Redistricting panel needs to go back to the drawing board – The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

We had high hopes for Colorado’s new, non-partisan redistricting commission to divide power equally among Colorado’s regions and political parties and to create congressional districts representative of our state’s vastly varying regional challenges.

Instead we got a map that divides the Western Slope in half and robs the region of natural alliances built over generations based on shared interests: water, transportation, management of natural resources — even the emergence of outdoor recreation as an economic force.

At the bottom of the page is a redistricting map we’d like the commission to consider. It keeps the Western Slope whole and creates a competitive district; more so than the commission’s proposed 3rd CD found on page 3A (the staff plan), which places Grand Junction in a district that stretches even farther into the Eastern Plains than it does currently.

Dividing the Western Slope is the only way to accommodate the redistricting commission’s desire for a “southern district” that preserves political relevance for Pueblo and the San Luis Valley. So far, that’s the keystone around which the lines have been drawn. But if that’s the reason for cleaving Mesa County away from Garfield County and the rest of the Piceance Basin, it needs to be reconsidered.

One way or another Pueblo and the San Luis Valley will lie in a vast district — lumped in with either southern Western Slope counties or the entire Eastern Plains. Given that’s there’s no natural fit for this redistricting priority, why does the Western Slope have to bear the brunt of this contortion?

We know from experience that the 3rd CD has been too vast in issues and geography to be well represented in Congress. The new map doesn’t change that. Western and southern Colorado face vastly different challenges. Each needs its own representative — not a single one attending to disparate agendas.

Having said all that, it’s probably unrealistic to expect the commission to significantly pivot away from the map its staff has already generated, which does achieve some political balance. It keeps the four Democratic seats relatively safe and preserves three as solidly Republican.

It would add a new swing seat running from Adams County to Greeley. That area voted Democratic by 1.9 percentage point in last year’s Senate election, according to the Associated Press, setting up a possible even breakdown of congresstional seats, 4-4.

If the proposed staff map doesn’t change, we’d likely see Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, move into the new proposed 3rd CD rather than compete in the proposed 2nd with most of its population in Boulder and Fort Collins.

There are so many ways to skin this cat that don’t divide the Western Slope and we urge the commission to re-examine the possibilities. If that’s a dead end, we would much prefer a map that connects Grand Junction with Fort Collins and doesn’t divide representation of the Interstate 70 corridor.

Fort Collins faces many of the same issues as we do — a growing university, drought and forest fires, outdoor recreation-dependent economies, and remote municipalities separated by public lands. They certainly share much more in common with us than they do with Springfield in Baca County down in the southeast corner of the state.

There’s no scenario that’s going to please everyone in the state, but the biggest problem with the staff proposal is that it pulls us away from Garfield County, diluting a power center and making us a second banana to Pueblo.

No matter how you slice it, the Western Slope has to hook into another population center on the I-25 corridor to stay intact and make the numbers work. We’ll take Fort Collins or Pueblo — as long as we don’t get split across the middle.

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