About 2,000 move from D-1 to 3 in proposed city redistricting
For a year and a half, it's been a mystery: How much would the Westside be affected by the voter-approved city charter change in April 2011 that increased the number of City Council districts from four to six?
And the answer is… about 2,000 people.
That's assuming the preliminary map, released by City Clerk Sarah Johnson at a press briefing this week, remains unchanged after a public hearing in October. The current map was made in 2008.
The proposed configuration, which would take effect with the April 2013 city election, still shows a District 1 basically north of Uintah Street and a District 3 south of it.
Their only geographical differences, at least on the Westside, would be District 3 picking up a couple of mostly residential areas from District 1. Under the 2008 redistricting, District 3 at present is entirely south of Uintah east of 31st Street and south of Highway 24 west of 31st Street.
New to District 3 would be a triangular area north of Uintah that's also bordered by 19th Street and Mesa Road (residential except for the Uintah Gardens shopping center).
The other new area for District 3 would comprise several blocks in the Pleasant Valley residential neighborhood as well as the “No Man's Land” residential/commercial area - specifically, west of 31st up to Fontanero Street, with other boundaries being Echo Lane, Bijou Street, Red Rock Avenue, Kiowa Street, 34th Street and Pikes Peak Avenue.
The latter boundary changes would effectively switch the avenue corridor west of 31st Street (informally known as No Man's Land) from District 1 to 3, but politics played no part in the decision-making, Johnson explained at the briefing.
She cited a paragraph from the city charter and three from city codes as her direction. These ordain technical requirements, such as that the districts be contiguous, have nearly equal populations and be finalized only after a public hearing.
Regarding population, each of the six districts would have about 70,000 people, compared with about 101,000 in the four-district system.
To the charter/code requirements, Johnson said her office chose to stay within county-established election precinct boundaries (which has been a local precedent for years and makes voting results easier to decipher) and to follow the spirit of case law by “striving for the preservation of communities of interest/neighborhoods.”
Regarding precincts, the new Precinct 112 includes the north-of-Uintah triangle (which had been Precinct 258 in its entirety). The new Precinct 110 includes the Pleasant Valley/No Man's Land areas (which had been in parts of old Precincts 128, 55 and 54).
Johnson did not know the population for those specific areas (only having numbers for entire precincts), but according to Janice Littlefield of the El Paso County Election Office, based on the 2010 census, the changes, if approved, would move a total of 1,971 residents from District 1 to District 3.
For the redistricting effort, the city updated the 2010 census numbers, using housing unit data and Pikes Peak Regional Building permits as needed. However, Littlefield said the actual population in the two affected Westside areas probably hasn't changed much because they're “established areas.”
City code also allows redistricting protests. It appeared that one might be shaping up at the press briefing, when James Tucker, an area newspaper editor, asked Johnson whether the redistricting effort had consulted appropriate “experts” of various non-caucasian races.
Johnson responded (without directly answering his question) that she had followed the city requirements. Tucker repeated the question several times, each time getting the same kind of answer until he started shouting the question. He gave up this quest after a city police officer asked him to “calm down.”
The public hearing is scheduled at the Hillside Community Center, 925 S. Institute St., Saturday, Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to noon.
The City Clerk's Office will release the final map Nov. 13, Johnson said.
District 1 is currently represented by Scott Hente, District 3 by Lisa Czelatdko.
Under the proposed redistricting, their districts would be changed more radically on their eastern boundaries. Both 1 and 3 now go as far east as Academy Boulevard, but would be miles west of that road under the new map. Their former ground would be given up to help create the new Districts 5 and 6.
Johnson said that, “in a spirit of fairness,” all four of the old districts gave up population in making the two new districts.
However, she noted that more changes occurred in the eastern parts of the map because that is where most of the city's growth has occurred. Less change was needed in the western areas because the population is “more stable” there, she said.
The City Clerk's Office is required by law to redistrict every four years prior to the district councilmember elections. As such, all six new city districts will be up for election in April.
The total number of councilmembers (nine in all) will not change. The two new district members will take the place of the two at-large who received the fewest votes (Brandy Williams and Tim Leigh) in the election of April 2011. So after this April's election there will be six district and three at-large members.
In originally suggesting the charter change at a January 2011 City Council meeting, then-Mayor Lionel Rivera argued that having more district councilmembers is a feature of cities with strong-mayor configurations, giving people more “direct contact” with their elected representatives.
An alternative view was presented at the same meeting by then-At-Large Councilmember Randy Purvis. He charged that having more district members could make it easier for a “strong mayor” to curry council support by granting favors for given districts.
Westside Pioneer article