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Minneapolis approves new city ward map

Posted by: Maya Rao under Politics and government Updated: March 27, 2012 - 6:08 PM
The Minneapolis Charter Commission approved new ward boundaries Tuesday afternoon that will influence city politics for the next decade, following weeks of controversy about how the revised map will affect election opportunities for minorities.
The map substantially reshapes the wards spanning the city’s midsection.
The downtown area, now represented by Ward 7, would be split as boundaries of Ward 3 in the northeast stretch west across the Mississippi to pick up most of downtown and about half of the North Loop.
Ward 6 would lose Whittier to Ward 10 and pick up Elliot Park, most of the western half of Cedar-Riverside, and the northern part of Seward.
Ward 2, which previously had all of Cedar-Riverside and Seward, would extend into the eastern half of Longfellow to make up for those losses.
Ward 9 will pick up the Central neighborhood from Ward 8 and the rest of Powderhorn to make up for losing part of Longfellow.
Redistricting Group Chairman Barry Clegg, who also chairs the Charter Commission, said the map does not pit any of the city's 13 incumbents against each other.
But it appears unfavorable for Council Member Robert Lilligren. The American Indian official is expected in the next election to face an East African population that is highly motivated to put one of their own on the council now that the lines in Ward 6 have been reshaped to give them more political influence.
Many Indians have protested the map over concerns that it pits them against Somali-Americans.
“We aren’t about protecting incumbents and making sure they have good prospects in the next election,” said Clegg after Tuesday's vote.
He acknowledged that Ward 6 now “looks pretty funny.”
But, said Clegg, “it’s not really possible unless you draw really slinky wards around almost every block to put all communities of interest in their own ward.”
Tuesday’s swift approval came off a nearly five hour contentious meeting on Monday during which the Redistricting Group faced a room full of opponents who claimed that the draft map diluted voting power of East Africans, Latinos, and Indians.
Many felt Monday that the 24-member Redistricting Group, which includes members of the Charter Commission, was rushing a vote and called for more time.
Mike Dean, executive director of Minnesota Common Cause, told redistricting officials that citizens have felt frustrated about how little information on the map-drawing process was shared with them and said they needed to allow more time to engage the public.
“We don’t have 10 years,” an audience member called out, referring to the fact that redistricting occurs every decade following the U.S. Census to account for population changes.
Several hours in, the group voted 14-8 to make further changes to the map while rejecting a proposal to accept all the revisions sought under a “We all win” proposed map from American Indian and Hispanic citizens.
“When this many people show up, it says something is wrong with our process,” said group member Jana Metge.
One of the more significant last-minute changes the Redistricting Group made was keeping all of Midtown Phillips in Ward 9, instead of moving part of it out to the sixth, which Latinos had protested was splintering their community. A group of East African immigrants had sought to have part of the neighborhood moved into Ward 6.
The process left some redistricting officials uneasy.
“I don’t think we’ve materially benefited the Latino community and the East African community,” said group member Barry Lazarus.
He said he could live with the map, but this was a “lousy way to make a sausage.”
Group member Jay Bad Heart Bull said there is “grave concern” from the American Indian community that the Somali-Americans are infiltrating “and taking what little power they do have. Yet again the Indians are kind of overtaken.”
The meeting was rife with racial tension. Clyde Bellecourt, executive director of the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, complained that “a bunch of pale faces” were making decisions and ignored Clegg’s requests that he stick to an allotted speaking time of 90 seconds.
After a security guard was summoned, one woman said that such an official would not have been called had the people in the room been white. At another point, one attendee muttered that the proceedings were “colonization at its best right now.”
 
And Redistricting Group member Barbara Lickness, who is white, complained that people had been accusing her of being racist.  
As the meeting wore on and patience grew thin, she said, “I’m just thinking of what liquor store I’m going to go to when this is over.”

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