Thursday, March 3, 2022

Adjusting the Ward Boundaries

Last night, the Common Council Legal Committee took up the issue of adjusting the ward boundaries in response to the 2020 decennial census. The First Ward has gained population; the Fifth Ward has lost population. At last night's meeting, committee chair Margaret Morris announced that it had been determined modifications to the boundaries would be required because there was a more than 10 percent difference between the ward with the largest population, the First Ward with 1,162, and the ward with the smallest population, the Fifth Ward with 1,090. 

The members of the committee agreed that the changes should achieve population equity with the least alteration in ward boundaries. The following map shows Steve Dunn's proposal for how that could be accomplished.

Morris concluded the discussion by saying, "The concept is least change. Exactly how we draw the lines has not been decided." She went on to say, "It may be using what Steve Dunn did, but the object is to make the least disruptive changes." The committee must make a plan which they will present to the full Council for adoption. The adjustments to the ward boundaries must be done before July 1, 2022.

The committee also discussed the possibility of uniting Hudson Terrace Apartments. The apartment complex has traditionally been divided into two parts: the buildings south of Warren Street are part of the First Ward; the buildings north of Warren Street are part of the Second Ward. In his presentation of possible ward boundary adjustments, Dunn had suggested uniting Hudson Terrace Apartments and offsetting the shift in population from the First Ward to the Second Ward by moving the buildings on the north side of Warren Street between First and Third streets from the Second Ward to the First Ward. 

The idea of uniting the Hudson Terrace did not get much traction with the alders on the Legal Committee. Mohammed Rony (Second Ward) maintained that the residents of Hudson Terrace now have four representatives in City Hall, whereas if the apartment complex were no longer bisected, they would only have two. Theo Anthony (Fourth Ward) seemed to agree when he said, in support of boundary adjustments that were the least disruptive, "If we were to make a larger change, we would have to make a deeper study." Art Frick (First Ward) concurred, saying, "Until we tackle much larger issues, we should leave it with the minimally impacted model."

Morris had suggested that if they were to consider eliminating the bifurcation of Hudson Terrace they would have to talk with the people who live in the southern section of Hudson Terrace, which is now part of the First Ward. Presumably now, since the Legal Committee has decided not to pursue it, that won't happen, but perhaps it should. It would be interesting to know what the residents of southern part of the Terraces would have to say.

Back in 2015, Claire Cousin, a resident of the southern part of Hudson Terrace, made a bid to be First Ward alder, declaring that she was "running on behalf of people who are not represented in the First Ward." In 2021, when announcing her candidacy for First Ward supervisor, Cousin stated, "I believe that I have successfully amplified the voices of my neighbors and the issues that are important to them, and being elected can only amplify that platform." Just days before announcing her run for supervisor, Cousin accused incumbent Sarah Sterling, who had served as First Ward supervisor since 2012, of being out of touch with the residents of the First Ward who lived in Hudson Terrace. Sterling chose not to run for reelection in 2021, and Cousin, running unopposed, became First Ward supervisor in January 2022. It would be interesting to know if Cousin's sense that Hudson Terrace residents were not represented in the First Ward is generally shared by her neighbors in the Terraces today, but it seems there will not be an opportunity to learn what the residents think and what their preference might be about uniting the Terraces.
A related footnote: Cousin announced yesterday on Facebook that she is moving out of Hudson Terrace, after eight years of residing there.

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