Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WARD GERRYMANDER? Reapportionment committee member disputes former Blunt chief plan

Popular former school board president worries Rob Monsees' Plan D could inhibit voting rights
COLUMBIA, 7/26/11  (Beat Byte) --  A city of Columbia Ward reapportionment plan crafted by former Matt Blunt deputy chief of staff Rob Monsees -- a Columbia resident and Ward Reapportionment Committee member -- may violate the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, said fellow committee member Michelle Gadbois (left), who rose to local prominence as a thoughtfully outspoken member and later president of the Columbia School Board. 
Plan D -- which is basically Plan A plus Columbia's Old Southwest neighborhood -- would combine the city's most liberal constituencies into a single Ward for City Council representation, and could dilute Black voting power in the First Ward.  At a July 14 public hearing, dozens of people protested Plan A for its similar effects
Explaining that she was "quite vocal against Monsees' plan" at a recent committee meeting, Gadbois told the Columbia Heart Beat that "by incorporating a large and active White voting block into a neighboring Ward where African Americans dominate in population," Monsees' plan -- otherwise known as "Plan D" -- could violate the famous civil rights-era law.  In raising her objections, Gadbois said she wanted to point to "something legal" that would dissuade other committee members from supporting the plan.   
Monsees -- once a controversial, high-ranking aide to one-term Republican Missouri governor Matt Blunt -- created Plan D as an alternative to Plans A and B (the committee abandoned a Plan C altogether).   Ostensibly designed to unite neighborhoods with common infrastructure complaints, Plan D is actually "Plan A, Plus," combining the 3rd Ward's Benton-Stephens and the 4th Ward's Old Southwest neighborhoods into the First Ward. 
Critics saw Plan A as robbing progressives of one Council seat.  Plan D, they say, would rob them of two seats
Though Benton-Stephens residents were well-prepared to pan Plan A, "Old Southwest neighborhoods did not seem aware of what may happen to them with Plan D," Gadbois explained. 

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