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State Rep. Pete Lee gets an earful on redistricting

April 30, 2011

There may as well have been a faulty jukebox playing the same tune again and again during a town hall meeting held Saturday by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs.

One by one, Springs residents denounced Democratic proposal to split up El Paso County and remove two military bases from the 5th Congressional District.

“This is part of our community, and we defend our community,” Springs resident and GOP activist Sarah Jack said to the meeting of about 50 people, who packed Manitou Springs City Hall to discuss state issues.

Congressional district boundaries have to be redrawn by the state Legislature every decade, after the national Census completes its work, to ensure that each member of Congress represents roughly the same number of people. Historically, it’s been a highly contentious issue, because Republicans and Democrats never agree to any map that decreases their political power.

Ten years ago, the new map had to be drawn by a judge, because Colorado legislators couldn’t come to an agreement.

This year, it appears that the same thing will happen. Democrats, who control the state Senate and the governor’s office, have introduced a map at the Capitol that Republicans have said is blatant gerrymandering, drawn to make it easier for Democrats to win congressional seats statewide. Democrats, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of similar misdeeds.

Several residents Saturday called the Demmocrat’s proposed map “absurd” and “ridiculous,” and said the plan and the process are charged with partisan politics. Manitou Springs City Councilman Matt Carpenter mocked the idea that Capitol Democrats would suggest that Fort Carson and Schriever Air Force Base aren’t part of the Colorado Springs area.

“Have you seen how many guys come through here to do the incline during training?” he said.
One woman pointed out that a Denver Democrat on the bipartisan redistricting committee had said part of the reasoning behind their map is that both bases are too far from Colorado Springs to be considered as part of their community.

Lee chuckled, and said, “Does that tell you how far Denver is from Colorado Springs? On a map, it’s about 60 miles, but it’s an eternity in the thought process.”

Lee told the room that the motivation behind the Democrats’ map was to create competitive districts. He read from a statement issued by Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, which said their aim was to prevent electing members of congress who will hold their seats indefinitely, due to huge partisan advantages in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs.

He also said it could be beneficial for the Colorado Springs area and Colorado’s military to have two members Congress advocating for them, instead of just one.

But Lee also agreed with many of the residents who complained that none of maps Democrats have proposed over the past few weeks have made any sense geographically.

“Under some of the maps, Aurora is split into four different districts. I kind of scratched my head at that one,” said Lee.

Call the writer 476-4825.

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