they always going to be at a disadvantage to the legislators?
From my individual stance, the biggest issue with me learning was the inability to talk to outside experts; so, you’re expecting me to be a map drawing expert without being able to learn the way I would normally learn. I get the concern of influencing me, but if I’m left with not being able to learn how the process works, it really hampers my ability to serve effectively as commissioner. I’m a trained lawyer, I’m not politics savant, but I pay attention, and even for me it was very, very difficult. And then that’s the reason I had to look to Marcus and Delores and Locke for the technical knowledge, ie if this happens, what about that? Who’s this John Morgan guy you are talking about, that kind of thing.
I think if you’re just talking about what kind of citizen members you need, I think number one you need to set them up in a position where they can learn. I don’t know if there’s necessarily a background that you want, whether it’s economics or map drawing or politics or science or law, but you need to have a recognition that people that don’t have any knowledge of this at all and having to learn in like 45 days, either there needs to be a training process or a booklet that outlines these things, or a set of experts that you’re allowed to talk to.
When it comes to the citizen versus politician members, I thought about that a lot like what would been the value of not having politicians versus having politicians. I did see value in having political members, because they knew the game, and it was good to be able to get their thoughts, but it does taint the process. So from a public perspective and worrying about how much reliance and good faith you can have in the system, I wouldn’t like to see a system where there are politicians in it who have a stake in the game, because I want it to be more of an intellectual exercise rather than this exercise of power. I came into this reading all the constitutional cases like Bethune-Hill, and trying to think about it from a really historic point– this was really a monumental thing, it was the inaugural commission, and I got to be a part of it, and I learned a lot. But then when you get into the political gamesmanship, none of that mattered, because we never got to that point.
Was there any specific critical information that you wish you had known about earlier in the process that you found out late?
I wish I had known more about [Republican map-drawer] John Morgan. Had I known about his prior history—when I look back, I probably should have known more, I should have probably researched that. I read Bethune-Hill, and I just didn’t really put two and two together with the name. I wish I had known that more and contested him more. He seemed like a nice guy, but you can’t have a system where you’re trying to have a clean slate, and then have somebody that’s been called out by the court for acting against the Voting Rights Act, and let that slide. To be clear, if you read the majority opinion, they called him out, and then there was a minority opinion that said no, he was doing everything fine, so there’s an argument about whether or not that was sketchy.
Do you think the experts Democrats hired were on par with those hired by the Republicans? If not, why do you think there was such a disparity between the experts?
I really liked our experts. I think they were technically very sound. They were very honest and easy to work with, plain-spoken, they weren’t trying to play games. [Democratic lawyers] Kareem [Crayton] and Jerry [Gerald Hebert], honestly I think they came in trying to do the fair thing. I would even see a lot of criticism that they were giving away the store because they would propose maps that were unfair to Democrats, but I think they really made an effort to try to be objective about it. [Republican lawyers Bryan] Tyson and [Chris] Bartolomucci, they were very smart, they were obviously very good litigators, but you know some of the questions Tyson would ask me…I would say “we need to create opportunity districts, I think that’s fair for the Voting Rights Act.” He’d say “well we can’t just create systems where we’re encouraging Democratic votes.” And I would say “an opportunity district is not for Democratic votes, it’s to allow minorities to choose the candidate that they choose.” I don’t think they were doing anything unethical. I think they’re trial attorneys and their job, the way we set it up was for them to be trial attorneys.
The issue that I have is the way the system’s set up—again, we’re talking about mediation versus litigation. Mediation is a system where you’re trying to work together and collaborate. Litigation is where you’re trying to win. I think their experts were certainly set up to win; the biggest example was when Mr. Morgan wasn’t there, and then you had [Democratic map-drawer] Ken [Strasma]–he was very straightforward. When somebody questioned about how something tipped towards the Republican’s favor, he said “yeah, that’s fair,” and he would concede a lot of points. But then as soon as Morgan came back, it was clear that he was then litigating and advocating for his map. When you’d have Ken or Zach [Coomes] say something, the Republicans would say “oh no, you can’t advocate for your map!” But then John would make a statement in a way that was advocating under the radar–don’t get me wrong, he was very technical, very smart and I’m not trying to say he was unethical. But he was doing the job that he was hired to do, and he would do it in a way that was really advocating. So I’m happy with what we chose do; I wish the Republicans had chosen somebody else. Should I have expected them to? Probably not.
Do you think the transparency measures that were adopted helped or hurt the process and also were they followed? I mean, commission members were clearly on social media; there was evidence all throughout the process where commissioners would react to things that had happened on social media.
I didn’t read the statute to say that we couldn’t absorb information from news and read on our own. I don’t take reading a twitter feed as communicating, so I don’t think that that was wrong. I don’t think the Republicans or the Democrats responding to public criticism—I think that’s what we want actually. That being said, I think there were definitely issues with transparency rules and the ability for us to educate ourselves. And I will tell you, I believe—and I’m not saying this is just Republicans, but I believe that citizen members took that more seriously than political members. It seemed to me that there were certainly side conversations that were being had. Even how the co-chairs were chosen. I mean they literally came in and said “hey this is what we agreed to.” And I’m sitting there—this is the first hearing that we had—and I’m like, “that sounds cool, you know.” I like Greta, the idea of two women running this thing, and the idea of bipartisanship, that’s interesting. I like that idea. But then I was like “how did they get to that agreement?” So people were having discussions outside, and even though I knew that was happening, I did my best to still not violate the rules.
The issue is transparency versus efficacy, and I think that in the future if you’re gonna have this process, you’re gonna have to give way on some of the transparency to allow real conversation to happen, even if it’s just citizen members. If you can’t have discussions off the record–that’s just how things happen, not even agreement-wise, but technical things like “hey this line here, what about that?” It would have been helpful to have been able to call an expert in constitutional law to ask them how they read the Voting Rights Act, and say “hey you know I’ve gotten two interpretations, can you give me an idea of what your thoughts are?” That would have been super useful when it came to law, but even more for technical stuff.
The big thing I was worried about was getting in trouble, like “am I violating the law doing this?” I know that a lot of other people didn’t have that concern so I’m sitting there stressing out and that’s taking away efforts from actually doing the job. I think the citizen members, all of them I think, had a desire to abide by the law and by the communication rules. I think for the most part we did that.
Do you think that non-commissioned legislators were talking to legislative commission members or citizens about the maps and proceedings?
I don’t know the answer to that. I could speculate, but I just don’t know the answer. The reality is in the system going forward, I would rather a system where it doesn’t go to the General Assembly for approval. I’d rather just be able to speak to the legislators to get their thoughts and then come up with maps, instead of sending to the legislature for approval. Obviously the “land the plane” thing, Senator Newman called us out on Facebook. I love this—he taints the process, steps off, and then talks trash on Facebook about citizens not being willing to land the plane. I know he was referring to me. Because from day one, that’s the concern we had is whether or not the General Assembly would approve this thing. I didn’t have that concern. My view was: let’s get something fair, and then if it passes, it passes. If it doesn’t, it is what it is, but I’m not going to be held hostage to non-commissioned legislators, because that defeats the whole purpose. If he criticized me for that, then fine I’ll take that criticism. But him always threatening “we’ve got to land this plane, therefore you Democrats need to give us Republicans more room,” that’s not going to fly and it didn’t fly. I understand, I’m also a realist, and for me to say it didn’t matter at all what the legislature thought would just be completely blind. I’m not dumb, that’s the thing when he would say “you gotta land the plane,” I get it, but let’s not worry about that right now. We’re at yard three, we’re trying to get to the end zone, and you’re worried about yard 75, and then you’re using yard 75 to tell me why I can’t get there.
Do you think that the outreach to the public was sufficient and was it inclusive enough?
It was not, and I was one co-chair of the outreach sub-committee, so I am part of the failure of that. I don’t think we were organized well enough, we didn’t use our time wisely. There are reasons that I would complain about internally that I’m not going to get into now. I’m just telling you as one of the co-chairs I was part of failure in that I think there should have been more outreach. I think DLS did a great job working with the tasks they were given, so I’m not blaming them. I blame the commission itself. That’s something that certainly needs to be improved going forward. Mindy did the best she could in a very short time frame and honestly we gave them an impossible task.
How important was public comment, and how seriously do you think it was taken both by the commission members, the map drawers, and ultimately the supreme court?
I haven’t studied the maps by the Supreme Court yet, so I’m not going to guess whether they went against public comments—from what I could tell, it sounds like they did a relatively fair job. Both sides are sort of unhappy, and that’s usually an indication that you did okay. For me, the public comment was the most enjoyable part of the commission, and it was the part that I think was the most valuable. I would like to teach a class on how comments can be more useful for citizen commissioners, because at the beginning it was a lot of broad things like “hey you need to stop gerrymandering,” which is great, it’s important, but then you would get technical things that were super helpful. Like there was this young attorney Ankit Jain, that was talking about the minority districts in Northern Virginia for Asian Americans, and I was like “oh wow that’s really awesome.” I’m part Asian, and that was very helpful. And then you would see big points, like you know “keep Lynchburg whole,” and things like that. That being said, it’s just impossible to consider every single public comment and take into consideration, because a lot of times you have conflicting comments. A lot of the public comments were personal attacks, which I’m just not used to as a non-public member. All in all, I would like even more public comment and I wish we could have given more opportunity for that. I really liked the interactive maps DLS did to where I could scroll over and see “there’s a bunch of red here, I need to focus on that area.” I think that our map drawers made a concerted effort to take that into consideration This may be my biased opinion about John Morgan—again, I think that he was doing what he’s hired to do, but I could see a lot of times he would draw very creative maps that appeared to take public comment into consideration, but really then would still be geared towards the Republicans.
Do you think that the majority of it was ordinary citizens being heard, or was it a lot of coordinated group efforts that may or may not have been the biggest priority of most people?
I don’t know, I think there was definitely some of that. That Tom Davis map, there’s the perfect example of what you don’t want to see in this kind of thing. But I think a lot of citizens were able to speak. I think that kind of goes back also the public outreach and our failures there. Maybe if we’d been better at it, maybe we’d have gotten a lot more diverse involvement I will say there are certain organizations that you just need to be involved. If I have any criticism, it was that I would have people come yell at us, and then we wouldn’t hear a lot from them. Keep yelling at us! If we were failing on the Voting Rights Act, I would like to see more consistent yelling, so at least we would have more cover to say “hey this is a reason, you see what they’re yelling at us!” I found that useful in a lot of ways. Also people yelling at me for something I was doing wrong, that’s useful too; maybe I need to adjust how I’m seeing it.
Has your opinion changed at all about incumbents and how to deal with them, at what stage you should consider incumbency, if at all?
I think we started talking about incumbents way too early. Maybe Newman did his job well in the “landing the plane” thing, it was probably true if you had a lot of pairings it wasn’t going to pass the legislature. I’ve also kind of thought about the efficiency of having brand new elections and people that have never run for office, versus having people that have already established a base. There is value in that, because one thing I’ve appreciated having served is it’s a really hard job, it’s really expensive. I can’t imagine running a campaign, how much money that cost, and then voters have donated, and all of a sudden now that person’s gone because you’ve got pairing. So I think that we looked at that way too early, and we allowed it way too early, but I recognize that there has to be some of that. It seems to me the Supreme Court ultimately put that a very low criteria, which I think is good. There are some people that have been affected by that, and that’s sad, but at the end of the day if it means that we have a fairer voting system, it is what it is. I don’t know that we want a system where representatives kind of live this job, so maybe it’s a good cleanser having that. I just have a hard time with the sense that a lot of people feel that it’s their seat and that’s just the thing that I think anti-gerrymandering tries to do is get rid of that mentality.
If you could write a new amendment, what’s the new amendment look like?
I’m sure this is gonna have its downfalls too, but I think that we have purely citizen commissioners, an educational type system that allows them to have the skill set to be able to serve. Get politicians out of it altogether. We definitely need a longer timeline–45 days is not enough, maybe even a year. There needs to be a huge change in transparency to allow commissioners to be able to communicate with outside people, just to learn. That’s how I learn, and I’ve got to imagine a lot of people to learn, by talking about issues. I remember Columbia Pike, there was an issue about that line; wouldn’t it be cool if I could just go down and start talking to people? Walking around like that would have been awesome, to get a better sense.
I think getting really a laid-out version of Voting Rights Act education, pamphlets and things like that, and the data beforehand. There should be more work done before the commission starts. To have more of an analytical, data-driven analysis of what needs to be done, it seems to me the voting rights analysts doesn’t need to be chosen by parties. That job seems like it can be as objective as possible, because it seemed like it was numbers. I know the Republicans would push against that, but I would like to see somebody in place before we even start the commission next time, not just picking somebody on the fly.
I think that there needs to be an agreement that there’s gonna be one set of attorneys, and one set of map drawers, because it’s unworkable with two sets. The Supreme Court did it by compulsion, let’s find a way to compel that for the commission. Maybe some type of system that allows you to challenge choices and commissioners if you think that there’s unfair things happening, inappropriate behavior, communications violations, things like that, some type of way to address that. Also, while I think it sounds like the Supreme Court were the right people to do it versus us, I do have major concerns about them being the backup for the commission, in that I worry that our Supreme Court becomes even more politicized, that the judicial selection process starts gearing towards them being the ones drawing the maps in 10 years, and that being a litmus test. Further politicization of our courts is concerning to me, and it’s not to disparage them, I hate putting the judges in that position have to make those calls because whatever call I think is going to ultimately be seen as political and it takes away faith in their institution.
Would you make any change to the district criteria themselves?
The fact that we couldn’t even get opportunity districts into the criteria, despite it being in the amendment itself–because my understanding is the criteria were in the enabling legislation. That’s another area that I see concern, and I think it was voiced before the amendment was passed, that those can be changed. You have this amendment, and all of a sudden the Republicans come into power and then change the entire criteria, that’s really concerning. I think we need to actually prioritize the criteria because we kind of just accepted the prioritizing: at one point I asked “hey, what about this versus that?” And one of the chairs would say “oh we’ve already prioritized it.” I don’t think that we did, and just the idea that we couldn’t get in opportunity district criteria, it still blows my mind.
There needs to be more clear guidance on political fairness, and what that means. It’s not 50-50. It cannot be 50-50. That’s not possible if every district is 50-50, and that equates to political fairness, then inherently it’s gerrymandered, because every district has a different makeup, some more red, some more blue. That needs to be delved into further, what political fairness is, because until you get that question down it’s going to be insurmountable. When you’re looking at those final sets of maps, is this politically fair? I think that intellectually and academically it’s an interesting question, but from a practical standpoint that’s where academics and politics really divide and I think it’s unworkable without a further definition.
What was the most frustrating or disappointing moment of the Redistricting Commission?
I guess the biggest disappointment I had was how the discussion the Voting Rights Act went. For instance, Senator McDougle, when he asked whether or not the Voting Rights Act would apply to the Gaelic community–with all due respect to that community, it was discussions like that that demonstrated to me number one, that they did not put the work in to understand what the Voting Rights Act was, or number two, they didn’t take it seriously. And I thought that was a bit insulting when I heard that question. I remember he asked that to Kareem, and Kareem literally didn’t have a response, because it was so out of left field. How do you…obviously the Voting Rights Act is about Jim Crow and Black voters, and to ask that question was I think a bit disrespectful.
I also noticed what they did when they would focus on majority-minority districts, and say “look, we have just as many majority Black districts as you have, so we’re the better position when it comes to the Voting Rights Act!” And they refuse to understand the concept of effective minority opportunity districts, and even when Kareem and Jerry would explain that the goal is not simply to have the most Black majority districts, the goal is to have the most effective districts that allow minorities to select candidates of their choice, they would just ignore that very logical discussion. The concept of packing, they just didn’t even really consider or they didn’t care about, or maybe cynically they didn’t have a problem with. That was the most frustrating part for me, amongst the many frustrating things, was the lack of care for what I thought was consideration of the Voting Rights Act. Bethune-Hill was all about “hey, let’s choose 55%, and we’re good to go!” It was clear from that you can’t just pick a percentage because that itself is arbitrary, especially when you don’t have the data to back it up. That’s where they refused to go down that logic or analysis and you know with respect to Tyson and Bartolomucci, they kind of disregarded that analysis too.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
I’m as liberal as you can get, but I did go into this with an open mind, and a desire to get this thing right, and it was really disappointing seeing the system itself that it wasn’t gonna work. I hope that going forward people aren’t spending time saying we’re winners, we’re losers, you’re the reason we failed, because I don’t think that’s productive. Organizations claiming “we were right” or “we were wrong” or “you were jerks,” that’s not productive. We were operating the best we could. When you’re on the commission, you’ve got to do the best you can. I had a set of lawyers telling me one thing, a set of map drawers telling me one thing, I think that our set of map drawers and lawyers were very smart, and more importantly had good intentions, and we did the best that we could.
Whether or not it was a failure, or not whether or not we deserve criticism, we do–all of us deserve criticism; but one thing I don’t think at least on the Democratic side you can criticize was our intention to do it right. Going back to Marcus Simon, a lot of people criticize him and say that he was the trojan horse to destroy the whole thing. It wasn’t that, and frankly, even when he was being purely political, to his credit he would tell me “James, you know this is me as a Democrat, I’m telling you this, you can take from that what it is and question it, and you should.” I found him very useful and I found him very sincere in the effort to get it right for what it’s worth. I just hope that we don’t spend time talking about who’s right and who’s wrong, and we focus on how do we work together better in the future? McDougle and I had a lot of blowouts, Newman and I had a lot of blowouts; I want them to know that I made every effort to be as sincere as I could. I don’t know that we’d ever have a beer together, but I just hope that they’re listening and they would make an effort to come back to the table. I hope that we can all kind of step away from the firing line and come together at some point.