Redistricting map upsets Denver’s former leader

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb had some choice words for his Republican colleagues on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission on Monday.

“Appalling.” “Insensitive. “Out of touch.”

The Denver Democrat said a GOP-drawn map of proposed new lines for the Colorado House favored Republican candidates so heavily it has the potential of creating a super majority for the Grand Old Party for the next decade.

And it does so on the backs of minority voters, he said.

“The proponents unapologetically used minority communities as pawns in this advantage,” said Webb, who is black.

The former mayor’s comments came hours before the 11-member commission gave its final nod to preliminary House and Senate maps that it will present to voters in a series of 25 public hearings in the state.

Webb directed many of his comments at commissioner Mario Nicholais, a Republican appointee who drafted the House map. He said Nicholais’ motivation was to protect Republican incumbents and create competitive districts only in Democratic-leaning areas of the state.

“When drawing legislative districts, our charge is not to protect incumbents regardless of race or ethnicity,” Webb said.

“Reapportionment is not about incumbent protection.”

Webb said another district included in Nicholais’ map claims a 20 percent minority population, but that’s only because it includes the Arapahoe County Jail, which he said has thousands of Latino and black inmates. Nicholais said his map would pass constitutional muster with the state Supreme Court.

The commission is made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and one unaffiliated voter.

Webb also questioned why Grand Junction continued to be split into two House districts, and why Gunnison County was being divided.

“The map adopted for Gunnison does violence to this community,” Webb said. “I can only surmise the map was adopted for some specific advantage.”

Former Rep. Gayle Berry, R-Grand Junction and a member of the commission, said Webb’s comments were out of left field.

“It was a jab at all of us,” Berry said. “I wasn’t offended by it because it was without merit. There were some items he brought out that were unknown to all of us, like the Arapahoe County Jail, and yet I don’t agree with his views that there were intentional racial splits and biases in some of the proposed maps, because that’s just not the case.”

The commission’s public hearing is next week. It is slated to submit a final map to the high court by Oct. 7.


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