by Jack Minor —
Groups claiming to represent the Hispanic community took opposite sides regarding a proposal to re-draw Colorado House District 50 borders that would create a Hispanic majority in the new district.
Citizens spoke for nearly three hours before the Colorado Reapportionment Commission Monday evening. The commission consists of five members from each party and one unaffiliated member. The commission gave preliminary approval to the new map in July.
Members of the commission present at the meeting were former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former House District 52 Representative Steve Tool, State Senator Morgan Carroll, State Rep. Matt Jones, Mario Nicolais, and Mario Carrera, the unaffiliated member of the commission.
Current district 50 boundaries cover Greeley, Evans and Garden City. The new map would carve out a section of east Greeley and stretch down U.S. 85 to include LaSalle, Gilcrest and Platteville. The commission said it had received requests from several Hispanic groups to craft a district in the Greeley area with a Hispanic majority.
David Delgado said he has is a Hispanic political activist who has spent many years organizing in the Greeley area. Delgado said he has walked the district many times and knows the voters.
Delgado said he had issues with the new map, saying it had “cookie cutter boundaries.” Delgado also said many Hispanics in the new areas around Gilcrest and Platteville were not active voters and this would dilute Hispanic influence in the district. “You have incorporated it by numbers in the new District, but you have incorporated districts that seldom vote. Do you want the number to represent individual persons or the number of persons who will actually participate in the electoral process?”
Maria Lara, representing Hispanic Women of Weld County, profoundly disagreed saying the group supported the new boundaries. Carroll asked Lara if the proposed map would dilute Hispanic influence by going down to Platteville. Lara said it would not, “If I truly feel I want to reach out to the majority-minority community, I will put forth the effort.” Carrera asked if Lara felt she could get Hispanics in the new areas engaged and Lara responded that she felt she could.
Frank Garcia, a Greeley resident, concurred with Lara saying, “I love the proposed map.” Garcia said he felt the new boundaries would adequately represent the Hispanic community saying they “all share the poverty in these communities.” Garcia also said that many poorer Hispanics from the New Mexico territory originally migrated to areas along U.S. 85. “We need somebody to cut back the line so we can represent this part of the community. LaSalle and Gilcrest are part of our family line.”
Garcia and Lara’s comments were in the minority of the public comments with the majority of speakers opposed to the new map.
Windsor Mayor, John Vazquez, encouraged the commission to leave Windsor intact, saying residents have worked hard to unify their community. Currently, Windsor is mostly in Weld County with 20 percent of the city in Larimer County. The new map would split the city into two districts.
Vazquez also said it was insulting to imply that the only way a Hispanic could be elected would be to have a majority Hispanic district. “As the first person of Latino descent to be elected mayor in Windsor in its 120 year history, I think to say the only way you will get a quality candidate is to create a majority minority district, degrades and demeans what so many Latinos have accomplished.” Vazquez mentioned Steve Moreno, Weld County Clerk and Recorder; Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez; and former Fort Collins Mayor, Ray Martinez as examples.
Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Forum, said the organization was not that concerned about having a majority Hispanic district in Greeley, but would rather see a majority district in the Denver and San Luis Valley areas. “When we drew our map we did not include Greeley as a 50 percent district.”
Nicolais challenged Mendoza’s statement, reading from a letter by the organization that said, “Latino community of interest compromise 50 percent of the population including number three Greeley.”
Mendoza responded saying the statement was simply referring to population growth in the city. “We were not able to draw a 50 percent district for Greeley. We did draw a handful of what we called ‘influence districts’ and we drew District 50 with 45 percent Hispanics.