West Slope still a land apart in congressional representation

When I was quite young there was a move afoot — only slightly joking — to have Congress divide the state into Colorado and western Colorado so we felt like we could get some representation.

Many in the western part of the state felt the Front Range diverted our water, collected our taxes and, for the most part, ignored anything else that had to do with the Western Slope.

That division clearly never happened, but the feeling didn’t disappear. And, on a recent trip to Washington, D.C., a group of western Colorado businessman got a taste of what it’s like to approach your congressman, who acts like you are from another state.

At the end of June this year, a group from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Colorado were in Washington to attend their annual legislative convention. Rob Cose of Grand Junction went with that group to meet with representatives and senators from Colorado.

Cose told me that even when a representative or senator was not available, they met with an aide and were treated well. That is, he says, until they tried to meet with Reps. Diana DeGette and John Salazar.

In these instances, they were met in a hallway by an aide. Since most of the delegation was from the Grand Valley, they were especially disappointed about this treatment from 3rd Congressional District Rep. Salazar.  Cose said that when he asked the aide why they were forced to meet in the hallway, he was told the representative was too busy, the office was too small and that confrontational groups were not allowed in to see the congressman.

According to Cose’s e-mail to me, although the group had disagreements with some of Salazar’s positions, they didn’t see themselves as particularly confrontational and even had a few good things to say, had they been given the chance.

Cose said they asked the aide to come to visit our area and see the different concerns the Grand Valley faces that separate it from other parts of the district. He said he was told by the aide that the district is the size of Florida and the aide doubted they would have time to get to the area.

Hearing that, it’s a little easier to understand the thinking behind that state-of-western Colorado movement, isn’t it?

All this is bad enough, but if some on the left get their way after the 2010 census, we may get more of an opportunity to experience taxation and regulation without real representation as a result of a little process called redistricting.

After each census, state legislatures are tasked with rearranging the congressional districts to reflect new population counts. This exercise is usually the subject of a great deal of political intrigue and theater. Political parties attempt to draw the districts to minimize the power of the other party by diluting or isolating their voters and to allow for the smallest number of representatives possible from the out-of-power party.

With both houses of the Colorado Legislature and the governor’s mansion under the control of the Democratic Party, their supporters are atwitter over the possibilities of political reconstruction following next year’s census.

Here’s how this might work, from a post on the liberal blog, “Swing State Project”:

“The new 3rd (District) would retain its traditional base in Pueblo and the San Luis Valley, and unfortunately I could not take out Mesa County, (the best suggestion I’ve gotten is to just let Utah have it) so I just tried bringing in other blue areas instead. The counties added to the 3rd are: Clear Creek, Eagle, Summit, Lake, Baca, Crowley, the rest of Otero and most of Bent County. Some of these are the Eastern Plains red areas but small enough or they vote for Democrats often enough to not make much difference.”

With such an outcome, conservatives would become strangers in their own state. So, if you’re looking for more reasons why the 2010 elections are important, I think you can add this to the list.


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