Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wards and Weighted Votes

Although the topic wasn't on the agenda and Council president Don Moore clearly did not want to discuss it, calling the new information provided by Victor Mendolia and Stephen Dunn "allegations not facts," the questions of the boundary between the Fourth and Fifth wards and in which ward the population of Crosswinds had been counted in determining the weighted vote were discussed at last night's Common Council meeting. John Mason has a competent account of what transpired in today's Register-Star: "City's ward system comes under fire." 

The question of the ward boundary boils down to this. The language in Chapter 1-4 of the city charter, which describes the ward boundaries, defines the boundary between the Fourth Ward and the Fifth Ward in this way: "[From the center line of Warren street] to the center line of Fifth Street, thence northerly along the center line of Fifth Street and a projection of said center line of Fifth Street to the northerly bounds of the City. . . . All that part of the City lying within the lines beginning at a point where a northerly extension of Fifth Street intersects the northerly bounds of the City [is the Fifth Ward]." The black line on the ward map below, which marks the ward boundaries with red dotted lines, shows the projection north of Fifth Street.

The description of the boundary in the charter probably goes back to 1886 when the Fifth Ward was created. It is not known, at least not by Gossips, if Harry Howard Avenue, which now appears on the ward map to be the eastern boundary of the Fourth Ward, existed in 1886 when the original ward boundaries were drawn, but a newspaper account of the laying of the cornerstone for the Firemen's Home in 1892 makes reference to Harry Howard Avenue, so we know it existed in 1892. 

It is not clear when and how Harry Howard Avenue became the boundary between the Fourth and Fifth wards. It is also not clear why, unlike every other ward boundary in the city where the center line of the street is the boundary and one side of the street is one ward and the other side is another, both sides of Harry Howard Avenue, from Carroll Street to Paddock Place, are considered part of the Fourth Ward. Apparently, it has been this way for decades, but a change in the ward boundary descriptions was never made in the charter.

And then there's the question of the two hundred or so residents of Crosswinds. Where did they get counted in the 2010 census?

There is some reason to believe that in allocating population to the wards, the ward map published by the Board of Elections, part of which appears above, was used. If that's what happened, the population of Crosswinds would likely have be attributed to the Fifth Ward since on that map Harry Howard Avenue is indicated as the ward boundary. 

There is other reason to believe this may have happened. If, in 2010, there is an apartment complex in the Fourth Ward, housing some two hundred people, which didn't exist in 2000, the logical expectation is that the Fourth Ward would have gained population between 2000 and 2o1o and the strength of the weighted votes of the ward's representatives would increase. Instead, the Fourth Ward, like every other ward in the city except the Fifth Ward, lost population, and the aldermen who represent the Fourth Ward still cast votes that carry the least weight of any on the Council, with the exception of the First Ward.

At last night's Common Council meeting, Rick Scalera, supervisor for the Fifth Ward, said he would love to have the residents of Crosswinds vote in the Fifth Ward. Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) echoed the sentiment: "Alderman Donahue and I would love to welcome the people from Crosswinds to the Fifth Ward." But the question remains whether or not the weighted vote of those three elected officials has been strengthened by having the population of Crosswinds counted in the Fifth Ward instead of the Fourth Ward--the ward in which the residents actually vote.

1 comment:

  1. The weighted vote assumes that the Crosswinds folks vote in the 5th ward, so having them in fact vote in the 5th ward will have no impact on the weighted voting calculation. Other mapping errors will, but not this error. This of course, is but the tip of the iceberg, but I digress.