Beltrami County holds public hearing on redistricting
In its April 5 session, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners heard comments on and discussed proposed new boundaries for redistricting.
BEMIDJI — A public hearing was held on Tuesday by the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners to allow comments on the process of redistricting.
Beltrami County has been tasked with redrawing the boundaries of the five commissioners’ districts in a part of the redistricting process meant to equalize populations and ensure fair representation in the legislative body.
During the public hearing, county residents provided their comments to the board, urging that the commissioners move forward with the best interest of the county and constituents in mind.
“Redistricting should be adjusted because of population, not to affect the outcome of any election, not to favor a special interest group,” Beltrami County resident Margie Iraci said, addressing the board.
Iraci went on to tell the commissioners that the public is invested in this process and is watching the county’s redistricting closely.
“There’s a lot of people out there that have concerns,” Iraci said, “each commissioner is being watched on how they vote for this.”
After the public hearing was closed the commissioners reopened the discussion on redistricting and examined the proposals that had been brought before them.
A total of six maps were originally provided to the board and made available to the public through the Beltrami County website .
Of those, Proposal 6 was no longer under consideration at the time of the meeting since it no longer met the state’s requirements.
As the discussion progressed it became apparent that there was no consensus on what the best proposal was among the commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Craig Gaasvig expressed his preference for Proposal 5, while District 2 Commissioner Reed Olson argued in favor of Proposal 2.
“You’re mixing the most urban parts of the county with the most rural parts of the county,” Olson said of Gaasvig’s preferred proposal. “They have different needs, different concerns.”
Gaasvig disagreed, and argued that his preferred map shifted fewer residents into different wards and was less disruptive.
District 4 Commissioner Tim Sumner also favored Proposal 2, saying it looked “more compact” and avoided any gerrymandering.
“My concern is making sure we do what’s right for our county,” Sumner said.
While the conversation continued, District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick also stated that he would not support Proposal 2, and District 3 Commissioner Richard Anderson said that he came into the meeting preferring both of the contested proposals.
With the board split primarily between these two options, though Proposals 1 and an adjusted Proposal 6 were also discussed, the decision was made to revisit the topic at a special session.
“I think we should continue this conversation at a special meeting, I don’t think we’re going to have any consensus tonight,” Sumner said.
The special session will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, and a final vote on redistricting is expected during the board’s next regular meeting on Tuesday, April 19.