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Census will prompt new boundaries for Columbia city wards

Housing boom causes Second Ward population to soar
Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 11:03 a.m. CDT; updated 9:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — Now that data from the 2010 U.S. Census is in, the city of Columbia once again will have to redraw its ward boundaries.

In the 10 short years since wards were last redrawn, the population disparity among the political districts has grown at a remarkable rate. The Second Ward, which witnessed a boom in new housing developments throughout the past several years, has become the city's most populous ward with 21,341 residents, according to data provided by the city. That's more than 7,700 more people than in 2000, a nearly 57 percent increase. This ward, which covers much of north-central and northwest Columbia, comprises nearly 20 percent of Columbia's population.

Breakdown of Ward's by population and race

Population

First Ward: 14,681, 12.44 percent of total population

Second Ward: 21,341, 19.65 percent of total population 

Third Ward: 18,682 residents, 17.20 percent of total population 

Fourth Ward: 16,024 residents, 14.75 percent of total population 

Fifth Ward: 19,668 residents and 18.11 percent of total population

Sixth Ward: 18,214 residents and 16.77 percent of total population

Race

This data came from census data broken down by voting precinct.

White — First Ward 9,542 residents (70.6 percent of the ward), Second Ward 15,500 residents (72.4 percent of the ward), Third Ward 13,855 residents (74.5 percent of the ward), Fourth Ward 13,781 residents (86 percent of the ward), Fifth Ward 16,809 residents (85.8 percent of the ward), Sixth Ward 16,193 residents (83.6 percent of the ward). 

Black — First Ward 2,567 residents (19 percent of the ward), Second Ward 3,424 residents (16 percent of the ward), Third Ward 3,215 residents (17.3 percent of the ward), Fourth Ward 800 residents (five percent of the ward), Fifth Ward 981 residents (five percent of the ward), Sixth Ward 1,228 residents (six percent of the ward). 

Asian  — First Ward 671 residents (five percent of the ward), Second Ward 1,130 residents (5.3 percent of the ward), Third Ward 437 residents (2.3 percent of the ward), Fourth Ward 873 residents (5.4 percent of the ward), Fifth Ward 1,212 residents (five percent of the ward), Sixth Ward 1,300 residents (6.7 percent of the ward)

Hispanic/Latino — First Ward 534 residents (four percent of the ward), Second Ward 1,097 residents (5.1 percent of the ward), Third Ward 692 residents (3.97 percent of the ward), Fourth Ward 367 residents (2.3 percent of the ward), Fifth Ward 415 residents (2.1 percent of the ward), Sixth Ward 612 residents (3.2 percent of the ward)

Source: 2010 Census data


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At the other end of the spectrum, the First Ward, which lies in the center of the city, has only 14,681 residents.

Newly elected First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said he is looking forward to redrawing the ward.

"I am pleased to have an opportunity to vote, because I have strong feelings about (reapportionment)," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he does not want to see the First Ward change.

"I see a certain sort of lifestyle and cultural mix that is different from the other wards," he said.

Exploring possible reapportionment ideas, Schmidt said adding the Benton-Stephens area would be a great fit to his ward.

"If you go around in these neighborhoods, you'll see there is a special character of ward one neighborhoods and Benton-Stephens is the closest fit to that," Schmidt said.

With a population of 108,500 in Columbia, the target population for each of the six wards would be about 18,000. The Third and Sixth wards are near that, while the Fifth Ward has more than 19,600 residents. The census counted a little more than 16,000 people living in the Fourth Ward, according to the city's data.

Ethnic diversity varies among the six wards. In the First, Second and Third wards, the percentages of white residents are in the low 70s, according to census data broken down into voting districts, and the percentages of black residents are in the high teens. The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth wards have white populations between 83 percent and 86 percent. The black population of each of those wards is less than 6 percent.

Asian residents, though, are more evenly distributed. In all but the Third Ward, the percentage of Asian residents is between 5 percent and 6.7 percent. That percentage is 2.3 percent in the Third Ward. Similarly, Hispanic and Latino populations are between 2 percent and 5 percent in every ward.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city has yet to begin the ward reapportionment process but will do so within the next few months. “We still have not settled down and talked about it,” he said.

Mayor Bob McDavid said the City Council hasn't been focused on reapportionment because of the April elections. He said the council will assemble a task force to develop proposals for how the boundaries should be redrawn.

Reapportionment presents the opportunity to add more wards and, hence, more council members. St. Romaine said the new City Council chamber was designed to leave space for a larger council, and he acknowledged the idea has been discussed. Most current council members, however, say that seven members is a good number.

“My bias is not to change the size of the council but to make sure it’s a representative council,” McDavid said.

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill agreed. Even as the representative of the city's largest ward, he said he's able to keep pace.

“I don’t really think we need it,” Thornhill said of a larger council. “I’m not to the point where I’m so overwhelmed with requests.”

Thornhill said he's not surprised his ward has grown so much. He called it a “prime area for development.”

“Go back 10 years, and look at what land was available,” he said.

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe also said the council is functioning well with the current number of representatives.

Nauser said more members could make the council inefficient.

"The more people you add to a board or commission, the less work you can get done," she said.

The council will have a myriad of options for ways to redraw the ward boundaries. One partial solution might be to carve away a section of the Second Ward and add it to the First. Thornhill did not have any preliminary suggestions for how to do that, however.

"It's gonna be challenging to do it the right way," Thornhill said. "It's not something we've had conversations about."

The First Ward was at the center of the debate about how to redraw boundaries 10 years ago. The council considered two competing proposals, one that would add MU campus areas to the ward and another that would have added part of the Fourth Ward. The campus option passed a 4-3 council vote.

Meanwhile, Boone County officials will have it easy. There's no need to redraw commissioners' districts because there is only a 3 percent population difference, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said. If the difference were 5 percent or greater, the lines would be redrawn, she said.

As it stands, the Southern District, represented by Karen Miller, has 79,552 residents. Skip Elkin's Northern District has 83,090 residents.

Noren said commissioners' boundary lines were redrawn in 2001, the first time since 1970.


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