Chlouber: Re-redistricting good for Western Colorado
Article 5, Section 44 of the Colorado Constitution directs that, “The General Assembly shall divide the state into as many congressional districts as there are representatives in Congress.”
In what proved to be a bitter fight with the Democrats in both the House and Senate, the Republican majorities in both chambers were successful in satisfying our constitutional duty.
In the process, the best interests of Western Colorado, Lake and Chaffee counties in particular, were served in the new congressional map.
Under the court-approved map that we replaced, Lake and Chaffee counties were thrown in the 5th Congressional District, which also includes El Paso County.
I have no problem with my friends and colleagues from Colorado Springs, but clearly Colorado Springs has different interests and different concerns than Leadville, Buena Vista or Salida, and both geographic areas deserve their own distinct voice in Congress.
One major factor that must be used when drawing congressional maps is keeping communities of interest whole. In other words, cities, counties and residents that have similar needs should remain in the same congressional district.
Lake and Chaffee counties have much more in common with Western Slope mountain areas than the urban centers on the Front Range – water interests, economic infrastructures, agricultural issues, geography, tourism and constituencies, just to name a few.
There were several other problems with the court-approved map that our bill aimed to fix. Some of the other problems with the old map include:
– The old map encouraged east-west water conflicts;
– The city of Aurora, which is the state’s third-largest city, was split almost 50/50;
– The minority vote, particularly in Denver, was diluted; and
– The 7th District had 440 different sides (as opposed to a rectangle with four sides) and was shaped like a horseshoe around the North Denver area.
Because there were several problems with the old map, and because it is the General Assembly’s constitutional duty to draw the congressional boundaries, I united with my Republican colleagues to create and pass a better map than we had before.
I pledged my support for the bill because it made the Western Slope whole and because my constituents will now have a stronger voice in Washington, D.C.
There is no doubt that this was a politically contentious issue, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. Urban Democrats complained that we limited public input.
They complained we weren’t willing to compromise. They complained this was a partisan power-grab. While I recognize that often perception is reality, here is what really happened:
The Democrats controlled the Senate in 2001-02 when we had real chances to sit down together and draw a map that was good for Colorado.
Urban Democrats complained about partisan politics, but just last year they refused to sit at an honest bargaining table, went shopping for a Denver judge and took the issue to court.
This judge didn’t draw his own map for Colorado, but while behind closed doors, he selected a map that was drawn by the Democratic State Party in secrecy.
While they may complain about us, the Democrats last year exploited their power in the Senate and clouded everything in secrecy – the epitome of a “partisan power-grab.”
Republican control of the Colorado House and Senate is good for Colorado. This session we passed common-sense firearm legislation, a water-storage bill and health-insurance reform.
We passed a school-choice bill, helped stimulate the economy and balanced our budget. And in the end, the people’s elected legislators drew a new congressional map that is good for the people of Colorado, good for Western Colorado and good for my constituents.
State Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville, represents Senate District 4, which includes Lake, Douglas, Teller, El Paso and Park counties. Chlouber serves as the Senate president pro tem and serves on the Senate Agriculture, Transportation and Appropriations Committees.
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