Update to Fort Collins redistricting plan passes muster

The Colorado Reapportionment Commission’s Aug. 11 public hearing on proposed redistricting of Fort Collins and northern Colorado house and senate districts was largely a love-fest.

Most of the nearly 50 residents attending praised the Colorado Reapportionment Commission for being responsive to concerns expressed in an earlier version of the plan. That original draft called for splitting Fort Collins into four house districts and Windsor into three.

The commission’s preliminary adopted plan now looks much like the current configuration. House District 52, now represented by Democrat John Kefalas, would be bordered almost entirely by Interstate 25 to the east, College Avenue to the west, Douglas Road to the north, and County Road 32 to the south. A chunk would extend west across College to North Shields Street.

House District 53, now represented by Democrat Randy Fischer, would extend from the foothills to the west, College Avenue to the east, Overland Trail to the north and County Road 32 to the south. A portion would extend east across College to take in the Huntington Hills and Paragon Point areas.

“I think you did a good job on that,” Colorado State University Political Science Prof. John Straayer, said in reference to those divisions.

House District 49 still would still essentially surround Fort Collins and Loveland, encompassing LaPorte, Wellington, Red Feather Lakes and Berthoud. It would sprawl north to the state border and west to take in Jackson County.

Commissioner and former Fort Collins legislator Steve Tool, who now lives in Windsor, however acknowledged that those district boundaries would be adjusted so Jackson County in its entirety can be incorporated into a Western Slope district.

“Jackson County is something we will do over,” Tool said. Its 1,300 residents can be easily removed from House District 49, Tool said.

The proposed senate districts also would look largely the same. Senate District 14, now represented by Democrat Bob Bacon, would include most of Fort Collins.

Senate District 15, now represented by Republican Kevin Lundberg, would include LaPorte, Wellington and Red Feather Lakes, in addition to Loveland and Estes Park and part of Berthoud. It would reach to Cameron Pass to the west.

The voices of dissent included prominent Republicans Bob McCluskey and Ed Haynes. McCluskey was elected twice in House District 52 but defeated in his following two attempts. Haynes is a former Larimer County Republican Party chairman and unsuccessful candidate in House District 53.

Both maintained that splitting the house districts horizontally rather than vertically along College Avenue would result in more competitive races while uniting communities of interest.

“Drake (Road) is a perfect line for doing that,” said Haynes.
He maintained that residents on the south side of Fort Collins generally favor less government, while those on the north want more public services.

McCluskey said he favored the previous proposal because it would lead to greater competition. While the commission’s preliminary plan shows a good balance among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, he noted that the districts increasingly have been trending Democratic.

But a chorus including Poudre School District board members James Ross and Nancy Tellez, urged the commission to keep the current configuration with College Avenue as the dividing line. Doing so, they insisted would preserve diversity in he districts—giving greater voice to northern Hispanic neighborhoods.

Redistricting occurs every decade. Based on the U.S. Census, it reflects population changes to ensure citizens are fairly represented by the 35 senators and 65 representatives elected to the Colorado General Assembly. The ideal senate district would contain 143,691 residents and the house district 77,372 residents
The appointed 11-member redistricting commission is composed of five Democrats and five Republicans and one unaffiliated member.

With release of its preliminary adopted plan, the commission is now conducting 25 public hearings across Colorado to take comments before the final plan is submitted to the Supreme court by Oct. 7. If the court rejects the final plan, the committee would meet again to revise the plan consistent with the court’s direction. The court must approve the plan no later than Dec. 14.

Website to view maps is at www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-ReDistrict/CBON/1251581558103

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