Residents push for one House and Senate district in Summit County
July 29, 2011
Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee held its last public meeting in Park City on Tuesday night to present the most current potential redistricting maps and hear public comments on the proposed boundaries.
Due to population changes shown in the 2010 U.S. Census, Utah will gain a fourth United States Congressional seat. The committee must also redraw the Utah Senate districts so each contains around 95,300 people and each House district contains roughly 36,800 people .
The 20-person panel included two of Summit County’s representatives, House Representative Mel Brown, (R), Coalville and Senator Kevin Van Tassel (R), Vernal. The panel also included Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) Taylorsville, who presented his latest congressional map, the "Military and Salt Lake City Whole" plan.
The Congressional plan places the urban Wasatch front, including sections of Utah, Wasatch and Salt Lake Counties into one district. The military instillations of the north into one district, Juab County and a part of Utah and Salt County together, and then grouping the rest of the state, including Summit County all the way south to Washington County together.
"I used to be a proponent of the pizza plan, splitting part of Salt Lake City into all four districts, but I am no longer thrilled with that idea and think the districts should be grouped by common interests," said Waddoups.
Waddoups’ plan was given a positive recommendation from the Utah Citizens Council and Represent Me Utah, a citizen’s group pushing for redistricting which keeps communities and common interests together.
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Representative Mel Brown said he still supports a pizza plan for the congressional map, rather than the so-called donut-hole idea of isolating Salt Lake City.
"In the pizza plan, every district will have an urban, suburban and rural area," said Brown. "If it is the donut plan, than the congressional representative won’t fully understand all the problems of the state and the diversity of the issues.
State legislature plans were also presented to the 50-person audience. Residents were told that the House map is going to be the hardest to draw with 75 districts and only a 3.5 percent deviation in population within each district.
Representative Brian King (D), Salt Lake City, presented his House plan that splits the Summit County School District between three representatives instead of the current two, garnering vocal protest from the audience.
Senator Ben McAdams (D), Salt Lake City, Senate map that placed Summit County into only one Senate district, was greeted with applause and told it was exactly what Summit County wanted.
"We do know that Summit County wants to be in as few districts as possible," said McAdams. "But remember that keeping communities together just means it is going to bubble out somewhere else and another county is going to have to be split apart."
As local Summit County elected officials took the microphone, the message was clear, keep us whole and don’t add another representative to our school district.
"Summit County has struggled with unity, but we are a county that likes each other," said Summit County Council member Sally Elliott. "We share the same goals and it is simply not necessary to give us more than one senator."
Former member of the Board of Education Kim Carson said splitting up the school district into three districts is simply unacceptable. She added that it has been tough just working with two representatives.
When the audience was asked if they would rather have more representatives for the school district or fewer, almost every hand went up for fewer. The audience also polled favorably towards a congressional map that places the urban area of the Wasatch Front into one district.
"We didn’t hear anything different at this meeting than any of the other ones," said Brown. "Everyone wants their communities, towns, counties and school districts together, and that just can’t happen."
According to Brown, the Redistricting Committee will begin meeting in August to discuss possible plans and are hoping to have a special session in Congress the second week of October to begin voting.