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.
"What we've heard from Tooele County is we identify more with people from western Salt Lake County," said Okerlund.
Much of the discussion Friday morning centered on whether the State School Board should be made up of nine members instead of the current 15.
Nine board members would represent more than 300,000 each, opposed to 15 board members representing 184,000 Utahns each.
Several committee members — and the chairwoman of the Utah State Board of Education — said reducing the number of seats to nine was problematic.
"Too few members would make the current, very successful committee structure of the board unsustainable. Additionally, the load on individual board members required to fulfill all the obligations of the board would be increased. We do not see any benefits to a smaller board," Debra Roberts, school board chairwoman, wrote in a letter to the committee.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said the letter explains that the board has found it necessary to add nonvoting members to help it address its workload.
"This may be a cry for help from the board that they may need more members than less," Davis said.
Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, too, advocated for the 15-member board.
While technology can help overcome distance and the remote nature of the Navajo reservation in Utah, "technology is something that is lacking in those areas," Gorman said.
A nine-member board would further "disenfranchise" Navajo Nation constituents, he said.
Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-American Fork, House chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said he introduced the concept of a nine-member board to further stir the committee's thinking about the role of the State School Board, whether it is legislative or more like a county commission.
Given the comments of the public and the committee, Sumsion said he would not proceed with the nine-member plan discussion.6 comments on this story
The committee is scheduled to meet again on Monday, during which it is expected to finalize recommendations on the state school map that the entire Utah Legislature will consider when it establishes district boundaries in a special session in October.
Pizza vs. Doughnuts in Salt Lake County
48 PIZZA SLICE PLANS
14 divide Salt Lake County into two slices
19 divide Salt Lake County into three slices
15 divide Salt Lake County into four slices
73 DOUGHNUT HOLE PLANS
28 divide Salt Lake County into two slices
41 divide Salt Lake County into three slices
4 divide Salt Lake County into four slices
Source: Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel