Thursday, October 20, 2011

KC Redistricting Committee Blocks "Community Map"

One map that splits 6th District will be forwarded to Council for consideration

The Kansas City Redistricting Advisory Committee will forward one redistricting map to the City Council for consideration. Three were submitted, but the committee, after five public hearings and in the face of opposition from a united 6th District, endorsed the first map it considered, which was drawn up by committee members from the city's northland. 

Several committee members said they were concerned that two other maps, which kept 6th District boundaries more or less intact with some variation, "could" violate the Federal Voting Rights act which is designed to protect minority voting blocks because it did not leave a substantial number of minority voters in the 5th and 3rd districts. They also complained that the other two maps left too much population in the 6th District, which did not give it enough of a ceiling for future growth. They said it was important to keep all district populations as close to equal as possible. 

The map the committee recommended beefed up populations in the traditionally minority 3rd and 5th districts, while combining the city's historic Northeast and West Side neighborhoods, increasing the likelihood of a Hispanic council member.

A "Community Map" drawn up by residents of the 6th District and shown to the committee at an Oct. 10 public hearing was not formally considered. Committee member Eslun Tucker moved to have the map considered for forwarding to the City Council as one of three potential redistricting options, but no committee members would second her motion. The Community Map had the written support of virtually every HOA in South Kansas City, as well as the Martin City and 3-Trails community improvement districts, the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the KC Neighborhood Advisory Council, and the Southern Communities Coalition (see the Advocate's coverage of the Oct. 10 public hearing, at which all of those groups spoke, right here). 

An earlier compromise map drawn up by Tucker was not considered, either.  

The one map the council will now consider splits the 6th District, putting most of its economic redevelopment areas into the 5th District. That includes Bannister Mall, the KCPD South Patrol, and other vital areas championed by 6th District residents for years.

Councilman John Sharp pulled no punches in expressing his disappointment.

"I think the real reason they only forwarded one map is that this was a back room deal that was hatched long ago," Sharp said. "The whole public hearing process, where hundreds and hundreds of people opposed this map, was nothing but a farce. Our people showed up to participate in the democratic process, but they might as well have been talking to a brick wall."

There is some hope, Sharp said, because the City Council does have the authority to redraw the lines any way it wants to, without the input of the advisory committee. But Sharp doesn't think that's likely.

"Clearly there will be an effort to push this through before anyone can mount any real opposition," he said. "I am certain there will be a resolution to approve this as soon as next week."

Sharp referred to the council's Oct. 27 meeting.

"I had hoped we'd have some more public input," Sharp said, "but after this, how can anyone expect that they can speak at a public hearing and have it mean anything?"

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