BY FREDA MIKLIN
On August 3, the combined Congressional and Legislative Independent Redistricting Commission met at Koelbel Library in Centennial to take testimony from Coloradans about where district and congressional lines should be properly drawn.
The first speaker asked commissioners to split Centennial into two house districts only, (three were proposed), one east and one west.
The next asked that the Town of Parker be kept in one single congressional district.
Two speakers that followed asked the commissioners to place all of northern Douglas county together in congressional district seven because of its connection to the aerospace industry, while a Highlands Ranch resident pointed to the importance of keeping Highlands Ranch, Parker, and Lone Tree together because they are all urban and “connected to the southern Denver metro members.” He said they are “drastically different” than rural communities.
Karen Fisher, Cherry Creek Schools (CCSD) board of education president, testified remotely. Fisher said CCSD, Douglas County School District, and Littleton School District are a community of interest because of their cross-collaboration on public education policy and shared open-enrolled students. Fisher told the commissioners, “I’d like to preserve that,” in the drawing of congressional districts.
Fisher moved to the topic of legislative districts with, “I’d like to go on record as requesting more competitive (legislative) districts in Arapahoe county.” She explained that in her eight years on the Cherry Creek school board, it has been her experience that elected legislators from districts that are not competitive are much less responsive when issues arise than are those legislators from districts that are politically competitive. “The power of competitiveness is that it leads to more genuine representation for all our community members,” the school board president said. When Commissioner Lori Schell asked Fisher, regarding legislative districts, “How would you measure competitiveness?” Fisher replied, “When you kind of don’t know before the election happens, who’s going to win based on the letter (D or R) after their name.” By their laughter, it was clear that everyone listening understood that answer.
Rich Sokol, who served on the board of South Metro Fire Rescue from 2009 to 2020, told commissioners he lives in proposed house district 20. He explained that Cherry Creek State Park is a natural boundary, thus his neighborhood should be kept with Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, and Centennial in one district that does not include the portion of HD20 that is in Aurora since it is practically unreachable from his home. He also asked that Denver not be combined with Arapahoe County as much as possible when drawing legislative districts. When Commissioner Amber McReynolds asked Sokol why Denver should not be combined with Arapahoe County, he said, “We don’t go to Denver. We have much more in common with Centennial, Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village.”
After introducing himself as Greenwood Village Mayor Pro Tem, Dave Kerber told commissioners that he was there speaking only for himself. Regarding HD 20, he said, “The districts, the way they’re drawn now, they’re long skinny districts…With a little tweaking, you can not only have more compactness, but you can have better communities of interest…As Mr. Sokol said, we work with the western side of Centennial. University Boulevard is our river… Broadway is kind of like a border for us…” Kerber said it made sense that Englewood and Littleton were excluded because, “We don’t go there a lot.” He continued, “When you look at communities of interest in our little town (Greenwood Village), you think about, who is your daughter dating? Where do you go to school? What soccer field do you have to get to? That’s our community of interest…If the commission would just…go from CHV, GV and then go south down to County Line Road where the Centennial border is and then just proceed east until you get to the right population number, that would be a community of interest, where people go, where people shop, where people cooperate.” It’s just a small fix…
Kerber then moved to the topic of why Denver and Arapahoe County neighborhoods should not be combined. He said, “I want to mention a little thing about the Denver thing. Denver is a little different because they have different interests than we do. Denver is dense and they want to be dense. They’ve recently done away with single family zoning for houses. We are suburban. We like our little houses. We like our parks. We like our little things. It’s a different way of living and there is a definite difference in that.”
When a commissioner asked Kerber if he viewed transportation corridors as defining his community of interest, Kerber said yes. After naming many of the major arteries of GV, he said, “The only public transportation we have is light rail…bus service is virtually non-existent. It’s the roads that are important to us.” Denver Commissioner Simon Tafoya said, “Just a point of clarification…Denver has not gotten rid of single-family housing.” Kerber responded, “As a practical matter, you have.” Tafoya responded, “That wasn’t a question,” but Kerber continued, describing Denver as “density, density, everywhere.”
The combined congressional and legislative redistricting commission will have completed their preliminary public hearings on August 28. They will next summarize the input they’ve received and incorporate the final data from the 2020 United States Census, after which maps will be adjusted and additional public hearings scheduled leading to final legislative and congressional maps of our state.