Three Old Southwest neighborhood associations join rising chorus opposing so-called "gerrymander plans"
COLUMBIA, 7/31/11 (Beat Byte) -- Three 4th Ward neighborhood associations have spoken out against a city Ward reapportionment plan that would place much of Columbia's Old Southwest -- as well as the Benton-Stephens neighborhood -- into the First Ward.
The Quarry Heights Home Owners Association, the Westmount Neighborhood Association, and the Historic Old Southwest Neighborhood Association all oppose Plan D, which would take the Old Southwest Neighborhood out of the Fourth Ward AND the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood out of the Third Ward and put them BOTH into the First Ward.
"Members of the Westmount Neighborhood Association (WNA) want to go on record that we oppose Plan D," WNA chairperson Catherine Doyle wrote Ward Reapportionment Committee (WRC) and Columbia City Council members in a July 26 letter.
Historic Old Southwest Neighborhood Association (HOSWNA) president Hank Ottinger also panned Plan D. "A rough canvas of our membership concludes that the majority, virtually everyone I spoke with, opposes Plan D," Ottinger wrote Council and WRC members July 28. "Truthfully, until Plan D raised its head -- rather at the 11th hour, I might add -- I think most folks in HOSWNA weren't paying all that much attention to the redistricting issue."
"The Quarry Heights Home Owners Association (QHHOA) is pulling together a response from our association, supporting the views of Westmount and Old Southwest neighborhood associations," said QHHOA secretary Jane Murfett.
Earlier this month, the Benton Stephens Neighborhood Association spoke against Plan A, which would place their neighborhood into the First Ward. Both Plans A and D have been widely criticized as blatant moves by Columbia's Chamber-of-Commerce lobby to "gerrymander" politically-progressive, high voter-turnout neighborhoods. By placing several of them into a single Ward, critics argue, the so-called "gerrymander plans" would reduce Council representation by at least two votes.
Both Plans A and D have been widely criticized as blatant moves by Columbia's Chamber-of-Commerce
lobby to "gerrymander" politically-progressive, high voter-turnout neighborhoods.
In light of the latest census figures, Columbia's Ward Reapportionment Committee (WRC) is presently considering three plans. In addition to Plan D, Plan A would take the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood out of the Third Ward and put it into the First Ward. Plan B would add a northern section of Columbia's Second Ward to the First Ward.
Among concerns the Old Southwest neighborhood associations share: Plan D's last-minute appearance, the brainchild of Columbia resident and WRC member Rob Monsees, the controversial former Deputy Chief of Staff for Republican Missouri Governor Matt Blunt.
"Mr. Monsees presented Plan D to the Committee on July 12, 2011 and the public was generally made aware of this option on July 13, 2011, merely one day before the public hearing on July 14, 2011," Doyle wrote. "The last minute inclusion of Plan D left little time for those affected by Plan D to create a formal response."
Political considerations and voter participation concerns earlier expressed by WRC member Michelle Gadbois and the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association are also at issue.
"The portion of the Fourth Ward outlined in Plan D that would move to the First Ward includes precincts with some of the highest voter registration and turnout numbers in the City of Columbia," Doyle noted. "The First Ward, historically, has had much lower voter registration and voter turnout numbers. One concern stated repeatedly by those at our WNA meeting was that this discrepancy would effectively lead to the disenfranchisement of those constituents currently residing in the First Ward."
Plan B is the apparent favorite of the Old Southwest associations at this early point. "It appropriately addresses the principles outlined by the Council, which include equalizing the population in each Ward (roughly 18,000 constituents), and it ensures that Wards will remain politically competitive to maintain a balance on the City Council necessary to keep Columbia a vibrant city," Doyle concluded.