Should new political boundaries be contained to Fairbanks North Star Borough borders, resulting in five representatives in the state House who all live in the borough? Or should leaders choose an area of the borough to be represented by a sixth legislator who might hail from a rural community such as Tanana or Tok?

The Alaska Redistricting Board is pondering this and more as it tours Alaska getting feedback on six proposals for how to divide up the state’s 40 House districts in a constitutional process that sets the stage for who decides public policy during the next decade.

The Fairbanks hearing happened Monday. About 50 people attended and 20 testified. Maps covered two walls in a banquet room at the John A. Carlson Community Center.

The board is about halfway through its state tour and is hearing both criticism and support for each proposal under review.

“I think it’s really important you maintain the one person, one vote requirement,” said Charles “C. B.” Bettisworth.

He advised the redistricting board to be more creative and to consider using road service districts, utility zones and school attendance areas to set new political boundaries.

“Please don’t only rely on borough boundaries as your guide,” the architect told redistricting board appointees Melanie Bahnke, president and CEO of Kawerak, Inc., a Bering Strait regional tribal consortium, and Fairbanks businessman John Binkley, redistricting board chairman, who hosted the meeting.

The board developed two of the proposals under review. Four other maps were submitted by private interests and political partisans, such as Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, involving Randy Ruedrich, former head of the Alaska Republican Party.

That plan drew support from multiple Fairbanks testifiers for its compactness, but it puts Chena Ridge and Salcha in the same district, joined by the Tanana Flats, which some people criticized.

Assemblyman elect David Guttenberg told the board that the east and west sides of the borough are very different.

“Whenever you go out to a community meeting, you can see that,” he said.

Alaskans for Fair Redistricting, a different group, is led by Joelle Hall, president of Alaska AFL-CIO, and involves the Alaska Public Interest Research Group along with a host of organizations. Their plan also had support. Map creators said protecting the interests of ethnic minorities was one of their goals.

As with most of the maps, they have two House districts in the city. Those districts are boxed in by three larger districts, two to the north and one to the south.

A big east Interior Alaska district includes Moose Creek and Eielson Air Force Base as well as a host of communities along the border with Canada.

“I don’t mind breaking up Fairbanks,” said Link Williams, who spoke in support of the plan. “I think some of the maps do it well.”

Critics wondered about the decision to rope in Geist Road and University West neighborhoods with the city of Fairbanks’ westside district, which is considered up for grabs by a Republican or a Democrat. Bringing areas around the University of Alaska Fairbanks under its umbrella would reportedly make it friendlier for a left-leaning candidate.

Doug Isaacson, former North Pole mayor, spoke against the map, telling the redistricting board members that it’s important to keep Eielson Air Force Base and North Pole together in the same district.

“We need to have somebody that understands Eielson to represent it, and North Pole understands Eielson,” he said.

A third proposal is by Alaska Senate Democrats Tom Begich, Scott Kawasaki and Jesse Kiehl. The fourth third-party proposal is by a coalition involving Doyon, Ltd., Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association, Sealaska and Ahtna, Inc.

PJ Simon, chief and chairman of TCC, told Bahnke and Binkley that the current political boundary layout with coastal leaders representing Interior river communities is not working.

“It is critical we have a unified Interior,” he said. “We want our voices heard.”

Nov. 10 is the board’s deadline to decide on new political boundaries. A map gallery and comment form are available on the board’s website at www.akredistrict.org.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 907-459-7545, at abohman@newsminer.com or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.

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