Sen.: don’t split county |

Sen.: don’t split county

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Sen. Kevin Van Tassell said Tuesday he would "more than likely" vote against a redrawn congressional map that splits Summit County between two districts, agreeing with people who prefer that the West Side and the East Side remain in one district.

Van Tassell, speaking after a charged redistricting committee hearing about the maps, said a scenario that places Summit County in one district with Salt Lake City is amenable. Van Tassell, who won the Senate seat on Election Day and was sworn into office earlier than the other freshman winners, said in an interview that, politically, Summit County should not be sliced.

"I feel like Summit County’s fractured so much. It’d be nice to keep it together," said Van Tassell, a Republican from Vernal.

The hearing at Miners Hospital drew about 15 people from the Park City area. It was part of a series of similar meetings as the officials consider the maps in anticipation of a special session of the Legislature, planned for as early as Dec. 4, to adopt a four-district congressional map.

Utah has three districts in the House of Representatives but a compromise under consideration in Congress would add another district in Republican-controlled Utah and grant the District of Columbia, which is heavily Democratic, a voting seat in the House. Utah’s population in the 2000 census almost gave the state another House seat.

Summit County is within District 1 and is represented by Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican. Before the lines were redrawn after the 2000 census, the county was in District 3, which is also dominated by Republicans.

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Parkites at the Tuesday hearing were frustrated with the state committee considering the congressional boundaries and charged that the discussions were politically motivated and hurried.

The committee is considering three favored plans but it is unclear which will be adopted by the full Legislature, or if the final district map will be a combination of the three and other plans that have been contemplated. The committee has not recommended one yet.

Some Parkites who testified wanted Summit County contained in one district and there were arguments that the county belongs in an urban district, not a rural one. Others claimed that Summit County’s political makeup supports carving the county between two districts.

Carol Murphy, who is from Park City, said the county should be within one district. She likened splitting it between two districts to the Legislature’s decision to divide the county between state House of Representatives districts after the census.

"I think the East and West Sides of Summit County are like brothers and sisters," said Murphy, who is from Park City, explaining that the two sides of the county disagree on issues but there are "too many common interests."

There was a call for a nonpartisan task force to consider the congressional districts and charges that, under the proposals, people in Summit County would have little influence with their congressman. Some wanted the state to consider deferring a fourth congressional seat to allow the Legislature to continue considering the districts. The speakers also claimed that Summit County’s population has grown since the 2000 census and that the discussions should reflect the newer estimates.

"I disagree that every representative should have a huge area of rural Utah," said Dave Hanscom, claiming that Park City is disenfranchised and saying he supports a plan that would split the county between District 2 and District 3.

Hanscom argued that Park City’s interests align with those in Salt Lake City. Under the plan he supports, Park City would be moved to District 2, the seat now held by Jim Matheson, a Democrat.

Joe Kernan, a Park City Councilman, said two plans that split Summit County between District 2 and District 3 could be acceptable. However, he was indecisive when talking about new borders, saying that he is unsure if it would be better if the county is divided or kept within one district.

"I really don’t know the answer," he said.