As she flipped through pages of colorful maps of Denver, Sandra Newell was thinking about her neighborhood.
The North Park Hill resident wants her central neighborhood to stay intact as the city moves to create new boundaries for its 11 council districts. She was one of 50 or so people who attended the last of a series of public meetings on Wednesday at Manual High School classroom meant to let people say which map they preferred. Council members will consider public feedback when voting on a final map next month.
The city has narrowed down the potential new maps to six options.
To view the six final maps, check out the city’s redistricting website.
Manual High School is in Whittier, though anyone from any part of the city was welcome to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“I’m for staying in District 8,” Newell said, which is where her neighborhood currently resides. Her favorite option was Map B, which if passed would keep North Park Hill in that council district. “I think it’s more diverse.”
Her top concerns include access to food and to services for senior citizens like her.
“I think my whole focus is to keep Park Hill intact,” said Juanita Metoyer, who liked Map E.
Another Park Hill resident, Rita Lewis, liked Map E as well because she felt it was the one that kept all neighborhoods most intact. She brought up something that other people in the room had questioned: Why don’t the residents get to vote on the new boundaries?
The answer is simple: The city’s charters says that’s City Council’s job. Only a citywide vote would change that.
“To me, all of this should go to the voters,” Lewis said. “[But] we don’t have time to change the charter.”
Based on comments people provided during the discussion portion, the most popular map among the group appeared to be Map E, which was sponsored by Councilmember Amanda Sandoval. She just happens to be the council member leading this entire process for the city, which is on a tight deadline, since the map has to be picked next month.
“It’s fast,” Sandoval said. “I just don’t think that’s fair to residents to have it begin and end in three months when historically, it’s been an eight- to nine-month process.”
The new map has to follow some rules.
For starters, there have to be 11 councils districts, and they each have to have an equal amount of the population (around 65,000 people per district), be as compact as possible, and have entire election precincts.
Metoyer, Newell and others said they didn’t want to see North Park Hill or East Colfax, neighborhoods with ethnically diverse populations, end up split into parts.
East Colfax is currently in a district alongside Hilltop, Montclair and Lowry, affluent areas that have different concerns than East Colfax, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Some residents are advocating for East Colfax to instead be grouped into a district including North Park Hill, Northeast Park Hill and parts of Montbello.
There are some neighborhoods, like Montbello, that are simply too big not to be split up between districts. Councilmember Stacie Gilmore told people on Wednesday one of the first things she tried to do was move the boundaries of the far northeast district she represents to include all of the neighborhood. But doing so would have made for a district with too many people, breaking one of the rules.
Since January, Denver City Council members have been meeting weekly to talk about the process.
The redistricting committee includes all 13 council members. Councilmember Chris Herndon said council will get a report next week based on the feedback from the public meetings.
While public meetings have wrapped up, people can still send their thoughts on the potential new maps by emailing [email protected]. City Council will host a required public hearing the night it votes on a final map on March 29, so folks will still get a chance to speak directly to lawmakers.