TruthToTell Mon, March 5@9AM: REDRAWING MINNEAPOLIS WARDS: Arranging the Power Bases - KFAI FM 90.3/106.7/KFAI.org
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Now that a state panel of judges has issued new district boundaries for our state and federal legislative offices after the decennial census has revealed the usual ten-year shifting of populations, it’s time for local governments to complete their redistricting of city council wards, school districts and county commissioner districts. In the case of Minneapolis, districts for the city’s separate Park Board must also be redrawn. The Minneapolis Charter requires it redistricting to occur in the first year ending in “2” following the Census. (Because its charter requires redistricting to occur in years ending in “1”, St. Paul’s Charter Commission completed its nominal redraw last year. Few changes in ward boundaries there.)
The Minneapolis redistricting process is a truly complex one from almost any perspective. Because that city is governed by a so-called Strong Council-Weak Mayor governance system (a subject for another day’s discussion), its 13 wards are powerful entities overseeing the political landscape which includes one of this nation’s most diverse populations, albeit mostly clustered in specific sets of neighborhoods. When combined with several other state and federal requirements such as ensuring that communities of interest and commonality be preserved, meeting the numbers requirement – i.e., 29,429 residents in each ward and 63,763 in each of the six park districts – makes redrawing the ward boundaries a dicey business.
(Readers and listeners and citizens can access ALL maps and detailed explanations about this critical process with which all will have to live for another ten years HERE.)(Watch our guests, Chair Barry Clegg and Adosh Unni explain process HERE.)
Needless to say (but we will), most of the communities of interest are ethnic in composition – and with a 10-year surge in East Africans (mostly Somali), Latinos, and Southeast Asians joining with African Americans and Native Americans to form such commonalities, keeping such communities together is a serious chore for the 25 members of the Redistricting Commission – a combination of the existing Charter Commission plus additional members appointed for this task.
Well-organized testimony from Latinos and East Africans, especially, has pushed the commission into considering some fairly major changes to the commission’s original draft ward maps. White folks on the fringes of the city have not shown up in great numbers and the wards thereof reflect both that and the minimal movement of their populations.
The point of all this is, of course, to increase representation of those groups both on the City Council and in public policy clout, the usual theory of strength in numbers operating here.
Two hearings were held in cramped quarters last Wednesday (North Side) and Thursday (South Side) where testimony from Somalis and Latinos came in goodly numbers, each schooled in what to say about the Commission’s draft map and offering alternatives to maintain common interest cohesion in their respective wards. The following day at a regular Commission meeting, new maps submitted by the chair and others tried to reconcile split neighborhoods and communities, especially on the South Side and up in the Harrison and North Loop communities.
Theories abound as to the advantage of so-called “packing” of like peoples in a single ward which, although likely more able to elect one from among their number but the possible limitation in representation to a single councilmember versus “cracking” – the deliberate splitting of like peoples into fragments where their political clout might be so diluted as to render them powerless, both in electing one of their own and in pushing the City Council (or Park Board) into policies favoring their interests. We’ll talk about those pressures. Clearly, most ethnic groups wish to stay together, and hang the competing theories.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI try to both make sense of this complex process with a few representative members of the Redistricting Commission and citizen activists advancing their maps and suggestions for population distribution.
TERRA COLE – Redistricting Commission Member and Candidate for State House of Representatives in a North Side Minneapolis district.
LYALL SCHWARZKOPF – Longtime Minneapolis Official – Charter/Redistricting Commissioner, Former Minneapolis City Coordinator; former State Representative; retired Chief of Staff to the Governor
MARIANO ESPINOZA – Former Executive Director, Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, Representing the Latino Community map activists
Submitted Maps (click on link)(Latest Commission plan to come):
55:55 minutes (51.19 MB)
Essentially through the early 1990s, new immigrants to Minnesota from East Africa were fairly few and far between. We enjoy the arriving cultures of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Oromia, Kenya and others. As political and military events exploded in Somalia, Minnesota became a destination for Somali men and women exiting the chaos that befell their home country, eventually enriching Minnesota’s culture, especially that of the core cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. In fact, in many circles, Somalis refer to Minneapolis as "Little Mogadishu." The burgeoning populations of Somali refugees here required major adjustments.
58:57 minutes (26.99 MB)