Redistricting Commission Hears Public Comment on Maps in Gaylord

The commission entrusted with drawing Michigan’s political maps has taken to the road. Twenty maps, across State House, State Senate and Congressional races, were selected as their favorite and are now hearing public comment on what works and what doesn’t.

Monday’s stop was in Gaylord.Redistricting Gaylord Pkg 10 25 2100 00 17 29still001

At these public hearings for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, when they are downstate in Metro Detroit or Grand Rapids, a lot of the talk is about how they are breaking up neighborhoods to fit demographics. In Northern Michigan, where the population is more sparse, it’s all about ‘communities of interest.’

“Up here you have population problems, the lack thereof,” said Steve Lett, commissioner from Interlochen.

When the issues of gerrymandering arise, many are not talking about Northern Michigan. But fewer people means fewer politicians representing them, making accurate representation crucial.

“There is no definition of a ‘community of interest’ other than what the community of interest says it is,” said Lett.

Agricultural areas want to be lumped in with other ag communities. Lakeshore towns with each other. Nearly every speaker vouched for their community to stay with like-minded neighbors.

“I wanted it to be known that the community interest for us in Nester Township is to stay more rural,” said Susan Newmyer of Roscommon County.

A majority of the speakers Monday seemed to be from the Midland area or Benzie County. The latter being a perfect example of the conflict in communities being paired together.

“The maps have us involved with Muskegon, that’s a heavy industrial area,” said Mark Smith of Benzie County, “That’s not why we live where we live. That’s not what we want our representatives to represent.”

Among the speakers were even former lawmakers expressing why common communities make for effective representation.

“You not only understand them but you live with them and you work with them,” said Phil Potvin, former state representative from Cadillac.

The commission has two more of these hearings this week before the final phase of finishing the maps by the end of the year.