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Wichita leaders get first look at proposed changes to council districts

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012, at 7:53 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, at 7:11 a.m.

Proposed Wichita City Council districts

A citizen panel had to design districts that each had roughly one-sixth of the city’s population, or 63,728 residents. The districts and their proposed populations:

District 1: 61,927

District 2: 60,630

District 3: 65,553

District 4: 64,646

District 5: 63,169

District 6: 65,461

Source: City of Wichita

There weren’t any final decisions Tuesday on a citizen panel’s proposal to redraw Wichita’s six council districts.

But if the tone of City Council discussion is any indication, the map is going to be tweaked by the politicians before final approval later this year.

The council spent about a half-hour sorting through a new redistricting map, proposed by a seven-member citizen panel appointed by council members.

The significant shifting of district populations to balance them out drew council criticism. The panel adjusted district balances to meet city ordinances that require that approximately one-sixth of the city’s total population — or 63,728 people, based on the 2010 Census — be allocated within each district, with no district deviating more than 5 percent from that number.

Tuesday’s review was the first council look at the proposed map. The council may amend the map but must approve a new set of district boundaries by the end of the year.

Council member Pete Meitzner complained that his district’s loss of 3,000 people was too much, even with projected growth in northeast Wichita.

“I’m all for haircuts, but this is extreme,” he said.

“It’s because of the past growth that has happened,” said Misty Bruckner, who chaired the citizen panel. “We talked about District 2 and District 5, keeping them on the low end of the numbers, knowing about the population growth and getting out of compliance sooner.”

Council member Jeff Longwell said Vice Mayor Janet Miller’s District 6 doesn’t have enough room to accommodate likely growth north of K-96 on the northwest side.

“In the unincorporated area there are plans for significant building,” Longwell said. “On the north side of K-96, there is potential growth. Why not keep them more adjusted because of the potential for growth?

“Right now, we’re just looking at the numbers to get them into compliance,” Bruckner said.

“I just think maybe that number’s too high,” Longwell replied.

The proposed map adds almost 2,000 residents to James Clendenin’s southeast Wichita District 3. It adds almost 1,900 residents to Miller’s central-west District 6. It also adds a substantial chunk of west Wichita to council member Michael O’Donnell’s District 4, adding a little more than 1,000 new residents.

Meitzner’s District 2 lost almost 3,000 residents, and Lavonta Williams’ District 1 lost more than 1,600 residents under the redistricting plan.

The ordinance that mandated the redistricting also requires that “reasonably compact areas in each district are maintained” to avoid gerrymandering, said planning director John Schlegel. Election precincts set up by the Sedgwick County election commissioner also must be followed.

The issue of how Wichita will grow over the next decade also drew some comment. Some council members think O’Donnell’s District 4 in south and west Wichita is primed for growth around the airport.

But other districts, including Williams’, Clendenin’s and Miller’s are essentially landlocked and growth is expected to be minimal.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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