COLUMBIA — A report on the effort to redraw Columbia's wards was presented to the City Council before Monday night's council meeting.
The report, submitted by Ward Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bob Pugh, included public hearing transcripts, meeting minutes, how the committee members voted on each trial, maps and census data. The committee has completed its duties, and the decision on how to redistrict the wards now lies to the council.
Every 10 years, Columbia redraws its wards based on census data. The committee was formed in May and was charged with the task of creating wards with roughly equal populations – about 18,063 people. Much of the debate has focused on the central First Ward, which has the lowest population. To be equal to the city's other five wards, it will have to encompass a larger part of the city than it does now.
The process began with two maps, A and B, which were drawn by the city staff. It expanded to include three more maps, D, E and F, which were proposed by members of the committee.
Although the committee sent all five trials to the council, Pugh said both E and D had the most favorable votes. Trial E had a 5-3 vote from the committee, and Trial D split the votes 4-4.
Trial D was not popular at the public hearings, but Pugh told the council to "weigh (the public's comments) for what they are."
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill asked Pugh about the public's response to Trial D.
Pugh said several neighborhood associations, including Benton-Stephens, didn't respond well to the trial. Pugh said "public opinion is public opinion" and although they considered the comments, it was the committee's job to recommend options that fit the criteria they adopted early on in the process. Trial D, according to Pugh, fits those criteria.
He advised the council to "throw away" Trail F because no one voted for it and it didn't fit the committee's guidelines.
Pugh also told the council about a citizen-initiated map known as Trial J, but said that it was not officially considered by the committee. Trial J, like Trial E, would expand the First Ward west, but it would go a step further and take that boundary to the city limit. Pugh said although the First Ward would no longer be landlocked by other wards with the option, growth on that edge of town isn't likely anyway.
Referring to the current boundaries of the city, Pugh said "it looks like somebody started to put together a jigsaw puzzle and got drunk and lost all the pieces."
Mayor Bob McDavid thanked Pugh and the committee for their work.
First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said the city will draft an ordinance that may cut the trial options down to two. The ordinance will have its first reading at the Oct. 3 council meeting.