Redistricting, 2002

From Monday, Feb. 18 through Friday, Feb. 22, NCO hosted a panel discussion and forum on the redistricting of the city of Northfield from three wards to four. Panelists included:

Keith Covey, Mayor

Scott Neal, City Administrator

Jim Pokorney, City Council, Ward 1

Hilary Ziols, Nfld League of Women Voters

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Griff Wigley – 11:44am Feb 14, 2002 CDT (#1 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Panelist introductions

Before opening up the discussion to the public, I’d like the panelists to briefly introduce themselves. It would be helpful to know what previous experiences you’ve had with redistricting, if any.

Also, please comment on how you think the overall process for implementing a new redistricting plan has gone thus far.

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Jim Pokorney – 02:09pm Feb 16, 2002 CDT (#2 of 44)

Northfield City Council member, Ward 1

Introduction

Hello, My name is Jim Pokorney. I am the current First Ward Councilperson. I have been on the job for about 3-4 months. I work as a consultant engineer with an office located within my home.

Aside from previous experience on the planning commission, I do not have any other experience in city government; I have no past history as a political activist and no specific experience in redistricting other than knowing from civics the meaning of the word “gerrymandering”. Did I spell it right?

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Griff Wigley – 05:36pm Feb 16, 2002 CDT (#3 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Jim, good to have you here… your first online forum as a city councilperson. What a treat, eh? ;-)

Yes, you got the spelling correct for gerrymandering, and in case anyone wants a refresher, here’s a link that should do the job: gerrymandering

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Keith Covey – 06:32pm Feb 16, 2002 CDT (#4 of 44)

Northfield Mayor

Introduction

I’ve been on the council about 14 months — this time; also served on the planning commission for a year and as mayor for three years in the mid-1970′s. This is my first direct experience with redistricting.

I think the process of redistricting our wards to rebalance local population and shift from three to four wards has gone well so far. We (the City Council) started by developing and prioritizing our objectives, then directing staff to prepare a plan for consideration. The Northfield League of Women Voters’ contribution of an alternate plan is important to the process because it shows that there’s more than one way to do it that meets all legal requirements and most other objectives. Next time, I’ll suggest why citizens should be concerned about this topic.

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Hilary Ziols – 08:38pm Feb 16, 2002 CDT (#5 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

Introduction

First of all, thank you, Griff, for the invitation to participate in this forum.

I am relatively new to Northfield, having moved here in 1994. One of the first people I met here, through kindergarten soccer, introduced me to League of Women Voters (LWV). This year I am vice-president of the Northfield League, and chair of its Task Force on Redistricting, which consists of 8 other LWV members.

I was inspired to get involved in redistricting by the realization that the extent to which one vote “counts” as much as the next one depends upon a fair system of voting districts. For example, in partisan politics, a district might be constructed so that one party clearly dominates, and another party has little chance to advance its candidate. Another example is that one vote could come to “count” as less than one vote if it is from a district the population of which grows much more than that of another district within 10 years.

I have had no previous experience with redistricting, and am embarrassed to say that before April, 2001 I was only remotely aware of the process.

Scott Neal, Karl Huber, and the City Council have been extremely helpful in providing time for the League to present its ideas about redistricting. I consider the city to have just begun the process of implementing a new plan. Cities are redistricted before counties because they are so important in establishing fair county districts. To my knowledge, the city council has not addressed the implications of any city plan with regard to the county districts. I believe that this is a crucial part of the process in ensuring fair representation of Northfield voters within Rice County.

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Griff Wigley – 11:50am Feb 17, 2002 CDT (#6 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Greetings, Keith and Hilary, thanks for the introductions. Good to know that we’re all rookies when it comes to firsthand experience with redistricting… although I think when Scott Neal gets here, he’ll weigh in with some background with it from his Iowa days.

Keith wrote:

The Northfield League of Women Voters’ contribution of an alternate plan is important to the process because it shows that there’s more than one way to do it that meets all legal requirements and most other objectives

I’d agree, Keith. So Hilary, kudos to you and your 8 other Task Force members for putting the alternative plan together. It makes the whole discussion much more helpful and interesting.

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Griff Wigley – 12:03pm Feb 17, 2002 CDT (#7 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Redistricting principles

Last fall, the city Council established the following principles for the city staff to consider when drafting a specific redistricting plan. I pulled these from an article in the Nfld News; they differ only slightly from those listed in Scott Neal’s Memorandum #2001-237 dated October 30, 2001.

Were these principles prioritized by the Council? Which have played a particularly important role in how the City staff shaped its plan vs. how the League of Women Voters shaped its plan?

The plan shall comply with the City’s Charter, and all applicable state and federal laws.

The plan shall change the ward affiliation of as few people as feasible to accomplish the end result of changing the city’s number of wards from three to four.

The plan shall comply with the redistricting rules and guidelines as developed by the MN Secretary of State’s office.

The plan shall identify two polling places in each ward.

The plan shall attempt to balance the socio-economic status of the composition of the four wards.

The plan’s ward boundaries shall not attempt to unnecessarily divide defined communities of interest

The plan’s precinct boundaries shall be constructed to consider the city’s representation interests on the Rice County Board of Commissioners.

The plan shall accommodate growth areas based on the city’s comprehensive plan.

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Griff Wigley – 12:09pm Feb 17, 2002 CDT (#8 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Open for discussion, questions, comments

Normally I’d wait for all our panelists to sign in, but since tomorrow’s a holiday and since this forum is only due to continue through Friday, I’d like to open things up to anyone for questions and comments. I expect our City Administrator, Scott Neal, to join us on Tuesday. In the meantime, the heck with him! ;-)

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Peter Hamlin – 01:09pm Feb 17, 2002 CDT (#9 of 44)

Nature & Environment Host

I think an important principle that is not explicitly stated above is:

The plan should create voting places that are reasonably convenient for all residents of each ward and precinct.

I live in a very odd shaped appendage to my ward, and have to vote at the community center way across town on Jefferson. I pass at least two more convenient polling places on the way there. I hope this changes in the new plan. Voting shouldn’t be unnecessarily inconvenient.

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Jim Pokorney – 09:31am Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#10 of 44)

Northfield City Council member, Ward 1

More on polling places

I agree with Peter Hamlin’s concern with regard to polling places. District lines may be important, but I would argue that polling locations and ease of access may be more important. For instance, in Ward 1, if you live in Viking Terrance, you vote at the Public Library! I live across the street from the library and I vote at City Hall. Let’s not forget that polling locations are an important element of the redistricting process.

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Molly Woehrlin – 10:32am Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#11 of 44)

Natural & understandable boundaries are important

I’m Molly Woehrlin, a member of the LWV redistricting committee. The two plans, the city plan and the LWV plan are really not that different, but they are small differences, which can seem important and this discussion is a vehicle for pointing out some issues.

The one I’d like to stress now is the attempt to make a district compact, as the law requires. In doing so, the League tried also to follow geographic lines–thus we took the river very seriously as a divider and when we had to spill out across the river to balance the population (district 3 crosses the river to the east) we included a neighborhood easily accessible by the highway 3 bridge. Our river really divides the city in terms of transportation and sense of neighborhood–there are few places to cross without waders!

We also tried to use main thoroughfares as the edges of districts–such as Woodley and Summer and Division St on the East side and St. Olaf Ave., Lincoln St.and Cedar Avenue on the west side. As a former campaigner for public office, I know how very helpful that is — for explaining to people what your district includes, but more importantly, it is very important for citizens to be able to read a map easily to see what ward they’re in, describe to friends–and to remember it!

There is good reason that “compactness” has long been a criteria–since gerrymandering produced such odd, weird shapes over the decades–sort of like rorschach tests—nothing to do with “communities of interest”–which I hope we’ll all also discuss.

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Griff Wigley – 10:51am Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#12 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Polling places

Can someone fill us in on where the two polling places for each ward would be, both for the City plan and for the LWV plan?

It would be great to have those polling places indicated on the maps. Fresh maps! We need fresh maps!

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Griff Wigley – 11:06am Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#13 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

re: Natural & understandable boundaries

Hi Molly, thanks for joining us.

I see the old “Southwest neighborhood” (roughly the area between Petricka’s and Woodley and Water St.) is a bit of an appendage for Ward 3 on the LWV map. Is there a reason that you didn’t include it in Ward 1 or 2, since it’s south and east of both the river and Hwy 3?

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jbm – 12:23pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#14 of 44)

Ward representation

I’m curious to know whether those of us who live in current Ward 3 will have a new council person if the city’s plan is adopted? And in any case, when will a Ward 4 council person be elected?

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jbm – 12:27pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#15 of 44)

re: Guidelines

Could someone give a “quick and dirty” listing of the guidelines or parameters the statute requires in drawing city maps?

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Griff Wigley – 03:59pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#16 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Jane, welcome to the discussion… great questions!

Can the panelists take a crack at them?

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Hilary Ziols – 08:17pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#17 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

polling places

In Griff Wigley 2/18/02 10:51am, you asked for LWV’s ideas of polling places. We hand-drew a map with posible precincts, and established (est.) and possible (poss.) polling places for each precinct.This is truly Karl Huber’s jurisdiction, but we had some ideas: In the LWV plan,these polling places might work:

Ward 1: library (est.), City hall(est.)

Ward 2: United Methodist church(est), NCRC(est.)

Ward 3:Emmaus church (est), Bethel church(est)

Ward 4: St. Olaf campus (poss.),St. John’s church (poss.),St. Dominic’s church (poss.),Masonic Lodge (poss.)

Precincts should be drawn with possible polling places in mind.And one can cross over a ward boundary to establish a precinct for an adjacent precinct. For eample, the NCRC could be a polling place for the City’s ward 4, even though the NCRC is in ward 2.

The most problematic spot re:polling places, as I see it, is in both plans’ ward 4. I would strongly encourage research into a possible site at St. Olaf, otherwise the problem of students getting transportation to Bethel church will not have been solved while we have an opportunity to solve it.

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Hilary Ziols – 08:44pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#18 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

election questions

In Griff Wigley 2/17/02 12:03pm you asked

I’m curious to know whether those of us who live in current Ward 3 will have a new council person if the city’s plan is adopted? And in any case, when will a Ward 4 council person be elected?

Marie Jensen did this research for us:

MN Statutes Section 205.84 Subdiv 1 says: “…Each council member shall be a resident of the ward for which elected, but a change in ward boundaries does not disqualify a council member from serving for the remainder of a term.”

Northfield’s City Charter Section 3.3 says:”…To establish an orderly transition to a four-ward system and four-year terms of office, the city council may by ordinance adopt whatever measures may be necessary or advisable, including shortening or lengthening terms of office, so long as such measures do not conflict with state law…”

So basically, the council will have to eastablish by ordinance how this will all work out.

Another way to answer the question is this:

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but assuming these are the current terms:

Mayor-Covey term expires end of ’04

Ward 1- Pokorney term expires end of ’02

Ward 2- Graham term expires end of ’04

Ward 3- Linstroth term expires end of ’04

At-Large- Bond term expires end of ’02

At-Large- Malecha term expires end of ’02

At-Large- Vohs term expires end of ’04

It’s posible that in November ’02 we will elect

Ward 1,Ward 4( new ward), and At-Large (1 seat)

And in Nov. ’04 we will elect

Mayor,Ward 2, Ward 3, At-Large (1 seat)

Are we having fun yet?

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Hilary Ziols – 09:20pm Feb 18, 2002 CDT (#19 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

no such thing as quick and dirty

Could someone give a “quick and dirty” listing of the guidelines or parameters the statute requires in drawing city maps?

There are many statutes, and you probably already know how to find them at:

http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/statutes.htm

The quick and dirty list of 1st priority statutes includes the following:

205.84 Redistricting; cities with wards.

Subdivision 1. General provisions. In a city electing council members by wards, wards shall be as equal in population as practicable and each ward shall be composed of compact, contiguous territory. Each council member shall be a resident of the ward for which elected, but a change in ward boundaries does not disqualify a council member from serving for the remainder of a term.

204B.14 Election precincts.

Subd. 6. Precinct boundaries to follow physical features. (a) Unless a precinct consists entirely of unorganized territory or more than one precinct is entirely included within one census block, for the first two years following a decennial census an election precinct boundary must follow a census block line.

(b) The boundaries of election precincts must follow visible, clearly recognizable physical features…

(c) For the purposes of this subdivision, “visible, clearly recognizable physical feature” means a street, road, boulevard, parkway, river, stream, shoreline, drainage ditch, railway right-of-way, or any other line which is clearly visible from the ground. A street or other roadway which has been platted but not graded is not a visible, clearly recognizable physical feature for the purposes of this subdivision.

Laws regarding polling places also apply. They are found in 204B.16, and specify location, prohibition of locating where liquor is served, handicapped accessibility, among other things. For example:

204B.16 Polling places; designation.

Subdivision 1. Authority; location. The governing body of each municipality and of each county with precincts in unorganized territory shall designate by ordinance or resolution a polling place for each election precinct. Polling places must be designated and ballots must be distributed so that no one is required to go to more than one polling place to vote in a school district and municipal election held on the same day. The polling place for a precinct in a city or in a school district located in whole or in part in the metropolitan area defined by section 473.121 shall be located within the boundaries of the precinct or within 3,000 feet of one of those boundaries unless a single polling place is designated for a city pursuant to section 204B.14, subdivision 2…

For more fun, there are also Minnesota Rules that apply to redist.,and Attorney Generals’ opinions dating back to 1922, at least.

Now for the principles!

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ChrisR – 10:15am Feb 19, 2002 CDT (#20 of 44)

Chris Robbins, Nature & Environment Host

LWV map

Griff asked in message 13 why the League map has an appendage of Ward 3 (St. Olaf area )that crosses the river and goes over by Petricka’s market. We would have liked to have 2 wards on the west side and 2 on the east side, but there are more people on the east side of the river, so we had to make a ward cross somewhere. We made the crossing where there are bridges and the neighborhoods are fairly similar. Other choices would have been to pick up some blocks around Carleton and add them to the ward up by Viking Terrace, or to pick up some blocks around Target and add them to Ward 3. We didn’t like either of those alternatives.

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Hilary Ziols – 08:20pm Feb 19, 2002 CDT (#21 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

Principles and Guidelines

The LWV Task Force on Redistricting drew up a list of principles to guide our evaluation of various plans.There seemed to be a tradition of doing this, at least at the legislative level, and we read an article written by Peter Wattson, MN Senate Counsel, entitled “How to Draw Redistricting Plans that will Stand up in Court”. This helpful document can be found at

http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/departments/scr/REDIST/Draw/Draw992web.htm

We also were referred to Senate File 1326 which is a joint resolution relating to redistricting; establishing districting principles for legislative and congressional plans. Online, you may find this at:

http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/unoff/house/ue/ue1326.1.html

A third source for our principles was that created by Gov. Ventura’s Commission on Redist., but I can’t find that just now.

We arrived at the following list of principles, which is in priority order:

1. Redistricting shall meet all state and federal statutory standards.

2. Districts shall be as equal in population as possible. Consideration should be given to recognizing areas of emerging future growth.

3. Districts shall be as contiguous and compact as possible.

4. Districts shall preserve identifiable communities of interest. Examples of communities of interest are: racial and ethnic minority communities, towns, neighborhoods, school districts, college communties, predominant economic activity, commuting and communication areas, and the lake district of southwest Rice County

5. Districts shall promote political competitiveness to the extent possible, to give non-incumbent candidates a reasonable opportunity to be elected.

It’s easy to see that the first sentence of #2 and #3 are contained in #1. We just wanted to be clear about those main requirements of the law. In retrospect, I would like to have added something about facilitating voting by using clearly identifiable boundaries, and providing convenient polling places as much as is “practicable”, because I am coming to see the really practical points that affect fair voter representation, which is the heart of redistricting, after all.

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Leota – 08:58pm Feb 19, 2002 CDT (#22 of 44)

Can someone comment on the merits of the city staff proposed plan as the WV proposed plan? I can see that the WV plan appears to be somewhat more “compact” from the map. And someone from WV said something about better representing communities of interest. Could someone from the city point out the merits of that plan? Also could someone comment on how either or both plans take into account future estimated growth? A lot can happen in 10 years. Thanks.

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jbm – 10:55pm Feb 19, 2002 CDT (#23 of 44)

Ward System

Thanks to Marie Jensen for her customary thorough research!

While it isn’t strictly a redistricting issue, I wonder if anyone else sees the problems I see in the ward system. In addition to factionalizing the city – exacerbating the tendency to think of issues as local rather than community ones (sidewalks or traffic studies, for example), the ward system creates problems when the city is redistricted and there are changes in the groups represented by incumbents.

I assume it would take a change in the charter to eliminate them.

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Griff Wigley – 11:24am Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#24 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Chris R wrote:

We would have liked to have 2 wards on the west side and 2 on the east side, but there are more people on the east side of the river, so we had to make a ward cross somewhere.

Chris, at last night’s public hearing before the council meeting, Dixon Bond wondered (I’m paraphrasing) if it’s all that big of a deal if wards end up a little unbalanced population-wise, as long as we’re trying to gain a greater good by having them more compact/contiguous/neighborhood-focused.

Wouldn’t the Petricka’s neighborhood be better served if it was in Ward 1 or Ward 2 of the LWV proposal?

Full disclosure: I live in that appendage area!

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Griff Wigley – 11:45am Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#25 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Leota wrote:

Also could someone comment on how either or both plans take into account future estimated growth? A lot can happen in 10 years.

At last night’s meeting, Leota, Scott Neal detailed that there are current or proposed housing developments in each of the four wards of the city staff plan: Mayflower SE for Ward 1; south Prairie in Ward 2; Target area in Ward 3; and North and Cedar Ave areas in Ward 4.

I don’t think this address was addressed with specificity for the LWV plan but it would appear that those growth areas are similar for all but Ward 3.

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Griff Wigley – 12:05pm Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#26 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Communities of interest

Hilary posted the LWV’s prioritizing of principles, and communities of interest was #4 of 5.

4. Districts shall preserve identifiable communities of interest. Examples of communities of interest are: racial and ethnic minority communities, towns, neighborhoods, school districts, college communties, predominant economic activity, commuting and communication areas, and the lake district of southwest Rice County

Let’s have some discussion about the communities of interest implicit in both the LWV and city staff plans.

Q: Other than St. Olaf in Ward 3, I’m not sure I can identify communities of interest in the city staff plan. Can someone help out here?

Last night, Molly Woehrlin made the point that those neighborhoods with the grid street system & sidewalks were a community of interest, hence Ward 1 and Ward 3 of the LWV plan; and those neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs and similar layouts without many sidewalks constituted a community of interest, hence Ward 2 and 4 of the LWV plan.

Q: Does everyone agree that this makes for a good/helpful division of community of interest?

Q: Also, there was an argument that the trailer court neighborhoods on the north side of town were a community of interest and more appropriately placed within the Greenvale area Ward than the downtown/Carelton area Ward. Everyone agree with that?

Q: Is downtown a community of interest that should not be split as it is in the city staff plan?

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Griff Wigley – 12:12pm Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#27 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Why have Wards at all?

Jane McWilliams wrote:

While it isn’t strictly a redistricting issue, I wonder if anyone else sees the problems I see in the ward system. In addition to factionalizing the city – exacerbating the tendency to think of issues as local rather than community ones (sidewalks or traffic studies, for example), the ward system creates problems when the city is redistricted and there are changes in the groups represented by incumbents.

There was some talk about this last night, Jane. One or two people spoke of the benefits of having a council representative for their area, eg, developing a relationship with that member so as to be comfortable calling them, having the member more closely identify with the problems of the Ward since they live there, etc.

Anyone know what percentage of cities our size have the Ward system vs. a completely at-large system?

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Scott Neal – 10:34pm Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#28 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

Greetings

I’m here. My name is Scott Neal. I serve as Northfield’s City Administrator. This is my second stab at redistricting. I did it in 1991-92 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa where I worked as City Administrator before coming to Northfield.

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Scott Neal – 10:45pm Feb 20, 2002 CDT (#29 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

Communities of Interest

Defining “communities of interest” is a slippery topic. I’ve asked lots of people, both elected officials and regular people, and I’ve not heard a consensus yet on what Northfield’s communities of interest are, with maybe two exceptions.

I believe a case can be made for calling a students a community of interest. I also believe a case can be made for calling several census blocks with high hispanic populations as a community of interest.

Some of tried to make the case that people that live in old homes ought to be considered as a community of interest. Or, that people who have sidewalks ought to be a community of interest. Or, that people who live on grid-based streets ought to be a community of interest. I don’t believe any of these criteria qualify as a bona fide community of interest.

Stretching the definition of “communities of interest” is a political strategy used by groups in the redistricting process to achieve some sort of objective they feel is beneficial to their own cause. Both political parties do it all the time. I think that we are best served locally by a politically strict interpretation of “commuity of interest”.

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Scott Neal – 06:24am Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#30 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

City Staff Plan

I mentioned this at the special public hearing on February 19th, but I think it bears repeating. One of the key driving forces behind the shapes of the wards in the City Staff’s redistricting plan is the Council’s guiding principle that all four wards should have a growth fringe so that anticipated urban growth would occur in all four wards.

The Council understand that at the end of ten years the wards will be out of balance. The Council understand that we’ll be doing this again in ten years to bring the wards back into balance. It’s the intervening years between now and 2012 that the Council was concerned about when it approved this redistricting principle.

On this particular principle, I would argue that the City staff plan is superior to the LWV’s plan. In other aspects of redistricting, the LWV’s plan is superior to the City staff’s plan. In particular, I think their plan creates more compact wards than the staff’s plan.

But for the criteria of spreading future urban growth to all four new wards, I believe the staff’s plan is better. In each of the four wards of the City staff’s plan, there is a proposed urban growth project that has already been approved by the Council, or is likely to be approved this spring.

By contrast, the LWV’s proposal allocates a large percentage of the City’s highest anticipated population growth area to one ward. Another ward in their plan was no bona fide growth area at all, at least in the next ten years or so.

This principle, which was debated and adopted by the COuncil in November 2001, is not not an obligatory redistricting principle required by state and federal law. The Council suggested it and they have the discretion to use it as a guideline in their deliberations. While this principle was a driving force for the City staff in preparing its plan, it has not forced us to create a plan that is improper, illegal, or inconsistent with redistricting law.

I believe the LWV’s plan meets all appropriate redistricting legal threshholds. I believe the City staff plan does as well.

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Bruce Morlan – 09:33am Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#31 of 44)

Why geographic?

LWV suggests that “Districts shall preserve identifiable communities of interest.”

It seems to me that requiring districts to conform to geography is a bit like requiring automobiles to be preceeded by a man on foot with flags and lights to warn the horses that a car is coming – your basic anachronism. Couldn’t a ward be defined in some other way – e.g., students, without trying to isolate them geographically?

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Griff Wigley – 10:51am Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#32 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Greetings, Scott… glad you could make it here. And my apologies for the technical glitch that prevents you and other city hall staffers from getting to the Web Cafe from the city’s network. I appreciate your willingness to sign on from home.

Can others comment on Scott’s points about A) communities of interest; and B) the growth fringe principle?

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Griff Wigley – 10:58am Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#33 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Bruce wrote:

It seems to me that requiring districts to conform to geography…

Bruce, there was some discussion about geography at Tuesday night’s meeting. One point made was that the act of voting is still based on people showing up physically at a geographic location.

True, that might change in another 10 years with voting by mail or phone or online, but for now, geography is still a very big factor when voting.

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Molly Woehrlin – 06:14pm Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#34 of 44)

More on growth fringe

I think it has to again be reiterated, that while it’s not illegal to take further growth into consideration, the laws focus on equality, using the 2000 census figures. Let’s also remember that we don’t know what will happen to the economy in the next 10 years, just because areas are platted now, it is a consumer driven market as to where houses will actually be built.

Scott implies that the LWV plan does not have a growth edge to the west, in ward three. That assumes that there will be no development in the Heath Creek area because there is an annexation agreement between Bridgewater and Northfield–who says that agreement can’t be changed at any time? There has been a developer very interested in that area recently to the extent that he got the city to pay for half of a study on feasibility of having another golf course (which were in his plans). (Personally, I hope there won’t be development in that area of natural beauty for some time or never!!!)

Also, on the northwest where the new hospital is going in–it’s only now through a quirk that there is not a contiguous area that belongs to the city. As I understand what Scott explained to the LWV, there is a piece of St. Olaf land and some houses on the west side Cedar Ave between the present city limits and North Ave that might not ever be annexed, making contiguity impossible–but who knows what will happen out there in the future?

I think the discussion about “allowing for growth” vs. sticking closer to the “equality now” illustrates the kind of trade offs that the council will have to decide when they finally vote the ward boundaries.

Some of the trade offs are: (in addition to the above issue) compactness vs “making the numbers work”; relative importance of “neighborhoods” and what is the purpose of having wards at all? I’ve talked to charter commission members who think the point of wards is to have a sense of neighborhood in each ward that potentially share common issues — not just to divide the city into a mathematical division.

Contiguous doesn’t seem to be a big problem–but contiguity in a color block on the map may be very different from functional contiguity i.e. how people get around on foot and the closeness they actually feel to the rest of their ward.

It’s an interesting and exciting challenge for the city council!!

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Hilary Ziols – 08:04pm Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#35 of 44)

Northfield League of Women Voters

Communities of interest

Scott is right, communities of interest are a slippery issue because they are difficult to define.

The LWV has been careful to emphasize communities of interest which can be documented with census data: college students, racial and ethnic minorities. But “neighborhood” often appears on lists created by other “redistricting task forces”, and should not be dismissed as simply a means of promoting a cause

Maybe one could put it this way: What interest would you like your ward councilperson to represent for you on the council? Is it possible that your neighbors would have the same interests? If so, then perhaps, you are part of a community of interest. What is needed is for people to express what they consider to be their community of interest, and back that claim up somehow.

If you want to read further, I’ll provide some background for LWV’s decision to include preserving communities of interest, including neighborhoods, in our principles….

The point I’d like to make is that if the Supreme Court and the state legislature can invoke communities of interest as a redistricting principle, it’s valid. And it’s not just a way to promote a cause. It relates to fair and equal voter representation.

Peter Wattson, said in his “How to draw redistricting plans…” that courts “who are called upon to draw redistricting plans when legislatures do not, often have adopted criteria for the parties to follow in submitting proposed plans to the court….These criteria often have included:

-districts must be composed of contiguous territory…(case law is referenced here)

-districts must be compact…

-districts should attempt to preserve communities of interest…

The Supreme Court has begun to refer to these criteria (including respecting the boundaries of political subdivsions) as ‘traditional districting principles’”….

Larry Pogemiller, author of SF 1326 which was a resolution establishing districting principles for the state, included preserving identifiable comunities of interest. He defined a community of interest as “a recognizable area with similarities of interests, including, but not limited to, racial, ethnic, geographic, local governmental, social, cultural, or historic interests, as well as commonality of communications.”

Governor Ventura’s Redistricting Advisory Commission, the minutes of which are found at http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/redistricting/meetings.htm also included communities of interest in their “standards for the development of redistricting plans.” That commission agreed to the following definition of communities of interest (March 21st minutes):

“…a geographically compact area easily identifiable and understandable to voters whose residents share clearly recognizable interests. Communities of interest would include, but not be limited to: 1) areas in which members of the groups defined in section 2 of the Voting Rights Act reside; 2) counties, municipalities, and school districts; 3) urban neighborhoods; 4) areas in which there is a predominant economic activity; and 5) other areas with residents having a clearly recognizable and cohesive social identity.”

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Keith Covey – 09:55pm Feb 21, 2002 CDT (#36 of 44)

Northfield Mayor

Some random reactions and thoughts

This is a really vigorous and informed exchange. Thanks especially to Griff for keeping it moving with his observations, investigation and questions, and also to panelists and other participants. Based on what’s gone before, I don’t think I need to address why people should be interested in this subject.

It’s important to understand the strongest influences on those who prepared the plans: Both plans meet basic legal and policy requirements. The city staff plan stresses anticipating growth so wards will remain as equal as possible in population over the 10 years. The LWV plan, focuses on encouraging voter participation by creating compact, identifiable neighborhoods and proximity to voting places.

I join Jane McWilliams in having reservations about the desirability of wards. They can create trivial and unnecessary parochial interests. Having said that, I think some geographic distribution is important, because important neighborhood issues do arise. Wards require council membership from all geographic areas of the community. Currently, 4 members live in 2nd ward, 2 in 3rd and 1 in 1st. If we had no wards, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a whole council living on one side of town.

An issue that hasn’t been discussed here is that — apparently accidentally — the staff plan accommodates incumbents and the LWV plan does not. Galen Malecha lives in the proposed 4th ward and his seat comes up for re-election this year. Dixon Bond’s seat could then remain at large. Jim Pokorney, Dana Graham and CC Linstroth would continue living in their current wards. There’s actually nothing wrong with that, since it didn’t require “gerrymandering”. Council objectives say nothing about this and the LWV’s would encourage new candidates by NOT intentionally favoring incumbents. I’m increasingly going back to my “good gov’t” roots to encourage VOTER participation by optimizing voter convenience and letting the rest of the chips fall where they may. What do you folks think?

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Griff Wigley – 04:58pm Feb 22, 2002 CDT (#37 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Thanks, Hilary, for posting that background piece. Very helpful.

Scott wrote:

I believe a case can be made for calling a students a community of interest. I also believe a case can be made for calling several census blocks with high hispanic populations as a community of interest.

Do others agree with Scott on these two? And are they fairly represented by both city staff and LWV plans?

gov’s commission: 4) areas in which there is a predominant economic activity;

Does downtown Northfield qualify?

gov’s commission: 5) other areas with residents having a clearly recognizable and cohesive social identity

Do the “grid street/sidewalk” neighborhoods qualify? How about the more suburban style, cul-de-dac neighborhoods?

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Griff Wigley – 05:03pm Feb 22, 2002 CDT (#38 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Keith wrote:

I’m increasingly going back to my “good gov’t” roots to encourage VOTER participation by optimizing voter convenience and letting the rest of the chips fall where they may.

Keith, I’m assuming that means you’re leaning more towards the LWV plan. Correct me if I’m wrong!

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Griff Wigley – 05:19pm Feb 22, 2002 CDT (#39 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Molly wrote:

Contiguous doesn’t seem to be a big problem–but contiguity in a color block on the map may be very different from functional contiguity i.e. how people get around on foot and the closeness they actually feel to the rest of their ward.

Yep, which is why here in the “Petricka’s neighborhood” I’d venture that very few us “feel closeness” to the rest of the LWV proposed Ward 3 west of Hwy 3.

And which is why the Viking Terrace neighborhood and the Hispanic population on the north side of town would seem to have very little in common with the rest of the City staff proposed Ward 1 (downtown, Carleton, Mayflower Hill).

Anyone particularly agree or disagree with those examples? Are there others?

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Scott Neal – 08:12pm Feb 22, 2002 CDT (#40 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

Contiguity

I agree heartily with Molly’s statement that contiguity on a map maight be quite different than contiguity in the field. Well said. Unfortuately, I think we will be measured more by the map contiguity than by any other form.

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Scott Neal – 08:19pm Feb 22, 2002 CDT (#41 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

Diversity

One of the COuncil’s other adopted principles for redistricting had to do with creating a balance of socio-economic stats among the residents of each of the four new wards. The LWV has challneged the City on this one, and appropriately so. We have very little data upon which to base findings of socio-economic status among the inhabitants of any ward, current or proposed.

That being said, I think it is also true that we can make some reasonable judgements and estimates for how this principle might be carried out in the redistricting process. I think what the Council was getting at was that they did not want all the rich people in one ward all the poor people in another and all the middle class people in the other two. That is an over-simplification. But I think that was the underlying desire when this principle was created.

So, when you look at the wards in the staff recommendation, you will see wards that attempt to balance the socio-economic status of neighborhoods in the wards. That’s why there is a proposed 1st Ward with Viking Terrace, the Carleton neighborhoods, and Mayflower Hill all together. You can see similar dynamics working in the wards 2 2 and 3. Ward 4 doesn’t follow this pattern well because of the number of St. Olaf students.

THis principle was not one of the primary criteria used to create the wards. The data is circumstantial, unscientific and ancedotal, but I would say that our estimates of socio-economic status among neighborhoods are not unreasonable.

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Keith Covey – 05:25pm Feb 23, 2002 CDT (#42 of 44)

Northfield Mayor

One Last Comment

Griff asked (#38): Keith, I’m assuming that means you’re leaning more towards the LWV plan. Correct me if I’m wrong!

In the abstract, I was referring to focusing on accommodating voters rather than going out of our way to accommodate–or NOT acccommodate– incumbents. Practically, I am leaning toward the LWV concept, if not the specific plan, because I think it better addresses logical neighborhoods and their boundaries. Census data on the location of “minority” populations and the concentration of college dorms may be the only objective basis for identifying communities of interest, but where you live in town is a second level of that concept that–all other things being nearly equal–should be recognized. One of the good things about Northfield is that there’s quite a mix of housing values, meaning there will be a mix of socio-economic status in either plan.

As for map contiguity versus real contiguity (Scott and Molly’s comments above), I’d argue for working harder at real contiguity. Before making decisions, we should tour the city to verify logical boundaries. For example, Sumner looks like a logical boundary on the map, but when you go out there, Ames St. appears to be stronger.

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Scott Neal – 06:10am Feb 25, 2002 CDT (#43 of 44)

Northfield City Administrator

Thanks

Once again, Griff. Thanks for hosting this forum. My participation was limited due to some tech glitches at work, but I still learned from the forum, and enjoyed it too.

Thanks again.

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Griff Wigley – 10:05am Feb 26, 2002 CDT (#44 of 44)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

You’re welcome, Scott.

Kudos to all the panelists for their substantive participation here: Keith, Scott, Hilary, and Jim.

And to our participating citizens, too.

On Saturday, March 2, reporter Soren Erickson from the Northfield News will do a story about the City Council’s work session discussion tonight about redestricting. Accompanying that piece will be selected comments from this forum.

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