Proposed CD map would drown out rural communities
The most recent draft map of Colorado’s proposed Congressional Districts, known as the First Staff Plan, was presented to the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission on Sept. 6. The Sept. 28 deadline for eight of the 12 commissioners to accept the current map or one with variations based on testimony is looming. The proposed First Staff Plan drew criticism from all sides in the week’s public meetings.
The commission includes Carly Hare, U-CD 40, chair; Jolie Brawner, U-CD 1, vice chair; Martha Coleman, D-CD 2; Moussa Diawara, U-CD 5; Paula Espinoza, D-CD 4; Jason Kelly, R-CD 3); William Leone, R-CD 3; Danny Moore, R-CD 6; Lori Smith Schell, U-CD 3; JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin, R-CD 6; Simon Tafoya, D-CD 1; and Elizabeth Wilkes, D-CD 5.
No witnesses attended the live Limon site to testify on the morning of Sept. 8, though about 30 witnesses testified online.
One of the most contentious points of discussion was the large southern district that usurped the rural eastern and western slope districts. The proposed 2nd district is comprised of Alamosa, Archuleta, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, La Plata, Las Animas, Mesa, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Pueblo, Saguache, San Juan, and San Miguel counties. It also includes a portion of Garfield County.
Several witnesses spoke in support of keeping the aerospace district in Jefferson County mostly whole, particularly for purposes of earning federal funds. Another witness spoke in support of keeping Weld and Adams counties together with portions of north Denver including Commerce City to keep the Latino community in those counties whole in proposed CD 8 which, as drawn is 38% Hispanic.
Allen Maez, a Montezuma County farmer and rancher said he had “serious reservations” about Boulder’s inclusion with northwestern Colorado and the splitting of western Colorado and what he called the shared rural interests. He said the massive urban corridor is an impediment to the fair representation of rural voters and the newest map erodes the voice of agriculture.
Commissioner Leone asked Maez which population centers have a connection to rural communities? Maez said population centers rarely share the same concerns though they all need agriculture and benefit from rural areas.
Michael Hesse, a former congressional staffer for the Colorado delegation said communities of interest should be prioritized by the ways in which those communities interact with the federal government.
“I personally favor a more east/west map because of the geography,” he said. “What you’ll find is the western slope and rural communities primarily deal with the Department of the Interior and eastern plains with the Department of Agriculture.”
He later added that the tribes in southwestern Colorado interact primarily with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior. The tribes, he said, benefit from the representation of former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and former Congressman Scott McInnis during the Ute tribe’s long fight to receive the water rights he said they were promised.
He said District 2 should remain an educational district with Boulder and Fort Collins within it’s boundaries as both are driven by higher education, though the two universities rarely compete for federal funding dollars based on their very different missions. He argued that from a rural perspective, the map proposed isn’t a good one though he recognizes no map is perfect.
Hesse said keeping the Colorado River Basin whole in a single district is important because without that natural resource, “everything goes away, and the state becomes a desert.”
Additional witnesses from Larimer and Boulder counties and the western slope, including Mesa County’s Dr. Karen Seibold, spoke in support of keeping the rural counties in the western half of the state together with communities of interest — water, agriculture, oil and gas, second amendment rights — together.
“My biggest concern is lumping Larimer and Boulder in with the western and northwestern part of Colorado,” Seibold said. “It seems philosophically that those communities really don’t mesh with the important things the western slope considers primary.”
Conversely, Brita Ross from Pueblo County testified in favor of the large southern district and said she was one of the group of eight people who submitted and championed the change.
“We really like the staff map,” she said. “We didn’t get everything we want but generally speaking they kept the southern Colorado areas geographically together, they retained much of the water, the historical, the cultural, and the community interests.”
She said Pueblo’s inclusion in a district with the San Luis Valley is critical from a cultural perspective.
Commissioner Schell asked Ross for her thoughts in regard to the large southern Colorado district’s effects on the remainder of the state.
“When we drew our map, we went from communities of interest, there were eight of us and we didn’t look at the northern part of Colorado, we didn’t look at Denver,” she said. “What we looked at was the communities of interest that were involved down here where we live, so I really can’t tell you the impact on the rest of the state.”
If this non-partisan staff-drawn map is not accepted by the commission, a new staff drawn map will be released Sept. 15. If necessary, another will be released on Sept. 25. If no consensus can be reached by eight of the 12 commissioners, including at least two unaffiliated commissioners, the map will head to the state’s highest court. If agreement can be reached by the commission, the map must be presented to the Colorado Supreme Court by Oct. 1.
CD 1 would include most of Denver, as well as Holly Hills and most of Glendale in Arapahoe County.
CD 2 would include all of Boulder, Broomfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties. It also would include western Larimer County, north and western Garfield County, and parts of Summit County, including Breckenridge.
CD 3 would include all of Alamosa, Archuleta, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, La Plata, Las Animas, Mesa, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Pueblo, Saguache, San Juan, and San Miguel counties. It also includes a portion of Garfield County.
CD 4 would include all of Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties. It also would include most of Douglas County, Fort Collins and nearby Larimer County areas, about 48,000 Weld County residents, about 10,000 eastern Adams County residents and about 8,700 eastern El Paso County residents.
CD 5 would include most of El Paso County, including all of Colorado Springs.
CD 6 would include most of Arapahoe County and parts of Douglas, Jefferson and Adams counties. The entire city of Aurora would be in the district as well as Centennial and parts of Highlands Ranch and Littleton.
CD 7 would include all of Chaffee, Clear Creek, Fremont, Gilpin, Lake, Park and Teller counties. But it also would include most of Jefferson County, and about 6,000 people from Summit County.
CD 8 would include most of Adams and Weld counties, including all of Thornton, Greeley, Commerce City, Northglenn, Brighton and other north suburban cities. There would also be a small portion of north Denver and a portion of Larimer County included.
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