Our View: Redistricting maps should prompt public input
The preliminary redistricting maps for state legislative districts were released recently, and under the initial plan, Routt County would be grouped in a new House district with Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and most of Garfield County. Eagle County and Vail would no longer be in the same district as Routt, and Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Steamboat native, would no longer represent us if he chose to run again.
The new district is numbered 57 on the new map, and there would be no incumbent. The map shows that Glenwood Springs, another resort community, would be the portion of Garfield County left out of the proposed boundary. The initial Colorado Senate map places Routt in a similar district as it is now but extending east to include most of Larimer County, with the exception of larger communities like Fort Collins. Sen. Bob Rankin would still live within the district.
It should be noted that these maps and districts are expected to change once new census data is released. And the Independent Legislative Redistricting Committee that has been working on these maps is currently accepting public comment on the initially proposed districts. That input could also affect boundary lines in the future, and we encourage Steamboat Springs and Routt County residents to let the committee know how they feel about the proposed changes.
In studying the proposed boundary changes for our House district, we are concerned the interests of a resort community, like Steamboat Springs, would be minimized, which could be detrimental to the economic vitality of the entire Northwest Colorado region and leave our area without a voice in Denver. And while Routt County has done a good job of balancing the interests of tourism, ranching and energy, the new district seems to leave Steamboat on an island. It also would not comply with state law that mandates districts preserve communities of interest to ensure fair and effective representation.
The current District 26, includes Vail and Steamboat, as well as smaller towns and more rural areas, which in our opinion provides a better balance and ensures the interests of different groups and communities will be heard in the State Legislature.
We have seen that play out, as Roberts has done a very good job of representing all of his constituents. This past legislative session, he championed several key pieces of legislation that benefited the Western Slope communities he represents, including a bill that created the Economic Relief Cash Fund to create an economic recovery task force to guide the spending of American Rescue Plan dollars to assist small businesses recovering from the pandemic. Other bills he has helped pass this year were focused on issues important to Routt County, like affordable housing, behavioral and mental health, access to health care and health care insurance, and a program to bolster a beleaguered events industry.
At issue: The Independent Legislative Redistricting Committee has released preliminary redistricting maps for state legislative districts that would put Routt County in a new district.
Our View: The proposed boundaries seem to create a district where Steamboat Springs’ interests, as a resort community, would not be represented, and we encourage local residents to submit public comments about the plan.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Robin Schepper, a Steamboat resident who serves on the redistricting committee, made a good point in a recent Steamboat Pilot & Today article that describes the dilemma of trying to create a competitive district with differing interests.
“Colorado is changing, and we all want representation that represents our interests,” Schepper said. “Obviously, agriculture and rural issues are really important to the Western Slope but so is tourism and climate change. So how do you marry that all together?”
This is a good question and one that requires much consideration and work. We suggest that it makes sense to keep the current state legislative district, which now includes Routt and Eagle counties, unchanged.
Schepper said Northwest Colorado residents have not submitted as many public comments as those from other areas of the state, so we encourage Routt Countians to make their voices heard on the proposed changes. The process will continue to unfold over the next several months as actual census data is received and new maps are created, and there will be ongoing opportunities for public comment.
We urge people to join the conversation now, near the beginning of the process, by submitting public comment online at Redistricting.Colorado.gov/public_comments/new or through the online portal at Redistricting.Colorado.gov/content/redistricting-online.
The commission will be holding a hearing on the initial redistricting maps at 7 p.m. July 23 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. People can sign up to testify on the Redistricting.Colorado.gov website, and the deadline to do that is Friday. Testimony is limited to three minutes. Schepper said it is helpful for people who testify to say what they like or don’t like about the proposed maps.
And as local residents consider submitting public comment or testifying at the hearing, we would encourage them to consider four key questions that the redistricting committees have posted on the online commenting portal:
• What shared interests unite your community?
• What are your community’s public policy concerns?
• What geographic areas or features are important to your community?
• What else should the commissions know about your community?
These questions are thought provoking and provide a good basis for communicating to committee members what issues are important to Steamboat Springs and Routt County to help guide them as they make decisions on our behalf.
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