Disturbing changes to legislative districts

Pardon our cynicism, but is a legislative redistricting plan that could leave residents of Loma looking to Craig, Steamboat Springs or even Walden to contact their state representative really a great deal for Mesa County?

Currently, Loma residents’ representative in the state House lives in the same part of the county as they do, as has been the case for many decades. De Beque residents, as well, could count on having a state representative who lived not too many miles away.

But under a redistricting plan approved Monday by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, both of those Mesa County communities would be placed in House District 57, which covers most of northwestern Colorado.

We understand that redistricting is a complicated and difficult balancing act. Population numbers for each district must be roughly equal to meet constitutional requirements.

Additionally, efforts should be made to ensure many districts are competitive — not automatic victories for either party. Minority populations must be considered. Finally, those drawing district boundaries may look to preserve communities of interest, attempting to place cities and counties with common interest in the same district.

It’s impossible to please everybody. And some communities always end up in districts where they just don’t seem to fit.

The argument made by former Grand Junction state Rep. Gayle Berry, a member of the Reapportionment Commission — that Mesa County will actually be better off under the new districts because it will technically have three members in the House representing it instead of two — is not without merit.

In fact, it’s conceivable, although politically unlikely, that there could be three members of the House who actually live in Mesa County.

But it’s also possible — and far more likely — that the people of Loma and De Beque will be represented by someone who lives in a far-flung corner of northwestern Colorado, who has only a passing knowledge of the issues facing Loma and De Beque, someone more concerned about issues where the majority of District 57 voters are concentrated than those in tiny Mesa County communities.

Of course, much will depend on who is elected to District 57, and how well he or she works with other Western Slope lawmakers, including those from Mesa County. But no one should view the latest redistricting plan as a victory for Mesa County, especially not for its citizens living in Loma and De Beque.


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