Ward Reapportionment Committee sets September public hearing date

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | 8:04 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA– The Ward Reapportionment Committee met today and planned a public hearing that will be on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. as well as a final committee meeting on Sept. 12.

The committee needs to make a recommendation to the city by Sept. 15. With the deadline approaching, there are five possible maps, referred to as trials, that are being considered. Although the board discussed eliminating maps before the public hearing, they decided to present all five maps to the public. They are also considering sending more than one trial to the city for consideration.

The committee has to decide what precincts to move into the First Ward from surrounding wards.

Trial by Trial: What Happens With First Ward?

Trial A: Would annex the Benton-Stephens neighborhood in the east and the apartments beyond Stadium Boulevard to the west. This plan is not popular with the committee following a public hearing. However, it will still be presented with the other plans on Sept. 7.

Trial B:  Would add part of the Second Ward to the First Ward by expanding north along Range Line Street.

Trial D: Would expand the First Ward south to Stewart Road. Committee member Michelle Gadbois wrote a letter to the committee about potential violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Trial D.  

She wrote, “Plan D can be interpreted as unfair and non-partisan” because it would group precincts that have historically voted democrat into the First Ward. In addition, Gadbois wrote that the rate of political participation by voters added from Wards Three and Four "will greatly dilute the ability of central city minority and low-income voters to make their voices heard."

Trial E: Would expand the First Ward west but still leaves it surrounded by the other wards. This trial has not yet been presented at a public hearing.

Trial F:  Would create two landlocked wards, the First and the Sixth, creating a central city core. This plan would change the borders of all six districts. This plan has not been presented at a public hearing.

All five trials will be presented at the public hearing. The committee will meet after the public hearing and before the Sept. 12 deadline.

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Mike Martin September 7, 2011 | 10:37 a.m.

Wednesday, September 7 -- 7 pm
Columbia City Council Chambers
701 East Broadway

More information about the ongoing debate:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 7, 2011 | 2:00 p.m.

"Trial by Trial: What Happens With First Ward?"
Why not just do away with and divide up the first ward and put sections of it into the surrounding wards?
We could still retain a "District/Special Business District" with our Councilman-at-large, aka the mayor, working with downtown business interests. The private home dwellers of the first ward would just become parts of their surrounding wards.
Another solution could be dividing up the city wards to mirror the way our police department quadrants our town or on a different scale via the manner in which our police patrol sections of our city.
Any of these approaches would solve the problems caused by the first ward, provide better management of the city and avoids political and racial overtones.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 7, 2011 | 9:24 p.m.

Has any research been done to determine if the nine (if memory serves me correctly) police beats are of equal population? What happens if Chief Burton or a new chief comes up with a different mechanism to patrol the city and redoes the beats? Nice idea, but I don't think it will fly.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 9, 2011 | 4:31 p.m.

I still don't know why the city council must use the federal census body count as their population number for ward sizes.
The federal census as I understand it was designed to determine how many representatives go to Congress and how much money each state gets for certain programs.
When Columbia uses raw population numbers, they ignore local demographics of age. For instance, if ward one did not grow in the same body count as ward 2 but ward two grew primarily because of an increase of 1,000 five year olds, why does this increase of five year olds in that ward cause it to give up its boundary lines?
I recall reading the committee's chant of "one person/one vote" yet how many residents of each ward are registered to vote or eligible, but not registered?
And if population numbers are skewed, why not look to the assessor's office to use property tax values situated in each ward. Make the wards' boundaries based on equal a financial value to the city.
Just some outside the box thinking on my part.
They're all going to do what's most popular anyways, instead of tweaking the charter or reducing the number of wards and then increasing local ward citizenry involvement and actual voting at the polls.
I'd still like to see the first ward get divided up into surrounding wards, reduce the size of the council instead of picking off pieces of other wards because of a federal census raw body count with disregard to age and voting eligibilities.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield September 9, 2011 | 5:05 p.m.

"And if population numbers are skewed, why not look to the assessor's office to use property tax values situated in each ward. Make the wards' boundaries based on equal a financial value to the city."

Interesting suggestions. The catch with this one is that you could have a ward as small as just the Grasslands, and the result would be a couple hundred people there having the same voting power -- via their council person -- as 10,000 or more people in a ward comprised of a dozen less affluent neighborhoods.

(Report Comment)

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