Tweak boundaries, be civil about it, redistricting panel told

Members of a legislative panel listen to comments Saturday at Mesa State College about redrawing Colorado congressional districts, a task that ended up in court during the previous try after the 2000 census.

A series of speakers Saturday urged lawmakers to tweak the boundaries of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and expressed hope that redistricting this year will resolve itself outside of the court system.

“I think all of us here want our elected representatives to do this. How do we keep control of this decision?” Kathy Jorgensen of Mesa County told the 10-member Joint Select Committee on Redistricting during a forum at Mesa State College.

During the three-hour meeting, the committee heard from 37 people, a number comparable to recent gatherings in Boulder and Pueblo, organizers said. The forum was the last of 10 statewide before the committee draws up new possible boundaries.

Committee co-chairman Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, told the crowd of approximately 80 people that the committee of five Democrats and five Republicans wants to have a proposed map of districts ready by April 14 and presented to Gov. John Hickenlooper before the end of the legislative session.

The past three redistricting efforts have been decided ultimately by Colorado courts. While the state will continue to have seven congressional districts, boundaries will be redrawn to reflect the 2010 census.

Several people told the committee to keep boundaries largely intact in the 3rd Congressional District, but that Pueblo County, among other far-flung areas, should be elsewhere in a redone map.

“They have a different set of issues and ideals, and you’re talking about primarily an urban-type community,” Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes said of Pueblo.

Some suggested Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, now in the 3rd Congressional District, would fit better with the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Eagle, Grand, Summit, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Boulder counties.

“I’m not sure Craig and Rangely would enjoy sharing a congressman with Boulder, but it might make for some interesting primaries,” Delta County resident Rick Stelten said.

The 2010 census drew fire Saturday by the former manager of the Grand Junction Census Bureau office.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever been a part of,” said Grand Junction resident Bill Hugenberg, who was fired from the position in February 2010.

Hugenberg has claimed the former Grand Junction office, located next to a medical-marijuana-growing operation at 573 W. Crete Circle, was hindered by various mismanagement.

“The office was so badly run on the Western Slope, it’s likely there was a significant under-count of the counties I was responsible for,” Hugenberg told the committee.

Committee co-chairman Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, said the committee doesn’t involve itself in census count results.

“We appreciate the input,” Balmer told Hugenberg.


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