The following address was given to the Colorado Reapportionment Commission on August 15, 2011.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. My Mom and Dad settled on our farm just north of Longmont 58 years ago and raised us six kids there. I went to all of my public schooling in the St Vrain Valley school district. I am self employed and I live on the family farm today. We do all of our shopping in Longmont, my mother was cared for at Longmont United Hospital before she passed, and I travel to Lyons regularly. I tell my friends who live out of state that I live so close to the mountains all I have to do is drive 7 miles west, and my ears will start to pop. I have my vibrant hometown of Longmont just a few blocks south of me and the mountains to the west of me.
As an ordinary citizen who tries to be informed and active, appreciating the fact that I can vote and be aware of the job my representatives are performing, the first thing you do is learn what district you live in. Learning about reapportionment is certainly kicking it up a notch, so I very much appreciate what I’ve learned in the past few weeks, terms like “communities of interest”. But mostly I appreciate the effort the commission has put into considering the citizens of Longmont so that each vote counts and that there is fair representation in our community.
So personally speaking I live in HD 13, but with the adopted plan I would now be part of HD11. In one regard that’s great because it is as if one of Longmont’s districts boundaries is coming up to include us. But it’s not just how redistricting affects me personally, or where my house is physically, it is how I interact, use and depend upon my community, how I see my community and how my community as a whole is affected. The term “communities of interest’ tells me that the rules that govern reapportionment are very thoughtful in accordance to the way people live their everyday lives. As a commission member, unless you live in the community of Longmont, it would be very challenging to really step inside the shoes of a citizen who lives there. But I guess that’s why we’re here tonight. I’m concerned with some of the comments I’ve heard tonight that the citizens of Longmont do not have the same interests as Boulder. But I think Longmont benefits from good ideas from any of it’s neighboring communities. If Boulder is so “bad” I haven’t heard any specifics as to why that’s so.
That’s also why I have some serious concerns about the adopted plan. I think that the whole of Main street is a community of interest so to split a chunk out of it, as you are doing south of Mountain View, is fracturing the heart of Longmont. Even with the ebbs and flows of the economy Main Street is the very long center of town — it’s been that way since I was a kid — it needs to stay that way. And what about all those folks that live in Old Town that are now all of a sudden sliced off to another district to the south? Communities of interest are also very human too. With the adopted plan it is splintering Longmont’s Latino community, a very vital culture in our town, and that’s been mentioned tonight. But it should also be mentioned that lower socioeconomic areas are affected as well. What’s fair is to assure that their voice is heard, not that their voice is splintered.
Stepping back and looking at the sheer size of Longmont, the development at times has crept north, although the heart of Longmont remains the same. When you look at the broader picture of Longmont and it’s neighboring communities, with the size of the population and the way people logically conduct their everyday lives — and have done so for decades — it makes sense that we arrived at having two representative voices for the region a few years ago. But why would we change the amount of people in the two districts to be more disproportionate and less evenly represented?
What Longmont is faced with now is an interesting challenge for its future. It’s a combination of maintaining what I remember was wonderful about growing up here, things like the whole of Main Street being the heart of Longmont. And balancing that with the sheer growth of Longmont. That’s why we need 2 representatives. Before this new plan, the breakdown was 2/5ths in HD11 and 3/5ths in HD12. But with the new plan its more like 88% and 12%. It doesn’t seem fair.
It also makes sense to me that Lyons, with it’s proximity to North Longmont, having similar issues culturally, citizens of Lyons doing business and working in Longmont, as well as being a part of the St. Vrain Valley School District as well as part of Boulder County that Lyons should be part of HD11 as well.
But besides all of what I’ve said based on my personal understanding here, it seems that we’ve been here before. There was a ruling in 2002 that was addressing what could happen when the rules of fairness concerning reapportionment were not abided by. It specifically mentioned Longmont and cited isolating, so therefore disenfranchising, a small segment of Longmont from all other Longmont residents. That’s pretty clear. And the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against it back then. I think it’s pretty clear now that disenfranchisement is happening again under the adopted plan.