Chamber raps Reitz for vote on redistricting map

By Bill Felber

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce board Friday criticized Senate adoption of a congressional map that transfers the city from the Second District into the First District.

The same group expressed “disappointment” with Sen. Roger Reitz’s vote Wednesday to support the shift.  Chamber President Lyle Butler voiced concern that the Reitz vote might undermine area efforts if the question is eventually decided by a legislative conference committee.

“The action of the Kansas Senate last Wednesday sends a message to all Kansans that it places politics above firmly established community of interest relationships,” board members said in a statement released to the media Friday morning.

Butler noted that a bipartisan Chamber task force unanimously supported the effort to keep Manhattan and Riley County in the 2nd Congressional District.  That Committee approved two maps that the Chamber said “demonstrated equitable and responsible Congressional representation.”  It said the Senate Committee on Reapportionment “ignored the concerns expressed by the community of Manhattan and Riley County by purposely forwarding maps that do not address the concerns of one of the only communities which has chosen to engage at every single public meeting held thus far.”

Butler described the Chamber’s position as “disappointment with” rather than criticism of Reitz, who he noted as recently as a Monday Chamber meeting had been “fully supportive” of keeping Manhattan in the Second District.

Butler said efforts will continue with the House to keep the area in the Second District. “We have not given up on this,” he said, indicating that Chamber officials also intend to visit with Sen. Reitz “to see if he can help our cause despite what he voted on.”

At the same time, he indicated that if Manhattan is eventually moved, the city was prepared to lobby to become more than simply a new aspect of the First District. Specifically, he acknowledged discussion about the prospect, given Manhattan’s potential position as the First District’s largest city, for relocating a Congressional office — and eventually the district headquarters  — here.

“Normally they have their headquarters office in the largest city,” Butler said. “We will certainly ask for an office and probably ask that the headquarters eventually be moved.”

At the moment, Huelskamp has offices in Hutchinson – his headquarters — as well as Salina and Dodge City. The senators from Hutchinson and Dodge City both opposed adoption of the map Wednesday, although the senator from Salina, Pete Brungardt, voted with the majority. That could prove costly for Brungardt’s district if Manhattan ends up in the First District and then gets the Congressional office currently in Salina.

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