By Gary Fornander
Colorado Common Cause
The Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday March 26 passed a new ordinance to set the process for drawing city council districts"�a process that will insure, for the first time, robust public input. The new ordinance establishes a nine person Districting Process Advisory Committee to oversee the public process, educate the public, assist the City Clerk, and advise City Council on the districting process. The Advisory Committee will hold public meetings in each of the six council districts to solicit public input, and will prepare a Preliminary Advisory Committee Report that summarizes the public input and makes a preliminary recommendation of election district boundaries. The Report will be presented to the public, the City Clerk and to City Council. By City Charter, the districting map must be drawn by the City Clerk, and there is an additional public hearing and protest process after the Clerk has released the Preliminary map.
The previous districting ordinance provided for only one public hearing, and only after the Clerk drew a preliminary map. Although two community groups presented alternative maps that they each believed better respected communities of interest and kept identified neighborhoods together, the old ordinance did not provide a process or an opportunity for such input.
City Council and the community saw the need for much more public involvement. An ad hoc committee of community activists worked with City Council and its staff, the Clerk, and the City Attorney's Office to develop the new ordinance. This ad hoc committee included myself, Colorado Springs resident and Colorado Common Cause Board Member Gary Fornander, and representatives from local community organizations including Council of Neighbors and Organizations, the Black/Latino Alliance, The Diversity Forum, and Citizens Project. The ad hoc committee held four public community meetings to gather input into the revision of the ordinance, and those meetings were also sponsored by the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals and The League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region.
This was one of those times"�and there really are quite a few of them"�when representative government worked as it is intended. An important part of our electoral process needed to be improved. City Council, city staff and local citizens and organizations came together in four quick months to achieve just that.
"But responsible social participation, with an enlightened citizenry
that can deal with moral and intellectual complexity, does not come
about just from exhortation. It is certainly not enough simply to
implore our fellow citizens to 'get involved.' We must create the
institutions that will enable such participation to occur, encourage
it, and make it fulfilling as well as demanding." p. 51, Robert
Bellah, et. al., _Good Society_ (New York: Vintage Books, 1991)