Ward Reapportionment Committee weighs new options after public feedback

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 8:42 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Members of the Columbia Ward Reapportionment Committee brought a variety of new ideas to a meeting Thursday that were inspired largely by feedback from a recent public hearing.

Although no decisions were made, the committee discussed new options for redrawing the ward lines in addition to three plans already presented, called Trials A, B and D. According to previous Missourian reports, the committee is to redraw ward lines to balance the populations of the wards based on 2010 census figures.

It was clear the committee members no longer agree on a single plan.

Committee member Michelle Gadbois voiced her opposition to Trial D through a prepared statement.

She said in the statement that the plan would “greatly dilute the ability of central city minority and low-income voters to make their voices heard” by adding the most politically active areas of the Third and Fourth wards to the First Ward.

Gadbois also disapproved of Trial D’s political ramifications.

"By grouping the precincts that traditionally vote Democratic into a single ward … we are determining the political makeup of the council for the next 10 years,” she said.

Committee member Colleen Coble, who lives in the First Ward, spoke on the feedback from the public hearing and poll and voiced disapproval of all three proposed maps. 

“That plan doesn’t seem to have legs,” she said of Trial A, which the committee initially agreed upon. The trial has faced criticism from residents of the Benton-Stephens neighborhood, which would be moved to the First Ward under that plan.

Coble also disagreed with Trial B, stating concerns that extending the First Ward north eliminated the existence of a central city ward. She raised the possibility of shifting the First Ward farther west or south or including the East Campus area.

Coble agreed with Gadbois’ disapproval of Trial D, citing negative effects on future representation from the First Ward.

Other committee members favored existing plans.

Committee member Eugene Gerke spoke in favor of Trial D, saying that it would give the First Ward more power. Wiley Miller supported Trial B, saying that plan was the least complicated and would affect the fewest people. The committee also discussed splitting the central city ward into multiple wards.

The committee’s next step is unclear, but the group made plans to work with city staff to draw new maps based on suggestions from the meeting.

“We have plenty of alphabet left,” Committee Chair Bob Pugh joked.

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