The Washington Times-Herald

December 6, 2012

Redistricting discussed

By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON —



In a special meeting Monday night, the Washington City Council discussed options for realigning their districts.

Chris Walls of 39°north, who’s done redistricting and reprecincting in other cities and counties, showed the councilmen a map he’d created with proposed new boundaries. According to Walls there were three primary things he took into consideration: making sure the council members reside in their respective districts, keeping each district as compact as possible, and keeping the populations as equal as possible.

Equalizing the populations among districts was the main reason for looking at new boundaries, because shifts had caused an imbalance.

“A 10-percent deviation is what we look for,” Walls said. “The deviations (in the proposal) are well within the ideal range. Right now we’re looking at a tad above 6-percent deviation.”

The probable annexed area was not included in the redistricting.

“The normal protocol is to start with what’s existing and go from there,” Walls said.

Councilman Joe Fleck did not approve of the recommended changes to his district because it took away a precinct he has represented for many years. He said he has a one-on-one relationship with the people in the precinct and didn’t want to lose them.

Suggestions were made by the council members, populations were counted, and Walls made changes as the council watched. One of Walls’ concerns was splitting voting precincts. He said the fewer voting precincts that are split, the better for the county clerk. Ultimately, two precincts were split in the proposed new districts.

The population deviation wasn’t as good as that of the first option Walls designed, but at 8.3-percent disparity, it was still within the accepted 10-percent range.

“The discrepancy between the district with the most population and that with the least population would be 8.35 percent, whereas currently that discrepancy amounts to 43.9 percent,” said Mayor Joe Wellman.

With the proposed changes, District 1, represented by Mike Singleton, would pick up Precinct 14 and give up that portion of Precinct 15 south of the railroad tracks. District 2, represented by Allen Brown, would pick up the northern part of Precinct 12. District 3, represented by Jerry Sidebottom, would see no change. District 4, represented by Joe Fleck, would give up that part of Precinct 12 north of Highland Avenue. And District 5, represented by Jim Greene, would give up Precinct 14 and pick up the middle section of Precinct 12 and that part of Precinct 15 south of the railroad tracks.

Once the council members agreed on new boundaries, city attorney Tim Dant was tasked with determining the next steps. He said he needs legal descriptions of the districts as they’re proposed, then he’ll write a new city ordinance to be considered for adoption by the council.

“I checked Indiana Code, and it requires an ordinance,” Dant explained.

The ordinance will be read twice at council meetings, he said. Public input will be allowed at those times, which will be announced in the Times Herald. Following the second reading, the council members will vote to accept or reject the suggested new boundaries. Dant said the process could be complete sometime in January.

Walls is from Bloomington and is a self-professed big Indiana University Hoosiers fan. He offered the council his services at no charge, only requesting reimbursement for expenses, since Washington’s Zeller family sent Cody to IU to play basketball. The swap saves the city approximately $3,500.