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Denver City Council redistricting hearing: Paint the town by numbers

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Location, location, location. For the past twenty years, I've lived in Denver City Council's District 9. But if the proposed redistricting is approved by council, my house at the edge of Highland will become part of District 1, and District 9 will move east. Time -- and partisan politics -- marches on.

Every decade, Denver City Council redraws its district boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census data. According to city charter, Denver is divided into eleven council districts (there are also two at-large seats), and the city's population must be evenly divided between districts to conform to the "one person-one vote" concept. Also under the charter, council must finish this redistricting mission by the end of April -- but the new district designations will not take effect until 2015.

By then, the population movements reflected in the most recent census -- northwest Denver losing population as the area is gentrified by smaller families, downtown's population growing as people flock to the core city, and northeast Denver continuing to boom as developments are added to those swathes of open land -- will have just gotten stronger, cementing the logic behind the sole surviving redistricting map proposal. (See it here.)

Critics have been complaining about districts that historically belonged to one group or another will be broken up by this new map. But the city has already moved past much of that history. The only way to really come up with districts that reflect residents' interests would be to let Denverites opt into their own affinity groups -- people obsessed with a shortage of on-street parking, for example, or worried about neighbors with bad lawns, or who collect vinyl -- but under city charter, districts must "be as compact as possible" and also contain "contiguous land area" and "whole election precincts." Essentially, redistricting paints the town by numbers -- and the discussion of how to do it has not been a pretty picture.

Denver City Council will hold a two-hour public hearing on redistricting starting at 5:30 p.m. tonight; speakers are limited to three minutes each -- and blabbers will definitely be cut off. You can watch in person at City Hall -- or just tune into channel 8. Find more details here.

While Denver City Council bickering is a time-honored tradition in this town, there are less ear-splitting activities to enjoy. See examples in our slide show "Mayor Hancock's Denver bucket list."


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