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Focus of ‘4th seat’ talks: urban vs. rural

Conflicting needs of big cities, outlying counties cited

SHARE Focus of ‘4th seat’ talks: urban vs. rural
Richard Mingo reads over the proposed redistricting plans at the public hearing for the redistricting commission at the state Capitol.

Richard Mingo reads over the proposed redistricting plans at the public hearing for the redistricting commission at the state Capitol.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

On their second and final day of public hearings about proposed redistricting plans for a possible fourth seat in Congress, Utah legislators heard much of the same debate and complaints that have previously dominated their discussions.

A concern for almost every speaker at a Tuesday night hearing at the state Capitol complex was the urban and rural mix in each of the four districts proposed by Republicans. For the most part — probably not surprising, considering the speakers were almost all from Salt Lake County — they preferred to have at least one heavily urban district.

The problem with mixing rural and urban districts is that their concerns are often separate and contrary, said Jon Wright, a Salt Lake County resident. When almost 75 percent of the residents are along the Wasatch Front, it does not seem fair to aim for balance with rural Utah in every district, he said.

"Utah is overwhelmingly urban," he said. "To continue to say you want four representatives pushing the rural things is going against the numbers....I want urban issues represented proportionally, which these maps don't do."

The redistricting committee, which consists of 11 legislators, has taken three new proposals for the four districts with an eye toward the authorization of the fourth seat by Congress. The seat would be granted in conjunction with a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the District of Columbia.

One of the three proposals, which was drafted by the three Democratic members of the committee, includes one urban district and two rural districts. The other two proposals have all three districts with a mix of rural and urban areas, although they only divide Salt Lake County in half instead of the current three-way split.

Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler said keeping Salt Lake City in one district — right now, the three districts split the city — would be important for building the sense of community between the disparate neighborhoods of the city.

"We have many things that divide our city," he said. "We don't need to be divided by districts."

Prior to the hearing, the committee also attended Tuesday meetings in Park City and Ogden.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said about a half dozen "just regular" citizens testified in Park City.

Primarily, their focus was the placement of Park City in two of the favored plans. One puts them with northern Salt Lake County in the 2nd District, which is currently held by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. The other puts them into the 3rd District, which is held by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

"There were concerns about which side of the aisle would represent them," said Bramble, co-chair of the committee. "There were questions about keeping communities of interest together, just like all the other concerns we've heard about."

The Ogden hearing was only sparsely attended, and primarily by local elected officials. It did not last even an hour.

E-mail: jloftin@desnews.com