Save Delta County! Redistricting Commission's "Nonpartisan Staff" wants to silence us! Immediate action required!
by Delta County Republican Chairman, Dave Bradford
The redistricting of Colorado Congressional and Legislative Districts continues. But on this second round, the changes are coming much more quickly, with a shortened time frame for the public to respond. So please pay attention and act quickly. The Redistricting website is https://redistricting.colorado.gov .
The Congressional Redistricting
The second and even the third version of the Congressional Districts map have come out. The second version was an abomination. It split the Western Slope into two Districts – CD2 and CD3. Putting Northwest Colorado, including Garfield County, with Boulder and Larimer Counties. Talk about mixing Communities of Interest!
I truly believe the people of Boulder and Larimer Counties would be dictating how life would be lived to all the rural residents of the remainder of this proposed CD2 (Routt, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Routt, Jackson, Grand and Summit Counties). A horrible proposal. Apparently, it was so bad that the Congressional Redistricting Commission had the so-called “Nonpartisan Staff” draw up a “Second Staff Plan”. This second version is much better. CD3 is described in the Second Staff Plan by the Colorado Redistricting Commission as “Congressional District is a western and southern district consisting of the following whole counties: Alamosa, Archuleta, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Delta, Dolores, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Garfield, Gunnison, La Plata, Las Animas, Mesa, Mineral, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande, Saguache, San Juan, and San Miguel. The required population is then met by adding a small portion of southwestern Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley. This required a split of the town of El Jebel.” Whether the plan for the Congressional Districts stays the same is not certain. It may change again! So please get your comments in – supporting the Second Staff Plan and opposing the First Staff Plan. The section on the maps on the Redistricting website is https://redistricting.colorado.gov/content/2021-redistricting-maps
The Legislative Redistricting
The second proposed map of the Legislative Districts shows some improvement. In the Senate District, Delta County is kept whole and placed Senate District 8 - a large nine county Senate District. The District includes Delta County, the north and east portion of Mesa County, Garfield County, except for the southeast 1/3, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand and Clear Creek Counties. This is the second largest Senate District in this proposal. Senate District 3, which includes 19 Counties - essentially all of Eastern Colorado, is the largest District in the State (30% of the Sate in this one District). The Summary Memo prepared by the Redistricting Staff offers no real explanation how Senate District 8 was created, except to say that the areas included in this District all lay in the mountains. Senate District 8 seems convoluted and not very concise but at least Delta County is kept whole, though I don’t believe Mesa County is very happy with the split.
The House District Plan is not so good for Delta County. Once again, Delta County is split. The west half being combined with Mesa County; the east half being incorporated with Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Hinsdale, Dolores and part of Montezuma County. This arrangement is similar to what existed from the late 1960’s to 2011. It is terrible for those of us in the east half of the county. Our voice is so diluted and there are little shared interests with most of those counties that we are essentially not represented in the State House of Representatives. This situation is even more galling when you read the Staff Memo to the Legislative Commissioners – where they state they tried to preserve as many “communities of interest” as possible. Either Delta County does not count as a “community of interest” or not enough of us spoke up, in the last go-round. The following is the section from the Staff Memo that applies. “Preservation of communities of interest and political subdivisions. When it was necessary for staff to divide a city or county to arrive at the required district population, nonpartisan staff attempted to keep communities of interest together, such as keeping the Roaring Fork Valley together when dividing Eagle County and dividing Boulder along Broadway Street. To the extent possible, staff kept municipalities that include portions in two counties together or split those municipalities at the county border. Further, in drawing the staff plan, staff considered the public comments the commission has received and attempted to preserve as many communities of interest as possible.”
I believe we need to restate, again, and with increased numbers and volume that Delta County needs to be kept whole! As I stated in my original comments to the Redistricting commission - All of Delta County should be placed with Mesa County. It shares the same watershed and most of the Grand Mesa. As described above, splitting Delta County reduces its voice and places undue hardship on the citizens, businesses and governing officials of our county.
The more one works on this issue the more apparent it becomes that using population as the primary factor in creating these district the more difficult it is to create fair and balanced districts. Prior to 1964, the districts were set up so that the counties were represented much more fairly. Delta and Mesa Counties each had their own representative. The largest House District was composed of 4 counties (Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Routt). Population of the Districts varied from 8,682 in the Sedgewick & Phillips Counties District to 143,742 in El Paso County District. Just looking at the map, it is apparent that the representation was much better. The target population for each House District is 721,714. Now a small area of Colorado, the Front Range I-25 corridor, comprising about 15% of the land area of the state has 49 of the 64 representatives or about 77%. No wonder rural Colorado feels under attack. 85% of the State is represented by 23% of the state’s representatives. We need a new process! One that balances population with land area.
Finally, I’ll conclude my discussion in this blog reviewing the issue of the “Nonpartisan Redistricting Staff”. These are the people hired by the Redistricting Commissions to actually do the analysis and draw up the maps of the proposed districts. You see the term “Nonpartisan Redistricting Staff” used continuously throughout the Redistricting website. To quote the Bard, William Shakespeare, “The lady protests too much, methinks.” What makes these people “Nonpartisan”? The fact that the Website spends so much ink calling the Staff “Nonpartisan”, that I wonder if they really are. How are they nonpartisan? Most of us are registered voters, and that makes us partisan to some degree. The website lists the 12 people that compose the Staff, see https://redistricting.colorado.gov/staff for details. Since the “Staff” is actually performing so much of the work of the Commissions it seems to me that the same requirements for selecting the Commissioners, should have been used in hiring the “Staff”. I mention this, as it seems that the Staff seem to be much more responsible for what is coming out of the Redistricting process. I hope the Commissions, and the Staff, actually listen to public input. But if the final products don’t seem to reflect that, perhaps this is why.
So, Let me conclude by saying - Please comment on these three proposals. Use the comment section on the Redistricting website - https://redistricting.colorado.gov/public_comments/new . In your comments, consider the following:
1) The Second Staff Plan for Colorado Congressional Districts is Fair and Balanced and should be selected (and the First Staff Plan was terrible), i.e. the Western Slope should be kept whole and in CD3.
2) For the Legislative Senate District map – All of Delta should be kept whole and placed with Mesa County. It shares the same watershed and most of the Grand Mesa. They are much more unified communities of interest. Place Montrose County with Gunnison County, they have more shared interests then Mesa and Montrose Counties.
3) For the Legislative District map - All of Delta County should be kept whole and placed with Mesa County. It shares the same watershed and most of the Grand Mesa. As described above, splitting Delta County reduces its voice and places undue hardship on the citizens, businesses and governing officials of our county.
But please comment and send your comments NOW. The Redistricting calendar calls for the Second Staff House and Senate District plans to be posted online on Thursday September 23, 2021. The Third Staff House and Senate District plans to be posted online on Sunday October 3, 2021. The Deadline for Final approval of the Legislative Redistricting is Monday October 11, 2021.