Doughnuts for breakfast or pizza for lunch? Legislature weighs plans for 4 congressional districts

Published: Friday, Aug. 19 2011 10:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a politically interested Utahn — not a politician — who summed up Friday's public hearing before the Utah Legislature's Redistricting Committee best:

"There's never going to be a map that pleases all constituencies," said Jon Hansen, a private citizen who was so motivated to participate in the process that he submitted his recommendations to lawmakers while on business in Albania.

Scores of Utahns have taken the time to take part in Utah's redistricting process. More than 120 plans have been submitted by individuals, interest groups, political parties and municipalities — 48 variations of a pizza slice and 73 versions of a doughnut or doughnut hole.

The "doughnut hole" approach creates districts that are primarily urban or rural. One version of the doughnut plan envisions a largely intact Salt Lake County surrounded by rural districts. Various versions of the "pizza slice" plan would cut Salt Lake County into two, three or four slices covering both urban and rural areas.

"When you talk about classifying these as doughnut holes and pizza, it's more art than science," said John Q. Cannon, managing policy analyst for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Indeed, said Sen. Ralph Okerlund, Senate chairman of the Redistricting Committee. "There's a lot of ways to do it. But it's not easy. Any time you change one line, it affects another."

That said, the Monroe Republican explained similarities among many plans. Many of the issues identified by members of the public who submitted plans "are things we were already looking at," he said.

The committee sifted through more than 170 plans submitted with recommendations for boundaries for Utah's four congressional districts, 29 Senate district, 75 House districts and the 15-member Utah State Board of Education.

Both Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker weighed in to support variations of the doughnut hole plan.

"We would appreciate a doughnut for breakfast instead of pizza for lunch," Corroon said.

Becker, in a letter to the committee, said a map that would combine Salt Lake City, Tooele County and most of Summit County "meets a common concern of our constituents, which is not to split communities of interest."

While some people came to Friday's public hearing to explain — and defend — their own plans, others took issue with plans submitted by others for being too partisan or breaking up communities of interest.

Steven Clark, chairman of the Sanpete County Republican Party, said the state Senate map drawn by his party sought to protect Republicans now serving in the Legislature.

"Our interest in Sanpete County is, we'd like to hang on to Sen. Okerlund.  He's doing a great job for us," Clark said.

But Sue Connor, of the good government group RepresentMeUtah!, asked the committee to reject Clark's map out of hand a map because it was created to protect incumbents.

"It should be bumped out of consideration," Connor said.

Utah Citizens' Counsel produced a better map for state Senate districts, she said, because it splits Salt Lake County only once and was drawn without respect to incumbency.

"The data show that's what the public wants," Connor said.

The UCC map, which members said was drawn to demonstrate the utility of a citizen commission should state lawmakers move to that model in the future, would link the western third of Salt Lake County with Tooele County.

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