COLUMBIA — Four trial maps for the ward reapportionment process will be presented at the next City Council meeting as a possible way to redraw the city's political boundaries.
The trials being presented are A, B, D and E; Trial F has been cut.
The most contentious among these is Trial D, which was brought to the council with a 4-4 vote from the Ward Reapportionment Committee. The trial was unpopular at public hearings and faces legal issues, because it makes a section of southwest Columbia that is currently in the Fifth Ward part of the Fourth Ward, and is thus not contiguous — a requirement in the city's charter for the redrawing of wards.
Tim Teddy, director of Planning and Development, told the council of a pending annexation that could resolve Trial D's contiguity issue. But that annexation has yet to be approved, and would not occur until November or December, leaving the city with a map that doesn't follow the city's charter until the end of the year.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said that selecting Trial D could "put too much pressure" on the annexation process.
Trial D's contiguity issues weren't seriously considered until the most recent council meeting, when City Counselor Fred Boeckmann brought the issues to the council's attention. Mayor Bob McDavid called the situation "awkward" and the reversal something that "occurred at the eleventh hour."
Redrawing the city's wards began in May when the reapportionment committee was established to create wards that are roughly equal in population, based on 2010 census data.
Now that the reapportionment committee has submitted its report, the final decision on how Columbia will be reapportioned is left to the council.
"We are the decision making body, and we'll make the decision," said Mayor Bob McDavid, adding "I just don't want the city attorney making the decision."
Trials A and B were drafted by city staff, while trials D, E and F were proposed by reapportionment committee members. All the trials were brought before the public at hearings.
McDavid requested that Trials A and B, which didn't receive favorable votes from the committee, be brought to the next meeting along with trials D and E.
Both Anthony and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe voiced support for Trial E. Hoppe said that trial E was a logical choice because it is contiguous and had a favorable reception at public hearings. Anthony said she also felt that Trial E was a clear choice.
There is no time constraint outlined in the city charter for ward reapportionment. But McDavid said that while the council did not have to make a decision this month, they should because "that's our job."