Sep. 24—MOSCOW — Judging by the number of favorable comments it heard Thursday evening, the Idaho Commission for Reapportionment hit it out of the park on its first at-bat.
The commission's initial draft plan for redrawing Idaho's legislative district boundaries combined Latah County with the northwestern corner of Nez Perce County — including the northern half of Lewiston — into a single legislative district.
Of the 16 people who testified during an hourlong public hearing at Moscow City Hall on Thursday, 12 supported the proposal, saying it made much more sense than the currently district, which combines Latah and Benewah counties.
A Latah-Nez Perce/Lewiston district "makes total sense to me," said Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert. "There's a shared regional government that happens between these two counties and cities. ... We work hand-in-hand on a number of things, and the two cities work very well together."
Jacie Jensen, who lives in Genesee and farms land in both counties, said combining Latah County with the northern part of Nez Perce county "seemed really appropriate for those of us in agriculture."
She noted that the Lewiston grain terminal is owned by the Pacific Northwest Farmers Coop, based in Genesee, together with the Uniontown Coop and CHS Primeland, based in Lewiston.
In addition, Jensen said, "Genesee is more and more of a bedroom community. People choose to live there because one spouse works in Moscow and the other works in Lewiston, or in the Quad Cities area."
Chris Storhok, who previously served as the rural development coordinator for Latah County, said he always thought it was a mistake to combine Latah and Benewah counties, as happened during the last redistricting cycle in 2011.
A Latah-Nez Perce district "is definitely the better way to go," he said. "Culturally, we're far more tied to Lewiston."
Besides combining Latah County with northern Nez Perce County in what would be the 6th Legislative District, the commission's initial draft proposal also combined the remainder of Nez Perce County with Lewis, Idaho and Adams counties into the 7th Legislative District.
Clearwater County would be combined with Shoshone and Benewah counties and the southern/eastern portion of Kootenai County in a new 2nd Legislative District.
The commission itself made it clear that this is just a draft proposal. It's intended primarily to spark conversations and feedback from the public.
"We aren't here to sell you on this map," said former Moscow state Sen. Dan Schmidt, who is the co-chairman of the redistricting commission. "This is just to get the conversation going."
Dan Schoenberg, the chairman of the Latah County Republicans, was one of three people who encouraged the commission to go back to the drawing board.
"One of the concerns I have (with the initial draft map) is about splitting Lewiston into two legislative districts," he said. "We can talk about commonalities between Latah and Nez Perce counties, but Lewiston is its own community of interest."
Schoenberg proposed keeping Latah and Benewah counties together and combining them either with the bulk of Clearwater County, or with the portion of the Genesee School District that's outside of Latah County.
About 25 people attended Thursday's hearing.
Copies of the commission's draft legislative and congressional district maps, as well as maps submitted by the public, can be found online at legislature.idaho.gov/redistricting/2021.
Spence may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 791-9168.
The Idaho Commission on Reapportionment will hold a public hearing in Lewiston this morning to take comments regarding its ongoing efforts to draw new congressional and legislative districts for the state.
The meeting begins at 11 a.m. In Lewis-Clark State College's Silverthorne Theater. It will also be streamed live online, at idahoptv.org/shows/idahoinsession.