WATERLOO, Iowa --- New proposed legislative and congressional districts got generally high marks from around eastern Iowa during a public hearing Wednesday night, though some had concerns about how splitting the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor between two congressmen would affect the region.
The hearing, conducted in Cedar Rapids with a live interactive hookup in Waterloo at Hawkeye Community College, had a light turnout. Comments were mostly positive toward Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting method, which puts the map work in the hands of the Legislative Services Agency.
"I think all of us as Iowans will take great pride in that," said Eric Turner, a member of the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission.
This was the third of four stops for the commission. It mirrored one in the Quad Cities Tuesday and a clear contrast to Monday's hearing in southwest Iowa. Residents there worried about losing the representation of Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, and having Council Bluffs in the political shadow of Des Moines.
The new map put King and Rep. Tom Latham, R-Ames, in the new 4th District, which covers the northwest quadrant of the state. Democrats Bruce Braley of Waterloo and Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon were tossed into the 1st District.
Loebsack said he'll move south to the new 2nd district, which covers much of the same areas the current district except it swaps Cedar Rapids and Linn County for the Quad Cities and Scott County.
That switch had some residents concerned about the impact on economic development.
"It would be Loebsack and Braley with two different ideas on how this branding of the two counties will work," said Clark Reike of Cedar Rapids. "With one representative, he's the glue holding the area together."
Similar concerns have been raised in the past, including the first proposed map in 2001, regarding regional or metropolitan boundaries. And those two cities have been split before. In 1981, Waterloo and Iowa City were included in the same district.
And splitting could have benefits, some in the audience said.
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"You actually get two representatives to be pushing for your development in the Legislature," said Janet Durham of Dubuque.
Carmen Halverson of Cedar Falls and others had more local concerns about House and Senate districts having jagged boundaries that make it hard for voters and campaign workers to know which district they're located.
Halverson pointed to House District 62, near Raymond, as one example. She'd like a smoother, easier to understand boundary line.
"It looks as though it's a toothbrush," she said.
Ed Cook, legal counsel for the LSA, said the agency has several criteria when drawing new maps, including compactness, equality of population and contiguity of the districts.
"Keep in mind population is the most important thing," Cook said.
Cook noted there's only a 76-person difference in the population range of the most populous district, the 1st, and the least populous, the 2nd.
The final public hearing is in Des Moines tonight. Lawmakers will vote within four days.
Anyone wanting to make public comments on the maps can do so at www.legis.iowa.gov. All comments must be submitted by 7 p.m. today.