Minneapolis Charter Commission set to vote on proposed ward map

The Minneapolis Charter Commission is set to vote on the proposed ward map Monday.

Minneapolis Charter Commission set to vote on proposed ward map

Nick Sudheimer

 

In the coming days, the Minneapolis Charter Commission will finalize a new ward map that will set political boundaries within the city for the next 10 years.

And residents, city officials and neighborhood organizations are bracing for change.

Proposed ward maps already released by the commission show significant changes to several city wards including wards 2 and 3, which encompass the University of Minnesota community.

The commission is set to vote on new ward boundaries Monday.

The new maps would mean city council members Cam Gordon and Diane Hofstede, who represent wards 2 and 3 respectively, will absorb new constituents and neighborhoods.

Gordon would absorb the Longfellow and Cooper neighborhoods, as well as a small chunk of Como, while losing much of the Seward and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods. Hofstede would lose the Hawthorne and McKinley neighborhoods while gaining most of the North Loop and Downtown West neighborhoods, as well as all of Downtown East.

In addition to federal and state standards, the commission also established two principles to guide the process: to change current wards as little as possible and to keep similar communities in the same ward.

Gordon said city council members are intently watching the process, adding that there’s a sense of feeling “powerless” in a change that will affect their political futures.

To ensure that all city ward populations are similar to one another, the commission must redraw ward boundaries. Because of the second ward’s jump in population, it will be significantly changed.

While Minneapolis’ total population remained nearly identical to 2000 levels, the population in Ward 2 increased by 13.7 percent — the second largest increase of the 13 city wards.

Jeff Matson, from the University’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, said the increase in population is largely because more students are choosing to live on campus rather than commute.

“Ten to 20 years ago, the University was known as a commuter campus, and the University has worked to change that reputation by working with the community,” Matson said.

He specifically cited the University District Alliance as a large promoter of this change.

Commission Chairman Barry Clegg said the redrawn boundaries should give minorities more of a voice in city politics by creating “opportunity wards,” where minorities represent more than 30 percent of the population.

“It’s more likely that they would be able to elect a member of their own community,” Clegg said.

To create these opportunity wards, the committee split up several neighborhoods around the city, which has upset some residents.

The Seward neighborhood, just south of the University and within the second ward, will be one of the neighborhoods divided if the current proposed map is finalized.

Ben Walen, co-president of the Seward Neighborhood Group said he understands the advantages of creating opportunity wards but thought splitting up the neighborhood would do more harm than good.

“As a community, we share interests … but when you’re dividing [the neighborhood] politically, it can be damaging,” Walen said. “It will be hard to maintain as good of neighborhood cohesion as we do now.”

He added that the map would essentially split the neighborhood down racial lines.

“It’s disappointing to see it coming down to, ‘This part of the neighborhood is mostly black, so you vote in this ward, and this part is mostly white, so you vote in this ward,’” he said.

Another neighborhood that will likely see changes is the North Loop near downtown. Based on the proposed map, the neighborhood would also be split into two wards.

David Frank, president of the North Loop Neighborhood Association said while the area has historically been split, it’s not the “optimal condition.”

“By far, the best thing is your whole neighborhood is in your ward, and the other neighborhoods in that ward are like yours,” Frank said.

Currently, the North Loop is located in the fifth and seventh wards. But under the proposed map, they would be placed in the third ward under Hofstede instead of the seventh.

Frank added that he wasn’t sure how the neighborhood would vote in the third ward but said it’s possible that someone from the neighborhood would run for the city council seat.

Mike Dean, executive director for Common Cause Minnesota, an advocacy group that monitors redistricting throughout the state, said equalizing ward populations while maintaining communities is the challenge that comes with redistricting.

Walen said he isn’t sure how the proposed neighborhood division will play out but believes the neighborhood will be able to work through any map.

“We still are Seward neighborhood, and that’s not changing.”