“Do not power a wild cat and a bulldog to share the identical cage, the outcomes will not be fairly,” stated a Columbia Falls resident throughout a public redistricting listening to Saturday.
Lawmakers and neighborhood members spoke out towards the proposal to incorporate Columbia Falls and Whitefish in the identical residence district throughout a public listening to hosted by the Montana County and Division Fee on Saturday.
The committee met in Helena to get suggestions in individual and by videoconference on the permitted tentative legislative map voted on final week. Greater than 100 individuals commented on the map, largely break up even between supporters and opponents, which Democrats initially drew 4 days after the election. Building advice with republicans.
One a part of the argument the attendees made for maintaining Columbia Falls and Whitefish in separate legislative districts, not like the best way they have been included in Home District 98, was citing the highschool athletic rivalry between the Columbia Falls Wildcats and Whitefish Bulldogs.
Commentators, together with Sen. Mark Nuland, R-Kalispell, have pointed to this rivalry as a purpose for not being a “neighborhood of curiosity,” which is a objective of drawing districts, however not a requirement. Others pointed to the scattered cultural variations between the 2 areas as to why they weren’t shut collectively.
“Columbia Falls is a conservative metropolis, and Whitefish is a liberal ski city akin to Bozeman and Missoula,” stated Rep. Braxton Mitchell, of Columbia Falls. “And that is a marked distinction in Columbia Falls and the remainder of Flathead County.”
Sen. Shane Morego, D-Missoula, stated he felt like he was in Twilight territory, noting that Republicans fought to maintain Whitefish as a part of Flathead Valley when the road dividing the state in two was drawn final 12 months.
“If we have been to zonate based mostly on faculty rivalries, we’d have an enormous mess on our arms within the course of,” he stated.
Morejo inspired the committee to proceed its work with out affect from lawmakers talking out of self-interest and endorsed the proposed map as not excellent, however according to requirements.
“We will not make each lawmaker pleased, however we will make Montana honest,” Morego stated.
Commissioner Kendra Miller, one among two Democrats on the committee, famous similarities between Democrats and Republicans’ current map proposals for Whitefish County and Columbia Falls.
Republican Commissioner Dan Stosk attributed the similarity to final week’s cross-party consensus constructing. The primary maps proposed by the committee’s Republicans featured two municipalities in several districts.
When requested about commentators asking for the 2 communities to be divided individually due to the varsity’s rivalry, Stosek stated he did not usually suppose it was the very best argument, however that it added energy to an in any other case contentious course of.
“However I believe faculty districts and people political subdivisions are one thing to have a look at,” Stosek stated.
Belgrade’s attraction to an space with components of downtown Bozeman and the Montana State College campus has additionally drawn some opposition, saying that the communities will not be alike and criticizing the “spoke and wheel” design, to divide the metropolitan space to additionally embrace surrounding rural communities. Others identified that folks in Belgrade commute to Bozeman for work and that the 2 areas naturally merge.
Commentator Judy Lewis from Livingston stated she thought the “spoke and wheel” design for districts was a great factor as a result of it will get completely different individuals with completely different views into the identical space the place they’ve to speak to one another.
“I believe we have to keep in mind that this map is not only for now. This map goes to proceed into 2032,” she stated. “Montana is altering and we have to attempt to bridge the rural-urban divide.”
Lewis was additionally one among a number of commentators to thank the committee for maintaining Livingston collectively in a single district.
Different criticisms of the map included East Helena shouldn’t be drawn westward to incorporate components of Helena and Republican lawmakers commenting that the japanese half of the state is healthier drawn on the map Republican commissioners proposed final week.
There have been considerably extra lawmakers commenting on the map proposals than in earlier public hearings the committee hosted as they moved nearer to deciding on a closing map to current to legislative districts.
“Individuals at the moment are seeing the kinds of areas they will run sooner or later, and it could possibly be new and completely different due to demographic adjustments,” Miller stated. “It isn’t meant to discourage any explicit individual from working, it is simply that your district could look completely different than the one you used to characterize.”
Miller stated she hopes extra individuals will have the ability to see what the fee faces when balancing targets and benchmarks in drawing up the legislative map.
The committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to find out the Senate district pairings and designate districts to the 25 senators elected to four-year phrases in 2022. The committee will obtain public remark earlier than submitting the ultimate map on Dec. 21.
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