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Redistricting and political gain, protecting the West Slope

My weekend was marred by the Friday afternoon meeting of the Joint Congressional Redistricting committee.

Democrat co-chair Sen. Rollie Heath presented six suggested maps from Democrats, every one of which changes the 3rd Congressional District to take in the southern half of Colorado reaching from the Utah line to the Kansas line with a northern boundary that takes in Montrose County and goes east to include various parts of the front range and then further east to the Kansas border.

The 4th Congressional District was drawn by the Democrats to include the northern half of the Eastern Plains and to wrap around the Denver area to take in the populated area of Larimer County. The 2nd Congressional District is drawn to put Grand Junction and the north half of the West Slope with Boulder. The other four districts were drawn for the metropolitan Front Range area, which I don’t know that much about.

Republican maps on the other hand made only slight changes to existing districts and kept the West Slope and the eastern plains whole.

What interest does the West Slope have with Douglas County and with the eastern plains? What interest does the West Slope have with Boulder?

The West Slope, on the other hand, from Durango to Steamboat Springs has all kinds of shared interests like West Slope water and public lands, skiing and mining, mountains and hiking, mountain biking and public lands grazing, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, wilderness areas, elk and deer hunting, trout fishing, coalbed methane, tourism, and the list goes on.

Why in the world are these people wanting to split the West Slope that has been whole for 30 years? Why do the Denver Democrats want to create chaos out of a process that could be as easy as adding or subtracting a few counties?

The answer has to be that it is for political gain!

I had a hunch, and now I know for sure why the Democrats hurriedly introduced a late bill in the waning days of the 2010 session — HB10-1408, which overturned the law that mandated the courts to keep “communities of interest,” specifically the West Slope and the eastern plains, together when redistricting. The Denver Democrats have had this plan for Congressional redistricting for a long time!

Senator Ellen Roberts and I introduced HB11-1276 which reinstates the mandate to the courts that last year’s bill repealed. We voluntarily held off on continuing with the bill to give the redistricting committee time to work out a plan. The gloves are off now, and we will charge forward with this bill. Those legislators who are determined to go forward with this gerrymandering will be noted.

West Slope and eastern plains Democrats and Republicans alike should join together to fight this ridiculous scheme. Send an e-mail outlining your outrage to members of the Senate and House. You can get their addresses at www.leg.state.co.us.

Together we can absolutely make a difference.

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