Residents of CD 6: Hands off!

The Colorado Statesman

The 6th Congressional District needs to lose more than 79,000 people in order to bring it close to the required 718,457 per congressional district. But while some of the 85 people who attended Monday night’s meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting in Castle Rock had very specific ideas about what areas they wanted to keep, they offered few ideas about what to lose.

The 6th District’s Greenwood Village, which has a population of 13,925, has been mentioned in other hearings as a likely candidate for moving into the 1st District, which is under-populated by 56,418. But that’s not an idea favored by the city’s mayor and two of its councilmen who testified Monday night.

Mayor Ron Rakowsky told the redistricting committee that Greenwood Village has much more in common with its southern neighbors than to Denver. The city is located in Arapahoe County, which is mostly contained with the 6th District, he said. In addition, it shares a fire protection district with five other cities within Arapahoe County; its judicial district includes three other counties south of Denver; and its schools and library districts also are south of Denver.

One of the reasons given for moving Greenwood Village to the 1st District is because it shares common boundaries with Cherry Hills Village, which is part of the 1st. But Rakowsky said Greenwood Village shares no “community of interest” with Cherry Hills; efforts to work on common projects, such as traffic lights and trails, have been rejected by Cherry Hills.

So if Greenwood Village stays in the 6th, where should the 80,000 people come from that have to be moved out? Rakowsky suggested north Aurora or other areas on the north side of the 1st District, citing a community of interest based in part on shopping.

Dave Kerber, mayor pro tem and a city councilman, said Greenwood Village, which has a northern boundary on Belleview Road, has a “flagpole annexation” area far to the east, which includes about 1,000 people. To put Greenwood Village and its annexed area into the 1st District would violate the principle of “compactness” of districts, he told the committee.

The only way to include Greenwood Village in the 1st District, Kerber said, would be to add the people who live around the annexation area, and that would split up Centennial and other parts of unincorporated Arapahoe County into two congressional districts. Such a change would violate the principle of minimization of disruption, he added.

“We love people in Denver but we don’t have a community of interest” with it, he said. “We have a good legal rational basis” for staying in the 6th District.

Kerber noted that Englewood is split between the 1st and 6th Districts. If the committee wants to pull people out of the 6th District, the committee could keep Englewood whole and that’s about 4,000 to 5,000 people, he said. Kerber also suggested taking Sen. Morgan Carroll’s district in Aurora, west of I-225, saying that area is connected to the 1st district by the Fitzsimons campus, Colfax and 6th avenues.

Arapahoe County communities, such as Sheridan and Englewood, don’t share a community of interest to Greenwood Village, he said. “They don’t have the same kind of housing,” he said. “They’re working class folks [and] more connected to Denver.”

But the views of Kerber and Rakowsky, and two other council members who signed onto a letter from Rakowsky, are not unanimous among the Greenwood Village city council, Kerber acknowledged. “We’re very individual and very guarded,” and two members of the council had not made up their minds about the issue.

Park County is split between the 5th and 6th District, and the two party chairs for the county asked that the committee keep it that way, to the surprise of the committee. There are about 16,000 people in Park County, evenly split between the two districts. Richard Elsner, GOP chair for Park County, suggested moving the boundary lines for the two districts a little further west, to Kenosha Pass, which would more accurately reflect the communities of interest. He explained that those west of Kenosha Pass (such as Fairplay) are in the mountains, and are involved in ranching, fishing and tourism, more closely tied to the 5th District. People who live east of Kenosha Pass, along Highway 285, which includes Bailey, work in Denver and are tied to south Jefferson County and Arapahoe County, and fit in the 6th District.

Elsner asked that Park County stay where it is, rejecting ideas that it become part of the 2nd District, which had been suggested last week in Colorado Springs. He said people can’t get to the 2nd District in the winter because the roads are impassable. Elsner did suggest bringing in about 1,000 people into the 6th, an idea that didn’t gain favor with committee co-chair Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who noted that the district needs to lose people, not gain them.

Elsner’s Democratic counterpart, Sheila Canfield Jones, agreed with everything Elsner said, and that caused committee co-chair Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, to call Park County “the Kumbaya County.”

Representatives of Citizens for CD 6 showed up in force Monday night; about 20 members of that group attended and six testified, all asking that the 6th District be drawn to be more competitive. “Our congressman should represent all of us,” Calvin Moy told the committee. “He should have to work for the vote, not just show up.”

The group has proposed Greenwood Village be moved out of the district, and while the proposal doesn’t say where it should go, spokesman Mikel Whitney said in the Loveland hearing that putting the city into the 1st would be an obvious choice.

Gena Ozols said that a lack of competitiveness leads to “lazy representatives” who don’t have to defend themselves at election time and don’t have to be responsible to anyone in the district.

But it may not be possible to draw a map that makes the 5th or the 6th District competitive, Balmer said, in response to some of the comments. The only way to do that would be to split up Douglas County, and many testified that they wanted Douglas County to stay whole in the district.

Some Douglas County residents argued that competitiveness should not be a factor. Franceen Thompson of Parker said she moved to the 6th District in part because it’s a Republican district. “If you’re not happy, you can leave.” Douglas County “suits us fine,” said Debbie Clair. “We’re happy with our representatives; keep us whole.” And Albert Hornong of Highlands Ranch said that if the districts are to be drawn to make them competitive, the committee should start with the 1st District.

Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, also asked that Greenwood Village, south Englewood and Littleton be kept in the 6th or the 7th Districts, because they are suburban, not urban, communities, and don’t like Denver. Reps. Chris Holbert, R-Parker and Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, also attended the hearing.

The GOP chair of the 6th District offered up Elbert County as a possibility for moving. Scott Wills of Elbert said that his county would prefer to stay whole within the 6th, but could move to the 4th District, so long as it was the entire county that was moved.

Laura Embleton said she was envious of the competitiveness of the 7th District, and felt there was no hope for competitiveness in the 6th. She also asked about the impact of House Bill 1276 on the committee’s work. That bill would restore 2004 legislation on judicial instructions when the congressional redistricting map ends up in court.

The bill caught the committee by surprise, Balmer said. He told the audience that he has since asked Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, to put the bill on the “back burner” and that it won’t be brought up for a long time. The committee will draw its map, and “hopefully [HB 1276] will be a moot point after we do our work.”

The committee’s last public forum is this Saturday in Grand Junction. Public comments can be submitted by e-mail to CongRedist2011@State.co.us, no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 25.

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com