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Minneapolis council approves new ward map

  • Article by: MAYA RAO
  • Star Tribune
  • March 27, 2012 - 11:06 AM

Five hours of discussions that featured accusations that the Minneapolis Redistricting Group was ignoring minority concerns culminated Monday in approval of a new ward map that will influence city politics for the next decade.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the panel voted with no opposition to send a revised map to the city's Charter Commission for a final vote Tuesday, when officials can make tweaks.

Chairman Barry Clegg said he expects unanimous approval.

Dozens of mostly Hispanic and Indian citizens crowded into City Hall Room 317 to protest the draft map, which they claimed would dilute their voting power.

The new map moves the North Side's McKinley and Hawthorne neighborhoods into the Fourth and Fifth wards, respectively, and out of the Third Ward to account for a loss of population on the North Side. The new Third Ward will pick up a large part of the North Loop and downtown.

Much of the opposition focused on the map's shifting part of largely Latino Midtown Phillips from the Ninth Ward to the Sixth.

Redistricting officials had sought to redraw the Sixth Ward, which currently spans Whittier, Phillips West, Ventura Village and Stevens Square/Loring Heights, to give East African immigrants a better election opportunity.

But the effort was controversial.

Latinos from the Ninth Ward wanted to keep all of Midtown Phillips. And Indians complained that the changes to accommodate East Africans were dividing them, especially given that the larger East African group is motivated to put one of their own on the council. Council Member Robert Lilligren, who is an Indian, currently represents the Sixth Ward.

"We have absolutely nothing against the Somali people or black people; we just don't like you to put us together ... and turn us against each other," said Clyde Bellecourt, executive director of the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center.

He said they would not wait around for another 10 years -- when the next redistricting will occur -- for "a bunch of pale faces" to make decisions. When Clegg interjected that Bellecourt's time was up, he retorted, "My time is never up. Your time is up." The audience applauded.

A security guard was summoned, though she took no action against Bellecourt.

Another speaker showed 2007 photographs of the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge and compared it to the redistricting group's breakup of the Hispanic community into several wards.

Several hours in, the group voted 14-8 to make further changes to the map after some said they were rushing a vote and not listening to the community. The version that will be voted on Tuesday by the Charter Commission will now keep all of Midtown Phillips in the Ninth Ward.

But to maintain enough population in the adjacent Sixth, redistricting officials pushed an additional half-dozen blocks of Seward into the Sixth, pulled in Loring Heights and more of Cedar-Riverside and pushed Stevens Square out to the Seventh.

Those changes are sure to invite opposition from some Somali-Americans, and several redistricting members said the panel was doing that group a disservice.

"I just think this is a very emotional process to everybody," Clegg said afterward. "And when ... people want to see changes, that's the way the testimony tends to be."

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

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