GEORGE KENNEDY: Trial E is the option that makes the most sense in ward reapportionment, Mr. Mayor

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | 12:26 p.m. CDT; updated 7:28 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 13, 2011

This week’s essay is an open letter to Mayor Bob McDavid.


Related Media


It seems pretty clear that you’re going to have to settle the issue of Columbia’s ward reapportionment.

Your six City Council colleagues who represent our existing wards look to be evenly divided, with Fred Schmidt, Helen Anthony and Barbara Hoppe likely to back Trial E, and Jason Thornhill, Gary Kespohl and Daryl Dudley leaning toward or committed to Trial D.

The one uncertainty, among the sources I’ve consulted, was Jason Thornhill, the Realtor who represents the Second Ward. So I called him.

He told me he hasn’t made up his mind, but he’s inclined strongly toward either Trial A or Trial D. He doesn’t like E, he said, because of its impact on his current ward.

Trial A hasn’t drawn much support, so I put him down as a Trial D vote.

It has not escaped your notice, I’m sure, that the council divides on this issue along the progressive/conservative fault line that you’ve successfully straddled.

I’m equally sure you’ve noticed that passions are running high. You didn’t make Daryl Dudley’s session at the public library last Friday, but I can report that the heat in the room that afternoon had nothing to do with the air handling system.

No minds were changed, including mine. I entered the room and left it admiring my councilman for his willingness to engage with his constituents and believing that his steadfast advocacy of Trial D is wrongheaded.

I’m not going to sign the petition to recall him, and I don’t do business with the Atkins companies, so I can’t join the boycott that’s being promoted.

I do, however, urge you to vote for Trial E when the shouting has died down.

Trial D, which was introduced late in the Ward Reapportionment Committee’s deliberations by Rob Monsees, would have the effect of assuring a conservative majority on the City Council for the next decade.

Trial E, which also meets the stated requirements of realignment, would have no such political impact.

You’ve demonstrated in office that you like fact-based decision making. That political impact is the most important fact in this debate.

Councilman Dudley argues that shifting the most progressive voters in Wards 3 and 4 into an enlarged Ward 1 would strengthen the central city’s representation.

His critics wonder how removing the central segments of two other wards could have that effect. Reasonable people can disagree.

There’s no room for disagreement on the arithmetic. The precincts that would be shifted from Ward 3 and Ward 4 are those, and only those, that voted against Councilmen Kespohl and Dudley in the last election and that consistently have the highest progressive or Democratic vote in general elections.

Unlike many of my progressive friends, I don’t question the motives of Mr. Dudley or of Mr. Monsees. To reach my conclusion, I don’t have to, and neither would you. Regardless of motive, the fact is that their proposal would tilt the balance of power on the council and therefore in our community.

That’s gerrymandering. It’s not what ward realignment is intended to do. As the last city election proved, both Wards 3 and 4 are politically competitive now. That’s how they should remain.

One more thing: In science courses and in your medical practice, you’ve encountered the principle of parsimony – that the simplest solution is usually the best. In politics, that’s not always true, but it fits this case.

Trial E, the only map to win majority support on the citizens’ committee, is also the least disruptive. It shifts people from the over-populated Ward 2 into undersized Ward 1. Period.

If you vote for Trial E, Mr. Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce and the so-called development community won’t be happy with you.

Your most engaged constituents will. And it’s the right thing to do.

Sincerely, George Kennedy   

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Ray Shapiro October 13, 2011 | 3:42 p.m.

Some times the best efforts are left on the cutting room floor.
Could someone please tell me why Plan J/ "the citizens' plan" failed to be a viable option?

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy October 13, 2011 | 4:06 p.m.

Ray, Trial J was left on the cutting room floor by the citizens' Ward Reapportionment Committee mainly because, in extending the First Ward to the western city limit, it took in the home of Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill. That violated one of the ground rules the committee had adopted. Otherwise, Trial J was virtually identical to Trial E, which was created at the suggestion of the First Ward's representative on the Ward Reapportionment Committee. Trial E stops short of Councilman Thornhill's home.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 13, 2011 | 4:15 p.m.

George says, "....would have the effect of assuring a conservative majority on the City Council for the next decade."

I think Hank at the other newspaper had it exactly right: Everyone is trying to do the same thing...preserve an advantage.

And, just to be contrary, I'm hoping the mayor votes for D. I wanna see if the entire recall committee can set a new high jump record en masse.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 13, 2011 | 4:45 p.m.

Thanks for your reply, Mr. K.
I guess that keeping the first ward "landlocked" was more desirable than just skirting around Jason's home/subdivision.
c'est la vie.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti October 13, 2011 | 5:07 p.m.

@ MW

"I think Hank at the other newspaper had it exactly right: Everyone is trying to do the same thing...preserve an advantage."

No, I think Kennedy has it right. There is no political advantage on either side. 3rd and 4th ward vote margins were razor thin. This fact supports Mr. Kennedy's assertion that the 3rd and 4th wards are politically competitive. Trial D will knock that competitiveness out of whack. Plus D will probably face litigation and the city would have pay a lot money trying to defend it. I think the mayor should follow the committee's recommendation.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 13, 2011 | 5:23 p.m.

Ed: What's interesting to me is that folks think things will always stay the same. This is an argument about short-term results with little thought to the fact that nothing stays the same.

Personally, I think that when it comes to drawing boundary lines for voting purposes, the only item that should be on the map is "how many people live here...and there...and there".

Using that map, you simply divide them equally using a straight edge on local roads.

Anything else is gerrymandering. No matter your political stripe, it's still gerrymandering. The only difference is "Who's ox is getting gored over what timeframe?"

When they are in the same pasture, all oxen get gored...eventually.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti October 13, 2011 | 5:43 p.m.

@ MW says

"Personally, I think that when it comes to drawing boundary lines for voting purposes, the only item that should be on the map is "how many people live here...and there...and there".

Then you should be for Trial E. The 3rd ward is only 3% of the "target" population, not sure about the 4th. But I do know the 5th and the 2nd wards are way overpopulated. Trial D takes away from wards that are not the wards with the most growth. E is the best option. D will cause derision and litigation for our city.

(Report Comment)
Kip Kendrick October 14, 2011 | 8:17 a.m.

One political ideology should not win over another in Ward Reapportionment. Trial D clearly favors a conservative ideology.

Political ideologies should be determined by elections. That is Democracy!

Trial D will divide the Community. Email the Mayor: and tell him:

"D" is for Divisive
"E" is for Everyone

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 14, 2011 | 9:04 a.m.

"One political ideology should not win over another in Ward Reapportionment."


"Political ideologies should be determined by elections."

So which is it? It's okay for one political ideology to win over another as long as an election decides the winner?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 14, 2011 | 9:21 a.m.

JimmyB: How dare you ask a difficult question!

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.