COEUR d'ALENE - Calls for a focus on local community interests rather than political interests dominated much of the public testimony heard by members of Idaho's Citizen Commission for Reapportionment at their hearing Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene.
The meeting, one in a series being held throughout the state, brought about 35 citizens out to the North Idaho College Campus. Nearly half of those who attended chose to address the commission.
The six-member, bipartisan commission is charged with reshaping the legislative and congressional districts in Idaho to align with the results of the 2010 federal census.
Coeur d'Alene City Council member John Bruning, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Sandi Bloem and the rest of the council, told the commission that maintaining the city's boundaries within one legislative district is crucial to the community.
"There is no more clear definition of a community of interest, including many traditional neighborhoods, than a city," Bruning said.
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, agreed with Bruning, as did John Cross, regional chair for the Idaho Republican Party.
Goedde and Cross also called for the commission to maintain Idaho's existing 35 legislative districts, rather than reducing the number of districts, and in turn cutting the number of state legislators.
Helo Hancock, legislative director for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, urged the commission to keep the reservation intact, and in a district that's joined with Kootenai County. The reservation now lies in District 2, Hancock said.
He said the tribe has significant cultural and economic ties to Kootenai County, and makes financial contributions to the community, including financial assistance to schools and for public transportation.
The tribe does not want to see the reservation pushed south into Latah County's district, Hancock said.
Coeur d'Alene resident and real estate appraiser Ed Morse told the commission he had reviewed some of the redistricting proposals submitted by citizens and some lawmakers, which are available for viewing on the commission's website.
"I was shocked by the gerrymandering for lack of a better word," Morse said.
He said he saw diverse areas linked together that had no "commonalities of interest, of geography, of economy."
Morse said he saw political agendas in some of the other testimony, including the tribe's request to be part of Kootenai County.
Economically and geographically, Morse said the reservation has more common community interests with Benewah County.
Jeff Ward, a Post Falls resident and director of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, also urged the commission to maintain 35 legislative districts.
He opposed keeping the City of Coeur d'Alene within one district at the expense of the other communities in the area.
"If you make redistricting decisions, to start with, based on 'We're going to keep Coeur d'Alene in one district,' that basically gives second-class status to all the rest of the county and the rest of the counties in northern Idaho," Ward said.
He questioned whether it was in the best interest of the people of Coeur d'Alene to be represented by a single set of legislators rather than more than one.
The co-chairs of the commission are former lawmakers from Pocatello, Republican Sen. Evan Frasure and Rep. Allen Anderson, a Democrat.
Census data, proposed maps and FAQs about the redistricting process can be found online, www.legislature.idaho.gov/redistricting/census_data.htm.