St. Paul set to approve district council boundary shift

Under the resolution, the South Como area would leave North End District 6 and become part of Como District 10.

 

The St. Paul City Council is expected to do something Wednesday it has done only once before in nearly 40 years of the city’s heralded district council system: split off part of one district and attach it to another.

The boundary shift, which will move about 3,200 people who live south of Lake Como from one council to another, has been discussed for years by residents who said that geographically they related better to the concerns of the Como Park area in District 10.

But their neighborhoods for years have comprised a stubby panhandle for District 6, most of which centers squarely on Rice Street and the North End.

Officials with both district councils initially resisted the change, but were persuaded after 165 people attended a public meeting in January. About 90 percent of those expressing a view said they wanted to move South Como to District 10.

“There was enough groundswell at the meeting to decide that the service lines should be changed,” said Kerry Antrim, executive director of the District 6 Planning Council.

Why did it matter? Because, Council Member Amy Brendmoen said, many South Como residents felt that being so far removed from the heart of the district muffled their voices on local issues — the reason that district councils were drawn up to begin with.

“I heard South Como neighbors say they wanted to participate in decisionmaking,” said Brendmoen, who lives in the area and campaigned on the issue when she was elected to the City Council in 2011.

The resolution before the council Wednesday will place in District 10 the area west of Dale Street, south of Maryland Avenue and north of the rail tracks, effective Jan. 1, 2014. It’s on the consent agenda where noncontroversial items are placed.

The resolution also puts a moratorium on district boundary changes until the City Council approves a clear-cut procedure for use in the future.

St. Paul has 17 district councils, established in 1975 to give citizens a role in spending federal urban renewal dollars, debating community issues and getting the word out on things such as crime and development. Each council is an independent entity that is partly funded by the city, based on population and other factors.

Up to now there has been only one important district boundary change, in 1982 when some W. 7th Street residents opted to leave Highland for the West Seventh district.

The North End’s District 6 has about 25,000 residents, more than twice as many as the 11,000 people in Como District 10. District 6 has a poorer and more diverse population, with a greater mix of industry and business.

St. Paul’s Planning and Economic Development Department last fall recommended holding a public meeting to see how people felt about the boundary shift. Most who went to the January meeting were from the South Como area, and 96 percent of them favored changing the boundary.

A short time later, the North End council recommended the change and the Como council agreed.

The boundary shift won’t result in more city funding for the Como district, but it likely will result in thousands less for the North End district — perhaps up to $10,000 less, Antrim said.

But she said her concern has always been about disruption of services to residents, not the loss of funding.

“I hope that there will be a better process in place” next time, she said.

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