Suzanne Rosenberg had no plans to speak about the state’s redistribution process at a public hearing in the Snyderville Basin Friday night, but after the Chair of the Legislative Redistribution Committee established the location of the event in Park City, she stood up to say her piece.
“With all due respect, Mr. Chairperson, I would hope that you learn geography a little better before attempting a reallocation,” Rosenberg said, pointing out that the meeting was held in unincorporated Summit County instead.
State Senator Scott Sandall, a Republican from Tremonton, co-chaired the committee and chaired the meeting on Friday at Ecker Hill Middle School. He clarified that he should have been referring to the “Park City area” rather than the city itself, saying the particular location of the hearing was chosen late in the process.
Although Sandall described the mention of Park City as an accidental oversight – the committee held its fifth hearing in three days – his comments appeared to some of the speakers to be symbolic of the attitude state officials had towards the Park City area in drawing political maps .
Several commentators cited the legislature’s reallocation process in 2010 when it split the Snyderville Basin into three state house districts and two Senate districts. Summit County does not currently have a representative in the statehouse living in the county.
The hearing gave local residents a rare opportunity to express their views on the decade-long redistribution process that is currently underway. Officials choosing the final cards point to the challenge of dividing the state into contiguous sections, the population of which can vary by only a handful of residents, and the size of the change in law since 2010, suggesting voters are getting enough in were able to choose their own representatives.
Critics say the previous rounds of redistribution resulted in skewed borders that gave Republicans an advantage in the statehouse races. For Rosenberg, the inclusion of rural areas in many districts has effectively watered down the urban voices.
The reliably democratic Snyderville Basin now contributes votes to House District 28, held by Salt Lake City Democrat Brian King, but also to House Districts 53 and 54 and Senate Districts 19 and 26, all of which encompass large swaths of rural areas are held by Republicans.
“Just look at the map of how Salt Lake City was divided. All of the more liberal, progressive areas in Salt Lake have been merged with these completely conservative rural areas, ”Rosenberg said in a subsequent interview. “… To me, that’s the obvious, blatant reason the redistribution was done this way – to dilute all of the urban problems. If you bring more voters to a rural district, they will be the ones to vote for a representative. The MP will work for what the majority of voters in their district want. “
Many at the hearing argued that “interest groups” should remain intact. For Parkites, that could mean that Park City and the Snyderville Basin remain in one house district.
Sandall said in an interview that the committee’s challenge is to sometimes prioritize different interest groups when a community’s identity crosses county boundaries, for example. He added that the committee had not yet taken a position on whether to try to combine rural and urban areas. He said it might make sense for congressional districts to include both rural and urban populations so that both stakeholders are represented in Washington.
Senator Kirk Cullimore, a Republican from Sandy, said the committee had heard from residents at other hearings across the state who had advocated combining urban and rural areas.
For some, Friday’s hearing was an opportunity to share ideas that lie beneath the surface in talks about Park City and Summit County’s place in state politics, but are not often voiced publicly.
Heidi Matthews, a former Park City educator and president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, alluded to the area’s reputation at the Statehouse.
“Until I served as the state president of the Utah Education Association, I didn’t realize the level of imprecise, unflattering stereotypes about who lived in Park City, and how those imprecise assumptions affect so many people’s political choices. “Levels. Because, you know, we all have theaters in our basements, don’t we? We’re seasoned trust fund skiers and our kids are in class sizes of 15 and they’re all gifted, ”she said. “When you address redistribution, we need to be sure that our community in all of our complexity is represented for who we are and resist efforts to divide our community, especially with the rural districts of the state.”
The Legislative Redistricting Committee holds public hearings across the state to redraw political maps using data from this year’s US census. The state legislature is responsible for approving new cards for the US Congressional Districts, the Utah House, the Senate, and the State Board of Education.
Summit County Council chairman Glenn Wright reiterated his advocacy of dividing the county into two house districts, one for the Park City area and the other for eastern Summit County. He said Summit County and Wasatch Counties would serve as the ideal core for a future Senate district.
The Legislative Redistribution Committee comprises 20 of the lawmakers who will ultimately decide which policy cards will become law. It’s running a separate process with an independent commission that is also holding hearings across the state, including one in Heber last month.
The Commission is responsible for drawing up maps and submitting them to the Legislative Committee, which, however, is not obliged to use them. Several commentators urged the Legislative Committee to heed the advice of the Independent Commission.
While the Legislative Committee leads the legislature’s efforts, the issue is ultimately decided by the legislature as a whole.
Rosenberg admitted that the state was politically conservative, but said that everyone deserved to be represented.
“I am very concerned that people have the right to vote and are represented by their representatives,” she said. “I just don’t have the feeling that our agents represent us, especially not in Summit County, where we’re so divided.”