Final 6-district council map released; some aren’t happy

       The City Clerk's Office unveiled the final map Nov. 13 for the new six-district City Council. There were only three changes from the preliminary version in September, none of them on the Westside.
       Redistricting is required every four years, but this year's was unusual because it had to accommodate a charter change increasing the number of district councilmembers from four to six in the April 2013 election.
       To accomplish that, the clerk's major boundary moves were in the eastern parts of the city. The Westside boundaries will be similar to the current layout, in which there is a District 1 in its northern portion and a District 3 in its southern. The boundaries between them will also be about where they are now - with the east-west line a short ways north of Old Colorado City - although about 2,000 people will move from D-1 to D-3 (see details in the Westside Pioneer, Sept. 27).
       To avoid politics, the charter empowers the clerk to set the districts, without council or mayoral review.
       Some citizen displeasure was revealed about City Clerk Sarah Johnson's decisions. One of those who spoke out at the map-release press conference Nov. 13 was Mesa Road resident James Kin. Reiterating a protest lodged at the clerk's October public hearing, he charged that Johnson had divided the Mesa Road community by putting Precinct 112 (on the south side of the road) in D-3 and Precinct 108 (on the north side) in D-1. He suggested putting 112 back into D-1 and replacing it in D-3 with 111, which has about the same population and, he asserted, closer ties to Old Colorado City.
       Another complaint came from the Council of Neighbors and Organiza-tions (CONO), which had undertaken its own redistricting effort. Claiming fewer divided neighborhoods and at least one district with higher concentrations of minority voters, the CONO map would also have put the Westside completely in one district.
       The clerk's final map will include dividing the Westside Neighborhood Strategy Area (NSA) between Districts 1 and 3, as well as Pleasant Valley. Both areas are also divided now.
       Johnson's response to both these protests was basically the same - that she had looked “real heavily” at the data and decided that her plan met the legal requirements, including directives to follow precinct lines (which have changed since 2010), keep populations equal and preserve communities of interest as much as possible.
       As for Mesa Road, she said that at the hearing she had heard “lots of comments from the Westside neighborhood” and had to be careful about making too many “flips and changes.”
       When pressed about this statement afterward, Johnson recalled that the Westside-related protests had really just been from the Mesa Road group and CONO.
       Johnson added afterward that anyone with lingering unhappiness could seek to change the district layout in four years.
       Johnson was hired as city clerk in May, relocating here from Kentucky.
       CONO took its complaint to the City Council meeting later that day, mainly to request future council action requiring the clerk hold more than one public hearing. The charter now says that “a” public hearing must be held, which Johnson interpreted to mean only one.
       The City Clerk's Office has created an online tool by which residents can determine which council district they are in. At springsgov.com, drill down to the City Clerk and then Elections websites. Such information can also be gleaned by calling the Clerk's Office at 385-5901.

Westside Pioneer article