August 7, 2012 |

Reapportionment will change area council districts

A July 18 meeting in Knoxville to inform the public of proposed changes to city council representation attracted more public officials than residents. Five members of the nine-member Reapportionment Advisory Committee were also present.

Committee Chair Matt Merriman-Preston called the redistricting "an exciting process to go through."

He said after the census every 10 years, city council must make changes to council districts to reflect the new population distribution throughout the city.

The legal requirements are that the districts must be as equal in population as practicable; contiguous; compact, meaning solid and uniform in shape; and in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

The deviation cannot be more than 10 percent between the largest and smallest districts.

Additional considerations include: minimal population deviation; keeping neighborhoods together; and respecting existing political boundaries.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city's population is 305,704, which is a decrease from the 334,563 population a decade earlier.

The ideal district size should be 33,967 residents. The current districts range from 28,695 to 39,259 in population.

Under the plan, the largest deviation from the ideal would be 5.5 percent.

As proposed for the South neighborhoods, District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus would lose two districts in Carrick (29-8, 29-11) to District 4, represented by Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak; and one district in Mount Washington (18-5) to District 2, represented by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith.

District 3 would gain two South Oakland districts (4-2, 4-19) and two Central Oakland districts (4-5, 4-16) that are currently in District 6, represented by Councilman Daniel Lavelle.

District 4 Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak would lose two districts in Beechview (19-12, 20-2) to District 2, while gaining the two Carrick districts (29-8, 29-11) currently in District 3.

In all, 31 of the city's 404 voting districts would receive new representation under the proposal.

Mr. Kraus while he will no longer have any districts in Carrick under the proposed map, it does not mean ties and friendships built up over five years will cease to exist.

"Boundaries don't end relationships," he said.

"I will miss the time I spent in Carrick. But the residents can call me anytime as I'm more than happy to pitch in and help," he said.

The proposal also leaves him with only one Mt. Washington district. As with Carrick, residents in the Mt. Washington district he is losing may contact him anytime, he said.

The proposed map was unanimously approved by the advisory committee in June. Four public meetings were held, with the last on July 24.

Mr. Merriman-Preston said after considering input from residents at the public meetings, and making changes, if any, a final recommendation will be sent to city council.

City council may make changes, and must adopt a final redistricting map for it to become law.

Mr. Kraus said a vote by council will take place by year's end.

"My read is that council is pretty happy with how this is working out," he said, adding there may be some minor tweaks.

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