Ward committee keeps council incumbents in mind

Members want to avoid taking representatives out of their current wards
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 | 7:38 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — As it stands, there are six people in Columbia who  know what ward they will live in after reapportionment, and they’re all on the City Council.

That is, unless the experimental Trial F goes through.

The Ward Reapportionment Committee has been paying attention to the residences of incumbent City Council members as it draws up trial maps intended to prevent two members from having to face each other in a future election.

The committee has been following a list of four criteria. Three of which were outlined by Mayor Bob McDavid when the reapportionment committee was commissioned. The committee added a fourth requirement — keeping current council members in their wards — at its first meeting May 26.

The four criteria are:

  • Making the wards close to equal in population.
  •  Limiting the amount of boundary movement.
  •  Keeping existing neighborhoods and neighborhood associations intact.
  •  Ensuring that the home addresses of current council members remain in their respective wards. 

One of the reasons behind adding an incumbency criteria was the desire for a smooth process, committee member Rob Monsees said. The trial or trials  recommended by the committee are subject to approval by the council.

The incumbency criteria, committee member Terry Smith said, came from a desire not to “put somebody out of business.”

Trial F, which experiments with the idea of creating two central-city wards, would draw Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony out of their wards. It would lump Kespohl into a new central-city Sixth Ward with Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, and place Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley and Anthony into a redrawn Fourth Ward. 

Trial F would also leave the Third and Fifth wards without representation. 

Because Trial F does not meet the incumbency requirement, Smith says it is “not likely” that it will be presented to the council.

None of the other trials being considered would displace any of the council members.

Counting Trial F, there are a total of five proposals still on the table and subject to public debate.

One is Trial A, which received negative reaction at the July 14 public hearing. That trial would move the Benton-Stephens neighborhood from the Third Ward to the First Ward. It was unpopular with Benton-Stephens residents, who said it would dilute their influence.

Trial D also has been criticized because it would take traditionally liberal voting precincts out of the Fourth Ward and put them in the First. Committee member Michelle Gadbois said that trial could constitute a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it would diminish the influence of minority groups. 

All five proposals — the others are Trials B and E — will be presented at the public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Daniel Boone City Building. The deadline for recommending new wards to the council is Sept. 15.


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