State reapportionment plan not all bad
Grand County, CO Colorado
Grand County’s tempest over reapportionment has even merited the attention of big city Denver Post, and we are now their hot topic of discussion regarding our placement in a state House district.
There was a time when the Colorado Legislature was of interest only to those with statewide concerns. But after the brouhaha in Wisconsin over public employees unions, the boycott by the minority Democrats, court suits, and recalls, who controls a state legislature warrants extra attention by even those who usually focus on national policy and politics. State districts safe for one party have gained new importance.
The final opportunity for input to the state Reapportionment Commission is Sept.1. Even if the matter is eventually decided by the Colorado Supreme Court, no doubt a report by the Reapportionment Commission will be part of the testimony considered by the judges, so there is still time to influence opinions.
I listened the other day to comments by a Democratic county official, shaking his head sadly that Grand County would even consider not being a part of a West Slope legislative district because our commonality of interest on water issues, agricultural concerns and resort industries was so obvious. No matter which of the possible districts we could join, Grand would be only 20 percent of the vote, so that our ability or lack of ability to influence issues would not change. We would always be the tail trying to wag the dog, barking loudly to get attention.
I am scratching my head to recall any negative experiences of our being a part of other East Slope districts. Grand County is already in an Eastern Slope district. We have been in a state Senate district now represented by Gilpin County resident Jeanne Nicholson (D). Nicholson has spent many hours in Grand County and advocating for us. Just being part of an East Slope district in itself has not been detrimental to Grand County interests. So what is the flap about?
Is it partisan politics? Grand County’s registration is weighted toward Republicans. Being part of a Boulder Democratic district would introduce a tad more Republican competition to a solid Democratic district. However, inclusion in a western district would make that district safer for Republicans. No wonder they approve. I can understand why there are Democrats who do not want to be an even more diminished minority in an enhanced heavily Republican western district. It would make it harder than it is now for Grand County Democrats to challenge the GOP candidates and the resulting frustration could discourage participation in party activities.
There are valid arguments of substance on both sides that deserve serious consideration, but the rebuttals by the east district advocates to arguments made by supporters of western district inclusion have gotten belittled. There are some points are worth heeding.
If Grand County were combined with Clear Creek, Gilpin, and western Boulder (including the Peak to Peak Highway), we would share common interests in tourism and recreation, fire protection, pine beetle infestation, and small community concerns with transportation and education. Only 21 percent of that possible configuration is suburban. Grand County wage levels are far more similar to these three counties and are 50 percent less than the average in the rest of the proposed west district. Those to the west want to suck more of our Grand County water for hydrofracking and our county has only a minor interest in supporting such drilling efforts. While a western district appears compact on a map, we have quicker access to western Boulder than to the core population of the western slope district. It would take four hours driving to reach Rangely and two to Steamboat, yet at most it would take two and a half hours for us to reach the farthest eastern regions of a western Boulder district.
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