Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ward Redistricting

Do you know where your ward boundary is? I suspect not. It isn't something that you pay attention to. You know your ward, and you know who your Councilor is, and you know where to vote. That is the important tri-fecta, but where the ward boundary is? Why would you need to know that?

I can think of a few reasons, but that said, I understand and don't think many people, other than those running for Council, worry about the size of their ward. Now comes that time when we all find out where the boundaries are. After every decennial census we are mandated by law and statutes to review and adjust ward, and for that matter state and federal districts are reviewed and adjusted as well. The goal is to get as close to one person one vote representation.

The one vote one resident concept is a hall mark of representative governing. On the local level we have to adjust the ward boundaries to ensure that each one is within 1 percent population of each other ward. This works out to a swing of less than 300 resident difference in each ward.

There are six wards in the City, and this won't be affected by the changes that will be proposed. The wards are intended to be bounded by natural boundaries (rivers etc) and definitive physical barriers (roadways, and the railroad). Currently the ward populations range from approximately 4500 residents in wards 1 and 2 to over 5500 residents in wards 5 and 6.

In my mind, wards 5 and 6 will be viewed as donor wards, shifting population to wards 1 and 2. This will ensure that the residents of wards 5 and 6 receive the representation they are intended to, closer to 1 to 1, than the current set up.

It makes sense that wards 5 and 6 have the highest population, as they have had the largest land areas developed in the past ten years. If you look at the census data is correlates accurately to the development trends we've witnessed in Dover and also with the amount of available developable land.

I started with the City June 1, 1997. Fourteen (14) years tomorrow, which is astonishing to me, in many ways. I know I have thiner in hair, and a thicker middle, but what I find funny is that I am at that point of scratching my head about projects and the way we've done them before. According to the minutes from the meetings in the summer of 2001, I was involved with the last ward adjustments.

I recall basics about that effort. I recall coming up with the population numbers and running the calculations to see what the 1 percent number for populations should be. I recall discussing how not to split neighborhoods up, but mostly I recall learning the lesson that you need to avoid politics from the process and get back to the core natural and physical boundaries, and one vote one person.

On May 25th, the Mayor appointed a committee for this year's redistricting, and I am the only one who was involved 10 years ago. That makes me feel old. I was in a different role at that time, and as with most experiences, this will be a much different project and have different outcomes; how can it not with different players involved, and a different climate involved.

I am looking forward to the process, and project. I like puzzles and like the idea of systematically working through the project to ensure that we are all fairly represented. I find it ironic that my ward, 5, will be one where population needs to be shifted the most. Not quite sure how things will work out, but none the less it will work itself out.

I am looking forward to the outcome and will use the blog as a way to update us all on progress, and when we present the group's recommendation to the City Council in a month, we can sit back and enjoy the next step of working to get a charter amendment before the public discussing changes that need to take place, and I'll go over that step then.

Until then, enjoy the heat and I hope you can relax and enjoy the coming summer.

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