Eastern Iowans cold to splitting Iowa City and Cedar Rapids in U.S. House

Eastern Iowans mostly had praise for the current draft of Iowa’s legislative next map, but some in the area are wary of splitting Johnson and Linn Counties into different congressional districts.

The state’s redistricting commission heard from about a dozen citizens on the Kirkwood Community College campus in Cedar Rapids and at satellite locations in Waterloo, Ottumwa, and Dubuque on Wednesday night.

Much of the current 2nd District — which includes Iowa City and Cedar Rapids — remains intact under the new plan, but the district trades Cedar Rapids for Davenport and picks up some counties to the west. The proposed map would pair Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley, both Democrats, into the same district. Loebsack has said he might move to the new 2nd District, which would be without an incumbent.

“We’re trying to brand ourselves as one area — Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” said Adam Wright of Cedar Rapids. “It would be Loebsack and Braley with two different ideas on how this branding of the two counties will work. With one representative, he’s the glue holding the area together.”

Another attendee said he hoped the corridor would eventually pursue a property tax sharing plan like the one in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. Splitting the area into separate districts would hinder a plan like that, he said.

“Nobody can be sure whether having a congressional district boundary in the middle of the economic development corridor between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids will hinder future development, but this is one example of my concern,” said Clark Rieke, a real estate agent in Cedar Rapids.

However, at least one person speculated that dividing the corridor might give the area more sway in Washington.

“Split into two districts, you actually get two representatives to be pushing for your development in the legislature,” Janet Durham said from Dubuque. “I don’t think that’s as big of a problem by having it split.”

The current proposal also throws Republican Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King together. Neither of them has yet indicated plans to move or retire if the map is approved. Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, is the lone congressman in the proposed 3rd District.

Wednesday’s was the third in a series of four public hearings about the congressional map. The map met resistance from Republicans at a hearing in Council Bluffs this week. Voters there said they don’t want to see a King-Latham primary and they worried that Pottawattamie County, one of the 10 most populous in the state, would be overshadowed if it’s put in a district with Polk County.

Reception was warmer at a hearing in Bettendorf. Several attendees said they were pleased with the map, but officials from St. Ambrose University in Davenport criticized the map because it would split their campus into different districts.

The Legislative Services Agency drew the map after slow growth in the 2010 census cost Iowa one of its five congressional seats. The law requires districts to be contiguous and roughly equal in population.

The redistricting commission will make a recommendation on whether to approve the first proposed map by the beginning of next week. If the Republican-controlled House, the Democrat-controlled Senate or Republican Gov. Terry Branstad reject the recommendation, the agency will be required to draft another map. If that one is rejected, the agency will come up with a third map which can be passed, amended, or sent to the Iowa Supreme Court.“In my experience, we voted for the first plan once and for a second plan the next time,” said Maggie Tinsman, a former state senator and the chair of the redistricting commission. “I have told people that I don’t know of any legislators that want this plan to go to the supreme court. They will vote probably yes or no.”

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