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Communities of interest

Kerfuffle at the statehouse.

It’s redistricting time and the rare birds in that gilded cage we know as the Capitol are flitting about, squawking, in a dither about proposals.

The common cry: redistricting plans are part of a dastardly plan by members of a party (the other party) to redraw U.S. Congressional District lines to that party’s advantage.

Gerrymandering.

This year, it is our elected Republicans who are crying loudest about plans (maps) submitted last Friday by Democrats.

The first point: Both parties have taken their shots at gerrymandering over the years; one party does not own the move. Further, a close look at proposals to be considered this year does not show a clear political advantage completed by Democrats. In fact, most of the Dem proposals give somewhat of an advantage to Republicans in four of seven districts, though the Dem plans tighten the competition more than does the Republican map. The Democrats have made competitiveness in districts one of the major goals in their proposals.

Second, if we do away with the partisan blather, it is clear to us that some proposed redistricting maps do, indeed, look unpalatable. Not due to a gain in voters for either party, but rather for what many of the Democrat plans do regarding the law, and spirit of the law, as applies to redistricting.

In short, the Western Slope and other rural areas could be slighted in the process, given that certain plans proceed to adoption.

A bit of background: Redistricting is the process by which boundaries of U.S. Congressional districts are redrawn following a decennial census. The 2010 census apportions seven congressional seats to Colorado. The Colorado General Assembly is responsible for redrawing the congressional districts and must do so with a number of criteria set by law.

There must be mathematical equality in population among the seven districts. There must be an absence of racial discrimination in the drawing of boundaries. County and municipal boundaries must be preserved. Districts must be compact and contiguous and, perhaps most important, the redistricting must preserve “communities of interest.”

And therein lies the grounds for our complaint concerning some of the maps proposed by state Democrat legislators.

Republican proposals basically keep the split of the state into districts cleaving to eastern plains and West Slope configurations, with five districts dividing up the major urban cores. The plan definitely preserves some Republican seats.

Pagosa Country is part of District 3, one of two primarily rural districts (with District 4) encompassing lands on the Western Slope and, according to the recent population count, our district is in need of additional population in order for the mandate for mathematical parity to be met. To achieve that parity by extending district boundaries from Kansas to Utah along the southern border of the state flies in the face of the mandate to preserve communities of interest. At least one plan to redraw District 4 lines is even more far-fetched.

The Western Slope has its particular and peculiar interests and aspects, which do not fit harmoniously with those of distant, rural areas in eastern Colorado or with certain urban areas. Surely there is a better way to deal with the situation, with more attention paid to the values and lifestyles in our part of the state and in the mountain region.

True, members of the U.S. congress represent the entire population of the state once they are in Washington, D.C., but they carry with them the character of the people and lands in their district. They are the embodiment of the communities of interest that make up their constituency. There is no need to confuse this. Karl Isberg

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